Posted by Editoress on 06/26/04
Mont-Ste-Anne - World Cup DH
By Mike Badyk
European racers dominated this 4th stop of the World Cup Mountain Bike Downhill Series with Steve Peat (GBR - Team Orange) winning the men's race and Sabrina Jonnier (FRA) taking the women's. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for racing, with sun, high cloud and a nice breeze. This helped to create a really festive atmosphere, which brought out record numbers of racers, and a large crowd of spectators.
This edition of the MSA downhill garnered rave reviews from the racers. The new longer course (1.7 km), with a new very technical upper section, made for lots of small crashes, and the need to accelerate over and over again after slowing down to make it through the tricky bits safely. Fortunately, the course had dried out considerably after Thursday night's thunderstorm, with the small mud pits not being much of a factor.
27 women reached the finals, with 4 Canadians in the field. The first to claim the Hot Seat for an extended period of time was Canadian national champion Michelle Dumaresq (Vancouver). She ended up as the top Canadian woman in 7th place, 20.72 seconds behind the Jonnier. Dumaresq was pleased with her run. "That was awesome. It's a super technical course. It dried up but you have to be really strong on the pedals 'cause the mud will just suck you in. If your body position is too far forward you'll lose all you're momentum. I was being really safe, really clean and I went as fast as I could go. I'll be happy if I get top 10."
The rider who eventually displaced Dumareq was Kathy Pruitt (USA - Luna Women's MTB Team), who qualified in the first (slower) half of the field. She laid down a blazing run of 3:33.46, to occupy the Hot Seat for most of the remainder of the race. No one came close to knocking her out of her seat. Despite her great run, Pruitt was still nervous due to the fastest qualifier, Sabrina Jonnier (FRA) who rode last. Sure enough, Jonnier laid down the hot run of the day, an amazing 9.75 seconds faster than Pruitt.
Pruitt was philosophical. "I think this is the longest time I've been on the hot seat. It seemed to work out for me. My run was much better than in qualifying. I must have crashed 4 times in the qualifier, and I had a mechanical! For the final I tried to get myself to slow down and hit the lines precisely. The course seems to get fast, but not in a good way. It was dangerous, sweet and sour - really nice portions and then sour if you hit a muddy turn."
Jonnier's winning time was 3:23.71 with an average speed of 30.04 km/h. This was Jonnier's second World Cup win at MSA. She was pleased, but not surprised. "I knew I could do it. Last year I was nervous, but today I felt good. I had a great qualifying run which gave me even more confidence. The course was generally dry and I knew I could go fast. From the beginning I was going good and I was riding smooth so I tried to keep like that right to the bottom. I made very few mistakes so it was good. I like MSA. It was where I won my first World Cup race and now with my second win here I feel really good."
Other Canadian finishers were Claire Buchar in 17th, Caroline Milot (23rd), and Sophie Poirier in 26th.
The men's race had a stellar field, containing all of the world's best downhillers. Steve Peat was clearly the man to beat. He has owned MSA for the last 2 years, and 2004 was no different. He was the fastest qualifier and seemed very at ease through the whole day. His winning time was 2:50.62, at an average speed of 35.87 km/h. Peat's win was convincing, with 0.86 seconds between him and second place. This was Peat's 3rd consecutive victory at Mont Ste. Anne.
"I'm very happy with that. That's three wins in a row here. The course was hard. I made a few mistakes in the first part of the woods and didn't really get going hard, but I nailed some of the bottom sections so I was stoked. My bike is working the best it can be. I've got the best sponsors. I thought Greg (Minnaar,RSA - Team G-Cross Honda, reigning World Champion had two falls which left him in 29th place) was going to be up there, but then I heard he crashed."
The other story of the men's race was Mickael Pascal (FRA - Maxxis-MSC). Pascal was the very first rider down the hill as the last (81st place) qualifier. He smoked the course in 2:58.86 and proceeded to set up semi-permanent residence in the Hot Seat. "I flatted my front wheel in the semi's. I was protected because of my high ranking and allowed to enter the final. I wish I had had a clean run in the semi's because I get better and better each time down the course. I think I could have done even better in the final. I've been on the hot seat for a very long time, but I have a hat and water so everything is fine!"
Top Canadian was Dustin Adams (Giant) from Kamloops, British Columbia, who finished in 11th place, 15.26 seconds behind the leader. "It's been a struggle all week. The course was really taking it to me, but I finally pulled it together for the final run. I had 2 crashes in qualifying and I just mentally collapsed. I end up qualifying 79th. I'm so glad I made it in. It was quite a battle. My team, especially Elke Brutsaert, brought my mental game back for the final and I finally pulled it together. I happy. I had a nice clean run top to bottom. Overall, I don't have too much to complain about."
The first rider to displace Pascal was Nathan Rennie (AUS - Santa Cruz) the World Cup Points leader. He was on top only briefly as the next to last rider Samuel Hill (AUS) was over 5 seconds faster. Hill had no time to enjoy his run, as Peat was already on course. Hill knew Peat was blazing. "I made a small mistake in the last woods that cost me a bit of time, but Steve (Peat) laid down a good time and he deserves it."
Mathieu Laurin finished in a fine 24th place. "My run was sketchy. It was alright but I made a couple of mistakes. I pushed maybe a little too much. It could have been worse. It could have been better." Other Canadian finishers were Eric Goss in 33rd, Marc Fontaine (53rd), Olivier Markon (54th), Nicolas Gosselin (56th), Louis-Philippe Leonard (68th), Frederic Belanger (70th), Hugo Donais (75th), Mathieu LaGrange (76th), Charles-Alexandre Dube (77th) and Stephane Mailhot in 78th.
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