Posted by Editoress on 09/3/05
MTB World Championships Livigno IT
The French proved to be dominant once again in the downhill at the 2005 Mountain Bike World Championships, sweeping the women's podium and winning the men's title, but this year marks the end of an era: Anne-Caroline Chausson announced after winning her ninth elite title that she is retiring, effective immediately. Both Chausson and Fabien Barel, who repeated as the men's winner, won by the narrowest of margins - 0.37 seconds for Chausson over Sabrina Jonnier, and 0.77 seconds for Barel over Sam Hill (Australia).
The 2.85 kilometre course was fast and bumpy, with a total of 15 jumps. All conspired to tire out riders long before they reached the bottom. Chausson had a scare early in her run when her front wheel slid out on a steep, grassy section and she went down. It wasn't a serious crash, but it did cost her time.
"I'm very happy to win, in this my last championship. The difference was very small today. I had a crash in the first part of the race and at that moment I knew that it would be difficult to win. But I just concentrated harder until the end of the race."
Jonnier had mixed feelings about the retirement of her all but unbeatable rival. "I'm not really happy, because it has always been a goal of mine to beat Anne-Caroline at the world championships. This was very close, but I had a couple of mistakes at the top (of the course), and there is no where to make it up at the bottom."
The young French hope, Emmeline Ragot, a two time Junior world champion, was third.
The men's race had no clear favourite, with any of five or six riders capable of taking the title. Barel started earlier than his main rivals, after purposedly taking a slow qualification run. It has been raining in the afternoon for the past few days, so he decided to get an early start time, in hopes that this could possibly tip things in his favour.
As it turned out, Barel didn't need the extra help. The rain fell for only five minutes, and dried out almost immediately, but the Frenchman was still the fastest.
As the last ten riders came down, and steadily got closer to Barel's time, he began to think that maybe going early hadn't been such a good idea mentally.
"Waiting at the bottom is a big stress." admitted Barel. "I did an early ride as a tactic because of the weather, but then watching Greg (Minnaar - South Africa) and Sam (Hill) come very, very close to my split was very, very stressful.
It is a big satisfaction to win, I have trained hard all season for this race. There were maybe five or six guys who could win so this is a big victory."
With his win Barel has completed a triple: national, European and now world Champion all in the same year.
Sam Hill was disappointed, but the former Junior World Champion took satisfaction in his World Cup wins in Schladming (Austria) and Pila (Italy).
"I have always dreamed of winning a World Cup, so that was a big victory. This race was my other focus for the season, but Fabien was faster today. It was definitely a disappointment not to win, but someone's got to, so you just have to take it, suck it in."
He wasn't too worried about the rain, even when the clouds did roll in briefly. "It rained at Schladming and Pila for the final riders, and that worked fine for me. I had mud tires ready to go, but the sun came out again. My run was pretty good, but at the Worlds it is all or nothing. I was pushing it, taking some risks, but that's part of it if you want to win."
- Chausson's retirement announcement stole the thunder from anything else that happened. The French legend has a staggering total of 19 world titles (even she didn't know how many, and had to be prompted):
9 Elite downhill (1996-2003, 2005)
3 Junior downhill
She was asked about returning to BMX for the Beijing Olympics, but said that she is finished with all competition. "I am stopping because I don't want the stress of racing anymore. It was my plan to stop last year, in France (at the Worlds in Les Gets), but I broke my collarbone during training and could not race, so I decided to go one more year. I'll only do freeride now" Chausson has a three year contract with her sponsor Commencal-Oxbow.
- The UCI reports that 40 riders were blood tested this morning, with riders from Spain, Germany, Australia, Italy and Japan taking part. All passed and were declared fit to race.
- Amiel Cavalier (Australia) took the Junior men's title ahead of heavy favourite Brendan Fairclough (Great Britain), who admitted that he cracked a bit under the pressure. Fairclough finished third against the Elites at the Schladming World Cup. The youngest of the Atherton downhill family became the first to win a world title when Rachel won the Junior women's event, ahead of defending champion Scarlett Hagen (New Zealand) Hagen crashed in the lower part of the course, sliding right off the course and losing considerable time. Canada's national champion Micayla Gatto took the bronze - the first Canadian downhill medal since the glory days of 1990-1992, when Cindy Devine won gold, silver and bronze.
"I feel pretty good about this, my goal was to finish in the top five." said Gatto. "I didn't realize that it had been so long (since Canada won a downhill medal). I feel proud that I did something great for my country; I like to get Canada's name out there.
The hardest part was at the end - I have trouble jumping, and there are 15 (jumps), so by the 14th I was pretty shaken up. I froze up on the last jump, I had only had a chance to do it once."
Canada had one other top-ten result, with Andrew Mitchell finishing seventh in the Junior men's race.
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