Posted by Editor on 05/20/07
Downhill Canada Cup #1
Canada's best young downhillers took to the top step on the podium at the opening round of the downhill Canada Cup in Bromont, Quebec on Sunday when Micayala Gatto (Rocky Mountain-Haywood) and Steve Smith (Cove Bikes) won the women's and men's titles.
Despite the threat of rain all day, the inclement weather held off until the awards ceremony, when a brief sprinkle came down. However, rain earlier in the week made upper sections of the 2.5 kilometre course sloppy and slippery, with many riders coming through the finish line caked in thick brown mud after going down in one of the many corners.
Gatto was the first woman down in the small 10 rider field, and her winning time of 5:25.774 was a full 25 seconds faster than second place Marie-Eve Marcotte. Amber Zirnhelt (Brodie Bikes/Loeka) was third, a further 8 seconds back.
Gatto admitted to missing the other elite Canadian women who would normally be at a Canada Cup. "It was kind of lonely ... Katrina Strand is out with injuries, and Danika (Schroeter) is missing the season to recover from a neck injury she got in New Zealand last year (at the Worlds). But this is my first Canada Cup win as a pro, so yeah, I'm pretty stoked."
"The course changed a lot over the last few days. On Thursday I thought: 'Oh my gosh this is an amazing course' ... Then today, it was: 'Oh my god, this isn't even the same course!' There were big holes, and lots of mud everywhere; it was just all the riders that have been on it, I guess."
"This was one of the longer courses that we do, so fitness was a key ingredient. I don't usually like to say this, but this was kind of a man's course - you needed good strong arms and legs to pull your bike over and through everything."
Smith, who is still a Junior-aged rider but has moved into the pro ranks, was only the 15th man down the course, but his time of 4:22.922 proved to be the fastest by over seven seconds. Nick Quinn (Calgary Cycle) was the third rider off, and the earlier leader with a 4:33.270, until Smith unseated him and spent the next hour in the hot seat.
Justin Brown (Cycles Solutions) came closest at 4:28.118, with American Geritt Beytagh (Morewoodbikes USA) taking third, a further second in arrears. Charles-Alexandre Dube (Cove Bikes) was the only pre-race favourite to crack the top-5, in fifth, with Jeff Beatty (Orange Mojo) in 7th, Peter McLean (Devinci) 8th and Luke Kitzanuk (Giant) 9th. There was some concern among riders that the timing was off, but officials said afterwards that they had checked the back-up manual timing, and that it agreed with the electronic results.
Smith admitted to being more than a little surprised as he took his first Canada Cup win - and the leader's jersey. "It was a really surprising margin. I felt fast, myself, but I wasn't sure how other guys were riding. At the top I blew a corner with the completely wrong line, so that just made me try harder the rest of the way down, and it was all good."
"I tried to be fast in the corners, just staying off the brakes, riding it smooth. I ended up riding unclipped quite a bit in the rocky bits; it wasn't what I wanted, but that's the way it worked out."
Smith also admitted to feeling some pressure to grab the UCI points on offer so that he qualified for the Mont Ste Anne World Cup in a month's time. "That was my main reason for racing so hard today, it was all that I thought about, and it definitely takes a lot of pressure off now."
- The Canada Cup moves to Mont Tremblant, north of Montreal next week for round three of the cross-country series, and round two for downhill.
- A number of the men downhillers expect to miss Tremblant to race the U.S, Open next weekend. However, the U.S. Open does not offer any UCI points, so riders hoping to qualify for Mont Ste Anne (and who aren't on a UCI registered trade team) will be racing in Canada.
- Australian Junior champion Mitchell Delfs finished 10th among the elite men.
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