When the sun set on the towering ski jumps and half-finished condominiums in Park City, Utah, Thursday evening, the ever-present Olympic anticipation had been replaced, temporarily, by a more immediate buzz. The Chevy Trucks National Championship Series is in town, and the hot topic in the pits is the upcoming battle between Steve Peat and Nicolas Vouilloz, the world’s No. 1- and No. 2-ranked downhillers.
GT’s Peat recently took something from Vouilloz, something the Frenchman feels is his: the UCI No. 1. Vouilloz, who owned the top ranking for nearly two years straight, is out to get it back, and the NORBA race at Deer Valley will be a warm-up for the two upcoming World Cup races at Vancouver, Canada, and Durango, Colorado. Peat won the first two rounds of the World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia, and Vars, France.
While this NORBA race offers fewer UCI points than a World Cup, Sunday’s final might be the best test so far this season for the two rivals. The newly designed, 2.2-mile course at Deer Valley is longer and more technical than either of the two World Cups already held in Europe. It will be an interesting match-up, a rare chance for the two to race in a non-World Cup event on a NORBA style course, longer and more difficult than the new-format World Cup courses.
Peat and Vouilloz will both be favorites, but the other rider to watch out for is Intense rider Chris Kovarik. The 23-year-old Aussie takes well to the big mountain courses, and has two consecutive wins at Deer Valley to prove it. Kovarik’s Australian mates Nathan Rennie (Yeti-Pearl Izumi) and Mick Hannah (Global) will also be gunning for Peat and Vouilloz.
Downhillers aren’t the only ones with a new course. Friday’s pro cross-country races will be held on an all-new 6.3-mile course. With a starting elevation of just over 7000 feet, a high point of 7600 feet, and more than 1600 feet of climbing per lap, it’s a true alpine course.
The U.S. cross-country men will try to get back on track after a rough outing at West Virginia last week, and one thing helping their cause will be the absence of Canadian Roland Green (Trek-Volkswagen). The leader of the World Cup and the NORBA cross-country called in sick this week and is resting up for the World Cup on his home turf in British Columbia next week.
VeloNews.com will have complete reports on the men’s and women’s cross-country races on Friday.