France's First Lady of Downhilling Anne-Caroline Chausson scratched her name into another tablet of MTB history as she took her fourth senior World Championship on Saturday. Since 1993 she's achieved a perfect score in seven consecutive championships, starting with three junior titles.
A nail-biting finale brought the event to a crescendo. Chausson was safely home and sat in the ski-lift «hot seat» when the fastest seed Katja Repo (FIN) turned in a late and serious threat. The Flying Finn leapt the main jump, cleared the final bends and scrambled over the wooden pedestrian bridge into the arena in perilously close time. She dipped the line, but Chausson breathed again, still supreme, by a 1.61 second margin.«I lost time on the pedalling, it was hard work pushing through the mud and my legs were gone by the end,» admitted Anne-Caroline, «and I rode safe not to crash, because that's how you lose more time.»
The hardworking course was feelin' groovy. The cracks and gaps between roots and boulders got deeper, the rain eased, the surface water ran off and the mud thickened. Riders found the going slower and and virtually no one had a clean run, except Chausson who stayed in the saddle all the way down. Repo, who was supported on course by countryfolk from neighbouring Finland, lost the gold with a slide on the most treacherous section at the top.
19 year old Sari Jorgensen of Switzerland announced her arrival in the senior championship with a bronze ride at 15.71 seconds. «I may have looked in control,» she said, «but I wasn't in control» - which about sums up top rides in downhill. Last year's junior champion has gained plenty of international experience riding the UCI World Cup the last two years, which has no junior class.
Chausson's traditional bugbear, Missy «the Missile» Giove (USA), ran well in seeding, but found her final charge spoiled. «I was changing up a gear to run out of a corner, doing like about 80mph when the chain jammed and the cranks jammed and that was it.» Giove is under pressure at the Worlds. It's her annual chance to wrest a big title from Chausson, who has also won the World Cup for the past two years.
Tracy Moseley (GBR), Malin Lindgren (SWE), Karen Van Meerbeeck (GBR) and Sarah Steiger (SUI) occupied the hot seat in the later stages of the event.
Long-standing Spanish competitor Mercedes Gonzalez, who is resident in the US, crashed during practice and went to hospital with a suspected broken ankle. At 36 Gonzalez was disappointed, as she retires next year and this was to be her last Worlds.
This report from the UCI.