Diesel/UCI Mountain Bike World Cup
Downhill - Round 8
August 15, 1999
DIESEL/UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup - Round 8
RAIN CANT STOP THE RACING
The Kaprun organisers have discontinued use of the old course, which for years was derided as long and boring, in favor of a new course finishing closer to town. The new course is a relative success. While the old course was some three kilometers away from the centre of Kaprun, the new course finished right on the edge of town.
At 4.8 kilometers long, with a drop of 862 metres. The news course opens with a world class top section, featuring steep, root-strewn pitches and berms through dense forest. The final section is equally steep, although with fewer exposed roots. This part features a stretch with three stepped banks with grassy off-camber turns before the riders are faced with hair-raising jumps. While the top and bottom sections of the course drew praise from the athletes, the middle section was not quite so popular. There is a long, flat section that requires riders to pedal hard. While this is still better than the old course, which featured a slight incline, it was the cause of mixed reaction among the riders. With Kaprun as a candidate for 2002 world championships, rider stook a longer-term view. "Please don't have this course for the world championships," said Anne-Caroline Chausson, who is known for her antipathy to pedalling on a downhill course. She hopes that if the world championships are awarded to Kaprun, "they will change the course because if the future of downhill racing is that, I think I will take my bike behind my house and have fun. The beginning is really good, it's OK. After just two minutes you only pedal and go straight." Chausson's view was not universally held. Marla Streb, who was fastest in the semi-final, said: "I love this course, it suits me perfectly. It's more technical than people give it credit for. It was very fast, which is great because we haven't had a lot of fast courses. It's really two courses. You have to change gears halfway down and say, 'OK, now we're going to have off-camber sweepers in the grass, which are tricky... It might be a little bit on the long side."
Rain played a disruptive role in the eighth, final round of the 1999 series, held on a new course at Kaprun. But it did not prevent Nicolas Vouilloz (FRA) and Anne-Caroline Chausson (FRA) from becoming the deserving winners of the 1999 Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup.
Torrential downpours during both the women's and men's races skewed the results after some riders had a chance to ride the new Kaprun course in drier conditions while the remainder rode through a torrent. Anne-Caroline Chausson (FRA) and Gerwin Peters (NED) won their respective races after profiting from the unpredictable mountain weather.
In the women's race, Chausson completed the new Kaprun course early in the ranks, thanks to a crash and a poor result in the semi-finals. Heavy rain started falling just after she crossed the line with what would turn out to be a winning time of 7'22.48".
Chausson watched the rest of the race from the "hot seat" of the race leader, where she sheltered from the rain under an umbrella while her rivals slipped and slogged their way down the track.
Chausson was charateristically fair in assessing her performance: "I was lucky because I wasn't really focussed here. I had some problems with my training, so I was lucky with the rain. I went early and it started to rain... I only wanted to not crash."
Yet even had Chausson finished last today, she still would have won the World Cup. The monumental series lead of 530 points she carried into the final round was unassailable by the 250 points one of her rivals would have scored for a round win.
Of the riders who rode through the rain, Sari Jorgensen (SUI) recorded the fastest time to finish second, 13.58" slower than Chausson. Sabrina Jonnier (FRA), Sarah Stieger (SUI) and Florentina Moeser (AUT)) rounded out the top five.
The overall results sheet showed that most of the top results went to riders who normally finish in the upper middle order, rather than at the top. Indeed, this was the first time this year, probably in the history of the World Cup, that no women from the USA have stood on the five-rider winner's rostrum.
Marla Streb (USA) had posted the fastest qualification time of 7'29", but in the final run she fell five times. "I was in denial. I wanted it to be dry, so I was riding like it was dry. I had a spike on my rear and I was trying to rely on it too much, so I would just lean it over and it just wasn't working," Streb said, and added: "I felt really confident because I knew I could make up some time here in the bottom, but my crashes ate up my time."
