It was another three-way World Cup at the weekend, with the XC, DH and 4X racers heading to the popular venue of Mont Ste Anne, Canada.
With temperatures over 30°C and high humidity, the Mont Ste Anne XC racing was always going to be tough. The organisers dropped the lap counts slightly to allow for the conditions, but it was still hard going. Only Canada’s Marie-Hélène Prémont has beaten series leader Gunn-Rita Dahle this year, and then only once, but it was almost a fairy-tale race for the Canadian on home soil – Dahle hit the wall on the penultimate lap, and Prémont was there to take the lead and win by nearly three minutes. Dahle held on to second, with Sabine Spitz third. With three wins and two seconds, Dahle is still in the overall lead, but there’s only 130pts in it.
Quite a few prominent Europeans from the men’s field didn’t make the trip to Canada – Julien Absalon, Jean-Christophe Peraud, Thomas Frischknecht and Marco Bui were all absent. The crowd were rooting for Canadian National Champion Geoff Kabush, but with series leader and defending champion Christoph Sauser on the line, the chances of a local double didn’t look good. The fans were pretty pleased with Kabush’s third place, though. Sauser worked with team-mate Fredrik Kessiakof to build a comfortable lead before heading off on his own with a lap to go. Adam Craig was fourth and Britain’s Liam Killeen fifth.
The 4X course was short in both length and passing opportunities – being fastest out of the gate was about the only way to win. Jill Kintner came out on top in the women’s, while Michal Prokop got the best of a strong men’s final ahead of Guido Tschugg, Cedric Gracia and Brian Lopes.
Long-time World Cup watchers will have noticed that DH courses tend to be rather shorter these days than in the old days. But Mont Ste Anne reversed that trend, putting the start ramp right at the top of the mountain. The resulting course was at least half as long again as most, and varied with it – it had some mad fast bits and a bunch of slower, techy bits in the woods. Big courses mean that bikes and riders take more of a battering, increasing the chances of a mechanical or a crash. But they also mean that it’s possible to make up for the sort of small mistakes that could lose you the race on a short course.
Both these effects made their presence felt in the results. The usually-dominant Anne-Caroline Chausson wasn’t racing, leaving series leader Sabrina Jonnier the pundit’s favourite. As fastest qualifier, Jonnier was last down the hill in the finals, with Tracy Moseley’s 5:50.57 to beat. She missed it by 0.55s, giving the win to the British rider. Marielle Saner was third, over seven seconds down on the leading pair. Jonnier retained the series lead, but Moseley’s up to second, 110 points behind.
Hopes were high for the British contingent after the men’s qualifying, with Gee Atherton fifth and Marc Beaumont third. Gee’s bike gave up on him, dropping him down to the 70s. Fourth-fastest qualifier Fabien Barel took a massive eight seconds out of hot-seat occupant Chris Kovarik, and none of the remaining riders could match his 5:02.27. Greg Minnaar was closest, 0.52s down, while Marc Beaumont claimed an excellent third spot. So it was a particularly good weekend for the Kona Les Gets team, winning both men’s and women’s events. Minnaar’s consistency has given him a comfortable 260pt cushion in the overall series standings, though.