June 26/03 7:59 am - Mont Ste-Anne Preview 2: DH and Photos from Urban DH
Posted by Editoress on 06/26/03
Mont Ste. Anne Preview Part 2
By Mike Badyk
This report made possible through the sponsorship of Rocky Mountain Bicycles
Photos of Downhill and Urban Downhill
The heat is still extreme but at least there is a good wind this afternoon. However, just sitting in the shade is enough to make you perspire, so I thought I might as well move a bit and check out the race courses.
The XC course is all but unchanged from the past 2 years. It loops back through the start/finish a couple of times and there a couple of cross over bridges out in the woods. Very few riders were out on the course. The word in the pits was that most had decided to do road rides this afternoon instead of spending time on the course.
However, it is the downhill that is getting most of the attention. It is far different than what was been done here in the past. The biggest difference is that the course is short, only 1.4 km long. A very fast time is expected to be in the neighbourhood of 1 minute 30 seconds. The telling factor is that the gondola isn't use to access the run. Instead a chair lift that empties halfway up the hill. Racers then have to push their bikes up a really steep ski run for about 100m, followed by a bit of trail to the start. The start is well hidden in the trees.
I was able to talk to a couple of the downhillers who were out braving the heat. Very few pros were out. I was able to have a nice chat with Bas De Bever (Team Be-One). De Bever has raced here many times and has to be considered a circuit veteran. "The course is generally fine. It's a bit short perhaps, but what's missing is up above (open ski run and just a bit of technical section). The start is very different. Usually you have a couple of hundred metres before you reach technical trail, but here you just drop right in. Right now the lift is the problem. It's slow and the hike up to the start is tough in this heat."
The start is something else. From the gate, racers go down a short ramp and then immediately turn left into a drop followed by a huge ramp (See photo). Think about riding off of a small cliff and you get an idea of the acceleration. Just below the ramp are a couple of wicked berms, followed by another jump. Another jump off of yet one more ramp launches the racers onto a ski run. There are two more sections in the trees before there is a terrible amount of speed gain on an open ski run. This is just before the downhill merges with the 4 Cross course. New this year is a huge jump. Easily 8m high. There are two lines - one a little kicker on the jump face that robs speed. The other is a huge launch ramp that produces heaps of distance and hang time. (See photo). It will prove to be a crowd favourite.
While pros such as De Bever are more philosophical about things, there were some others who were less than complimentary about the new DH course. One of the rumours being circulated was that the shorter course was simply a matter of economics, that is, Gestev (the race organizers) were short of money and therefore decided to make a shorter course.
I spoke to Patrice Drouin, one of the Gestev founders, about this rumour. "Look, economics are always part of the decision making process. If economics were the only consideration then we would have stuck with the old course. It is well established and we would not have needed to do any work at all. Instead we decided to make something very different. We had a crew on the hill for almost a month to build all of these new structures. We moved an incredible amount of earth and rock. If anything it cost us much more than last year's downhill."
"The course is a first attempt at a "sprint style" downhill. We will fine tune it even more for next year. When we first built the other course people complained it was too long. Now some feel that it is too short. It is difficult to make everyone happy."
"There are some great advantages with this new course. The first is that public access is much better. People can walk up the course from the finish very easily. The second is that television access is greatly improved. Instead of 12 cameras, only 8 are required now. We expect to get the same excellent results with this shorter run."
As always, the best way to handle rumours is to go to the source. Thanks to Patrice for giving up some of his valuable time to talk to Canadian Cyclist. My suspicion is that there is going to be some very close racing, with fractions of seconds making the difference between victory and failure. One slight bobble or hesitation will make or break a rider.
Serious training starts tomorrow. We hope that the rain holds off until the evening.