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By Kip Mikler , VeloNews Editor
The Saturday night dual slalom is always a show at the Chevy Trucks National Championship Series, and this Saturday’s showdown at Deer Valley lived up to its billing. The red-hot Leigh Donovan (Schwinn) remained undefeated in 2001 with her third straight win, and the men’s race — which featured such compelling battles as Brian Lopes versus Nicolas Vouilloz — was won by another legend, Eric Carter (Mongoose-Hyundai). And if all that weren’t enough, Shaun Palmer was there. To watch.
For an example of what the hillside crowd was treated to at the end of a hot day at Deer Valley, consider the men’s round of eight: Carter versus Mike King, a classic battle between two guys who have raced each other hundreds of times; Lopes versus Vouilloz, who was contesting a NORBA dual slalom for the first time ever; Mickael Deldycke versus Fabian Barel, a clash of two new-school Euro titans; and Dave Cullinan versus Chris Kovarik, the free agent master of the game versus the hot young Australian.
First, Lopes and Vouilloz. The Frenchman doesn’t race slalom often, so he used his downhill bike, which is considerably heavier than most slalom bikes. While Vouilloz won’t race the UCI-format dual, said he likes the NORBA format of two courses and wanted to give it a try. When he beat Shaums March and Ryan Finney to face up against Lopes, the crowd knew they were seeing something special.
Vouilloz had to put it on the line, and in the first heat, he slid out and lost the maximum time, 1.5 seconds. “I was against Brian,” Vouilloz said. “I knew I had to try as hard as I could.”
With Vouilloz handled, Lopes drew Carter, who had the tricky blue-gated course dialed better than anyone else. The finish on that course was causing headaches for many riders, including world champion Wade Bootes, who crashed there in the second round.
Carter got past Lopes to draw Kovarik in the final. Once again, Carter was untouchable, as he won the first heat and cruised through the second.
The women’s final came down to Yeti-Pearl Izumi’s Tara Llanes and Donovan. Llanes said she’s feeling better on the bike than at anytime before. With the loose rocks littering the berms and straights, she made a last-minute decision to switch from clipped-in pedals to flats, and that got her all the way to the finals.
But Donovan wouldn’t be stopped. Scheduled to retire at the end of the season, Donovan is focusing in the dual, and she said an off-season training program put together by her coach, Stephane Girard, has been the difference this year.
NORBA DUAL SLALOM NO. 3, Deer Valley, Utah. June 30, 2001.
1. Eric Carter, Mongoos-Hyundai; 2. Chris Kovarik (Aus), Intense; 3. Mickael Deldycke (F), Schwinn; 4. Brian Lopes, GT-Fox.
1. Leigh Donovan, Schwinn; 2. Tara Llanes, Yeti-Pearl Izumi; 3. Katja Repo (Fin), GT; 4. Tai-Lee Muxlo (Aus).