Posted by Editoress on 06/6/04
Fort William World Cup
World Cup coverage sponsored by Vélirium 2004 and ORYX
World champions became World Cup leaders in the first round of the Downhill World Cup today, in Fort William, Scotland. Anne-Caroline Chausson (Commencal-Oxbow) and Greg Minnaar (Team G-Cross Honda) both rode totally new bikes to their victories as well.
The 2.66 kilometre course required a complete range of skills, with fast, rocky, technical sections at the top, a high speed section in the middle and a series of jumps spread throughout. Add the constant showers that swept through the region to make slick surfaces, and you had a true World Cup course.
Despite not liking the course, Chausson was the fastest in qualifying, followed by countrywoman Celine Gros (Team Morzine) and Brits Rachel Atherton and Helen Gaskell. The first six riders were all within 8.6 seconds of Chausson and, given that fact that the most prolific winner in World Cup history has never won at Fort William, odds were favourable for non-Chausson win.
In the final, Anneke Beerten set the fast early time of 5:23.13, which held up for five riders until Mio Suemasa knocked 7 seconds off. Suemasa's time held for 9 riders, when Tracey Moseley (Kona Clarks) took it down by another 4.5 seconds. Moseley barely had time to sit down in the Hot Seat before Vanessa Quin knocked 12 seconds off the best time.
British pre-race favourite Fion Griffiths crashed, leaving Quin in the lead, but faster riders were coming, and Sabrina Jonnier, sixth from the end, took a further 4 seconds off the leading time. Jonnier's time would hold through every rider until Chausson and, at the split time recorded half way down, Jonnier was still in the lead by a slim 0.36 seconds. However, Chausson got faster, much faster, in the lower section, eventually finishing 2.12 seconds ahead of Jonnier.
"I knew that I could go faster (than in qualifying) because we raced in the rain then, and it was drying up for the final. It is not my favourite course, because it is super fast in the rocks at the top, and I prefer the slower more technical types of courses. You had to be really fluid at the beginning because you could lose time there, but I became much better in the afternoon, and could ride the (lower) section well."
Lisa Sher, the lone North American entry, finished 19th.
The men's final was supposed to have 80 starters, but a new rule states that a rider ranked in the top-20 from the previous race (in this case final rankings from last year) makes the final. Three riders benefited from this rule, including David Vazquez Lopez (Maxxis-MSC), who started second. Vazquez Lopez posted a fast 4:22.07, which stood up for over three quarters of the race, before Justin Havukainen managed to knock off a second and a half. Havukainen stayed in the lead for another 9 riders, when George Atherton took over.
Atherton was replaced immediately by defending World Cup champion Nathan Rennie, who seemed to be in good position after taking 4 seconds off the leading time. But word came down that Minnaar had posted a split over 6 seconds faster. While the South African didn't gain any more time in the second half of the race, he didn't lose any either, finishing 6.38 seconds ahead of Rennie. Of the remaining five riders, Cedric Gracia (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) came closest to Minnaar, but he was nearly three and a half seconds slower. Steve Peat (Orange), fastest in qualifying and the favourite of the crowd, looked to be the last chance to dethrone Minnaar, but at the split he was already 3 seconds slower, allowing the Honda team to celebrate a victory in their first World Cup.
"I had a hard time in practice; I think I was trying too hard." said Minnaar after. "In qualifying I was down two seconds at the split, so i knew that in the final I had to ride more on the edge. I rode it really smooth and railed the corners. The only problem was after the split when I hit the waterbar and slide out - I lost a bit there."
The top North American finisher was Canadian Dustin Adams (Giant) in 12th.
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