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Peat is series champ
By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
On a rainy afternoon when pedaling prowess was just as important as downhilling skills, Frenchwoman Celine Gros and Spain’s David Vazquez Lopez scored World Cup wins at the final day of racing in Calgary, Alberta. The combination of a short, relatively flat course, along with extremely muddy conditions, made for a tough test on a track that paralleled the bobsled circuit used in the 1988 Olympics.
“You were pretty much pedaling top to bottom,” said American Marla Streb (Luna), who spent some time in the hot seat before being knocked off by teammate Kathy Pruitt. Streb wound up sixth, while Pruitt hung on for fourth.
It was the diminutive Gros (Morzine-Avoriaz) who would post the day’s top mark, though. The petite Frenchwoman said she was at her best during the top third of the greasy 0.81-mile course, then held on at the finish to knock off countrywoman Sabrina Jonnier by 1.37 seconds.
“I know I lost some time before the finish, but I was good at the top,” said the blonde, pigtailed 21-year-old, whose main sponsor is her hometown of Morzine, just a 15-minute drive from Les Gets, sight of this year’s world championships. “[The world’s] are near my home which is good for me. I like the track very much.”
Great Britain’s Tracy Moseley (Kona Clarks-Les Gets) finished third, with fellow U.K. rider Rachel Atherton in fifth behind Pruitt.
“That was the worst experience of my racing career,” said a dejected Moseley, who now sits third in the overall standings behind Gros and series leader Jonnier. “You had to pedal so hard and you still didn’t feel like you were going anywhere.”
Jonnier, who locked up the four-cross series title on Friday, has a commanding 157-point lead in the downhill standings, giving her a good shot at becoming just the second woman to sweep World Cup downhill and gated racing titles in the same year. The semi-retired Anne-Caroline Chausson has done it twice (2000, 2002).
Following an hour break between races at Canada Olympic Park, a field of 81 men took their shots on the quick and slick course. Kiwi John Kirkcaldie posted the day’s first fast time, earning the right to straddle the Calgary-inspired hot seat, a leather saddle placed on top of a hay bale. Kirkcaldie is a long time member of the Maxxis team, a theme that would become prominent as the race wore on.
The two-time NORBA DH series champ would eventually be deposed by Maxxis-MSC rider Mickael Pascal. Meanwhile, Maxxis America rider Colin Bailey slipped into second, and would eventually finish fifth.
None of the ensuing seven riders managed to break up the Maxxis stranglehold, including reigning world champion Greg Minnaar (Team G Cross Honda), who would settle for 10th.
“It was so slippery,” said Minnaar. “There was no traction anywhere.”
Next up was Vazquez Lopez, who hails from Barcelona, but says he’s gotten comfortable racing in the mud over the years. “My win last year [at the Kaprun, Austria World Cup] was in conditions just like this,” the 25-year-old explained. “So I guess it is okay for me.”
Vazquez Lopez would survive the challenge of the final five riders, with his Brazilian Maxxis-MSC teammate Markolf Berchtold coming closest, 1.13 back of the winning mark of 2:24.78.
Great Britain’s Steve Peat (Orange) was the only non-Maxxis team rider who managed to crack the top five, grabbing third and wrapping up the overall World Cup title in the process. Peat has an insurmountable 263-point lead over Australian Sam Hill (Iron Horse-MadCatz), who finished a disappointing 38th and promptly rolled out of the finish corral.
“I knew at the top that a few people had crashed in the steep section,” explained Peat of the information that led him to switch to spiked tire up front just minutes before his finals run. This is Peat’s second World Cup DH series title. He also grabbed the crown in 2002, closing out the year with a win at the finals in Les Gets.
The World Cup circuit folds up its tents for the next two months, giving way to national championships, the NORBA series, the Olympics and the world championships; then reconvenes in Livigno, Italy for the series finals September 18-19.
UCI MOUNTAIN BIKE WORLD CUP; CALGARY, ALBERTA, JULY 2-4; DOWNHILL NO. 5; MEN: 1. David Vazquez Lopez (Sp), Maxxis-MSC, 2:24.78; 2. Markolf Berchtold (Bra), Maxxis-MSC, at 1.13; 3. Steve Peat (GB), Orange, at 1.94; 4. Mickael Pascal (F), Maxxis-MSC, at 2.21; 5. Colin Bailey (USA), Maxxis, at 2.62; 6. John Kirkcaldie (NZ), Maxxis, at 3.03; 7. Nathan Rennie (Aus), Iron Horse-MadCatz, at 3.19; 8. Guido Tschugg (G), Fusion, at 3.38; 9. Matti Lehikoinen (Fin), 3.83; 10. Greg Minnaar (SA), Team G-Cross Honda, at 4.03
WOMEN: WOMEN: 1. Celine Gros (F), Morzine-Avoriaz, 2:39.5; 2. Sabrina Jonnier (F), Intense, at 1.37; 3. Tracy Moseley (GB), Kona Clarks-Les Gets, 3.56; 4. Kathy Pruitt (USA), Luna, at 4.32; 5. Rachel Atherton (GB), 5.73; 6. Marla Streb (USA), Luna, at 9.60; 7. Danika Schroeter (Can), at 12.85; 8. Lisa Sher (USA), Chumba Wumba, at 1 4.23; 9. April Lawyer (USA), Maxxis-Puma, at 15.9; 10. Anneke Beerten (Nl), at 17.7 1
OVERALL STANDINGS; (through 5 of 6 events); MEN: 1. Peat, 980 points; 2. Hill, 717; 3. Gracia, 682; 4. Pascal, 680; 5. Rennie, 673; 6. Atherton, 602; 7. Vazquez Lopez, 575; 8. Berchtold, 401; 9. Minnaar, 354; 10. Barel, 320
WOMEN: 1. Jonnier, 977 points; 2. Gros, 820; 3. Moseley, 762; 4. Saner, 672; 5. Quin, 564; 6. Gaskell, 547; 7. Chausson, 460; 8. Suemasa, 423; 9. Atherton, 385; 10. Molcik, 375