Posted by Editoress on 08/1/09
There were two familiar faces on the podium for round seven of the Downhill series in the Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano. Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) took her sixth consecutive win in the women’s category, while Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) took his third in the men’s, at Bromont, Quebec in Canada. Jonnier has now locked up the women’s overall title with one race still remaining. Sam Hill (Monster Energy-Specialized) retains the lead in the men’s series after finishing third, but Minnaar is only 16 points back, so this title will come down to the final round in Schladming, Austria, one month from now.
The off again - on again rain of the past week finally moved away overnight, with blue skies and bright sun appearing shortly before race time. The open sections of track dried out quickly, however, in among the trees the mud remained, forcing riders to carefully negotiate slippery rock gardens and rooted sections. There were a number of top riders who crashed, led by Evil Bikes team mates Steve Smith and Matti Lehikoinen, who both qualified in the top-ten. Lehikoinen’s crash was particularly hard, and he did not finish. It appears that he may have broken his collarbone.
Junior World Cup leader Anais Pajot (Team Sunn) was the first to go below three minutes and 12 seconds in the women’s race, and took the Nissan Hot Seat. Pajot held the top spot for three riders before being displaced by Anita Molcik (Yeti Fox Shox), who was in turn bumped by American Kathy Pruitt. Pruitt was immediately replaced by Canadian Micayla Gatto (Commencal). Gatto, lasted through one finisher before she also had to vacate the lead spot for Celine Gros (Morzine-Avoriaz 74). However, Jonnier was up only two riders later, after an uncharacteristically slow qualifier that had her seeded fifth. The French rider obliterated the rest of the field, becoming the only rider to clock under three minutes. Floriane Pugin (Iron Horse-Kenda-Playbiker) took second, while Japan’s Mio Suemasa was third.
“I’ve been sick all week,” revealed Jonnier “and I had no energy. I was really disappointed with my qualifier, it was the worst that I have had. But the weather changes dried the track out and made it more to my liking. Even so, I was really surprised at how fast my time was.”
Gatto was the top Canadian finisher for the women, in sixth place, even though she has been battling a cold all week. Gatto finished just ahead of national champion Claire Buchar (Chain Reaction-Intense), who commented “I just couldn’t make my bike go where I wanted it to! It was frustrating.” Danice Uyesugi (Team BC/Trek Obsession Bikes) was 15th and Anne Laplante (Xprezo) 20th. Buchar remains 11th in the overall rankings, while Gatto moves up three spots to 12th.
Jared Rando (Giant) was the first man to take the Hot Seat for an extended period, holding onto the lead for over 20 riders before Nathan Rankin (Iron Horse-Kenda-Playbiker) just squeaked by him. After that, the lead changed fairly steadily, as riders brought the time down in increments of a quarter to half a second. Mick Hannah (GT Bicycles), with 11 riders remaining, was the first to make a significant dent in the top time, taking it below 2:34. His time would hold until the young American revelation Aaron Gwin (Yeti Fox Shox) knocked a quarter of a second off the best time, to eventually take the fifth podium spot. World champion Gee Atherton (Animal Commencal) bumped Gwin, but Minnaar was only two riders later, and his time would prove to be the best, as the final two riders - Hill and number one qualifier Fabien Barel (Subaru) - could only manage the second and third fastest times respectively.
“The course was really tough after all the rain, many of the sections were just blown right out, and it was easy to make mistakes. I didn’t have a clean run; I don’t think anyone did, but I just tried to keep it clean and flowy, and be as smooth as I could. Definitely, this win is a confident booster, going into the Worlds, and I’ll be looking forward to having it all come down to the Final in Schladming.”
Smith was on a strong run before his crashed knocked him back to finish 40th, and dropped him from ninth to 11th in the standings. He was the second Canadian finisher behind Dean Tennant in 34th. Jamie Biluk was 46th, Yann Gauvin 64th and national champion Hans Lambert (Norco) 77th. Kyle Marshall (Canadian National) did not finish.
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