Missy Giove (USA) struggled down the steep, root-strewn course in the rain. She crashed twice and finished ninth. "I was scared after the first crash, it's slick and some of the rocks are showing now. It was so wet in the top half and I rode it well. I think if everyone rode it in the wet, it was a winning top-half," said Giove, who finished second overall in the series. Katja Repo (FIN) was third overall.
Chausson's second consecutive World Cup title was won with relative ease. The 21-year-old from Dijon triumphed in seven out of eight rounds this season. Giove, who finished a massive 700 points behind Chausson's 1,950 points, was the only rider who knocked Chausson off the top spot (at Round four at Big Bear Lake).
Now that the series is over, Giove - who has entertained throughout the season with her blustering rivalry with Chausson - said what she really felt: "I'm not as fast as Anne-Caroline every day but I can beat her on some days. She won seven races, that's incredible for any athlete... She's racing against some of the best athletes. I'm good and there's a lot of others out here that are good. It's still fun to do. Today she got more of a freebie, but still, she's a great rider and she would have been the one to beat."
The rain also wrought havoc on the men's field. After an abatement of the rain after the women's final, the skies opened again just as Gerwin Peters (NED) crossed the line. His winning time of 6'45.74" was considerably slower than Steve Peat's (GBR) semi-final time of 6'28.37", but once it started to rain the nature of the course completely changed, making comparisons dubious.
One thing was clear: both Peat and the series leader Vouilloz, were under pressure at Kaprun. Although the series was realistically out of Peat's reach, he dearly wanted to finish it with a win. He had won two world cup rounds this season, compared to four by Vouilloz. The two had been separated by only 50 points after Round six, at Squaw Valley, but at round seven in Bromont one week ago, Peat scored only 52 points compared to 250 for Vouilloz. Vouilloz, on the other hand, wanted to end his successful World
Cup campaign with a win.
When the final 12 riders - the fastest 12 in the semi-final - slipped and slogged their way down the steep, rooted sections, both Vouilloz and Peat crashed. Vouilloz got tangled up in race tape, and Peat flew over his handlebars at the top of the final steep section. Peat crossed the line in 14th place while Vouilloz was 25th.
"I came here wanting to win today, but yes it is nice to take the overall title. It was challenging this year with Steve Peat," Vouilloz said at the finish.
This is the fourth World Cup title for Vouilloz, 23, from near Monte Carlo. He has also won seven world champion's jerseys from seven attempts in the junior and senior categories.
For Peat the only consolation was that he earned enough points to move three points ahead of Vouilloz in the UCI Rankings - which account for national level and world championship events as well as the world cup. Vouilloz has held the top ranking since March 1998.
As for Gerwin Peeters, the bronze medallist at the downhill world championships in 1998, this was his first world cup round win, and it sealed his result of third overall in the World Cup series. "I know my time wasn't so fast, but the rain started and that's racing. I've had my own bad luck in the rain and I've been working very hard for this victory," said Peters, 22, from near Eindhoven.
Johan Engstrom (SWE) was second at 1.41" and Markus Klausmann (GER), Jan Lundman (SWE) and Florent Poussin (FRA) rounded out the top five.
Downhill World Cup Results / Kaprun (AUT) / Race #8 / FINALS
1. CHAUSSON, Anne-Caroline (FRA) Volvo-Cannondale
2. JORGENSEN, Sari (SUI) Tomac/Manitou 7:36:07
3. JONNIER, Sabrina (FRA) Team Sunn 7:38:63
4. STIEGER, Sarah (SUI) Fiat Rotwild 7:48:71
5. MOSER, Florentina (AUT) Bank Austria Nation 7:50:47
World Cup Rankings / After 8 events
1. CHAUSSON, Anne-Caroline (FRA) Volvo-Cannondale
2. GIOVE, Missy (USA) Foes/Azonic 1250 pts
3. REPO, Katja (FIN) GT Finland 1085 pts
4. DONAVAN, Leigh (USA) Intense CycleS 882 pts
5. GONZALES, Mercedes (ESP) Team GT 871 pts