July 12/03 9:04 am - Grouse Mountain World Cup: DH Story
Posted by Editoress on 07/12/03
Grouse Mountain World Cup
This report made possible through the sponsorship of Rocky Mountain Bicycles
Griffiths and Houseman Win
By Mike Badyk
Despite the Grouse Mtn World Cup race schedule listing two races there were actually three today. The women's race, the men's race and then the men's race during the rain. If you were in the first two events you were fortunate to race on a dry and dusty course. About half way through the men's race a gray cloud swept up the mountain from the city bringing rain and a heavy fog that reduced visibility to only 10 metres, causing what we affectionately term "Gorilla Downhillers In the Mist". The weather clearly determined the outcome of the men's race.
As mentioned above the women's race took place under cloudy skies, but the course was completely dry. Sabrina Jonnier laid down the hot run of the day, a bit past half way through the field of 21. She blazed through in 2:17:92, far ahead of the previous riders. Over the next 6 riders no one came within one second.
The last two racers were the ones with the greatest potential to dethrone Jonnier - Fionn Griffiths, the winner at Mt Ste Anne, and Kathy Pruitt the fastest qualifier. Griffiths on a real tear of late, managed to nip Jonnier by .73 seconds. Griffiths, interviewed at the finish said "I just tried to pin it at the top of the course." Only Pruitt remained. She had a good run, but only good enough for third, over a second back of Jonnier.
Griffiths is an extremely happy winner and not reserved in the least. She repeated her joyous reaction of Mt. Ste. Anne by letting go with a few loud woops followed by several jumps in the air. "Canada's the country for me this year. I've got 2 WC wins now. This win felt just as good as MSA. You can't take away from the great feeling of being at a World Cup and then winning. The first one was special, but this was just as good. It's not my favourite course in the world. I prefer longer and more technical courses, but this one's kind of fun to ride."
Canadian racers were well back in the field. Podium hopeful, and top Canadian qualifier, Michelle Dumaresq crashed and placed 20th. She was very upset with her performance and unavailable for comment. The best finish was 12th for Danika Schroeter, with Claire Buchar in 15th, Barb Haley in 18th and Debra MacKillop in 19th.
Returning to the women's field after a long injury induced break was Missy Giove. Giove finished in fifth. "I was totally anabolic out there!" Some things change and...
When you do race coverage you concentrate much of your efforts on the later half of the downhill field. Slower qualifiers go first and the fastest last. We were working our way through the 80 men in the field. Trevor Porter spent a good long on the hot seat. "I was just letting it go, bouncing off of roots and stuff. I didn't crash so it was good. The hot seat is always nice." Although we expected Porter to get displaced early on, his time was good enough for 17th place. Ivan Oulego Moreno was the first to displace Porter posting a time of 2:06:59. Again, most thought that this would be easily beaten, but it would prove good enough for 2nd place.
With about 30 men to go, the rain hit. Instantly the roots and rocks became like glass. Up at the top of the hill, racers were frantically changing their tires to get something that would provide more traction. Unfortunately it was still somewhat dry in the trees, which made for just horrendous riding. And then it got worse. The cloud hit the top of the hill, plunging the entire course into a thick gray blanket. Times increased exponentially. We were greatly entertained by announcer Peter Graves disembodied voice from in the cloud saying "I can't see the score clock any longer." (Peter was a mere stones throw from the clock.)
Just before the rain hit, Gary Houseman had his run. It was enough to displace Oulego Moreno by .33 seconds. Houseman had to sit on the hot seat, or more appropriately the wet seat for a long time. Eventually it became clear to him and everyone else that his time wasn't going to be beat. "I'll take it! I'm super lucky. Man, if I'm going to take one I'll take that one. I had a decent run, nothing spectacular, but I hit my lines well and pedaled hard and it just worked out. The rain is awesome. I loved it!"
In absolutely terrible conditions, the second last starter was Mickael Pascal. His run was good enough for 6th, but under equal conditions he definitely would have won it. His was a spectacular exhibition of control and finesse.
Don't take this the wrong way, but this was one of the best days ever for Canadian men. Most the Canadian men were in the first 50 starts, therefore the rode before the rain hit. Mathieu Laurin (8th), Chris Van Dine (12th) had their best finishes ever at a World Cup. Porter and Jordie Lunn in 19th made for 4 Canadians in the top 20.
One of the few downhillers who hung around for the rain soaked part of the race was Cedric Gracia. He was philosophical about the race. "It was a nice race. The training was dry and good. Even with the rain, well, it is part of the game. All of the top riders had to compete in the same conditions. You have to get points overall for the season so it really didn't change things that much. It's the same in all sports. When the rain shows up in something like Formula 1 you have to do what you have to do. The first part of the course was good, but then I came over a drop and into a big cloud and I just couldn't see anything. All these people were yelling and I didn't know where I was going. I made some mistakes but I'm down safe, no injuries and it's done now."
The sun is now poking out through the clouds but it is quite wet at the top of the mountain. The cross country course conditions have obviously changed drastically. We will file a preliminary report tomorrow morning.