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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
The names may have been the same and the riders still had their usual course complaints, but when Saturday’s racing at World Cup No. 1 in Fort William, Scotland was done, the debut of four-cross had to be considered a big success.
The day’s biggest winner was Volvo-Cannondale, which swept the top of the podium after French riders Anne-Caroline Chausson and Cédric Gracia took wins on the short course near the base area of the Nevis Range Ski Resort. But the huge gathering of fans (3500 tickets were sold) also fared well, getting to watch an hour of exciting back-and-forth racing that included two late-race passes by crowd favorite Steve Peat, which pushed the Brit into the men’s four-man final.
There Peat (Orange-English) met up with Gracia, Aussie Wade Bootes (Trek-Volkswagen) and American Brian Lopes (GT-Fox). Out of the gate Lopes — the day’s fastest qualifier — got the holeshot, but coming into the second turn Gracia came wide, blasting Lopes off the course.
“I was going to let him come past me,” said Lopes, who cracked the knee-cup on his leg padding during his tumble. “It was a good move. I just had no where to go.”
From there Gracia shot to the front, with Bootes and Peat chasing hard. But with top-to-bottom times hovering around 25 seconds, there was no time left to pass, and the threesome crossed the line in that same order.
Afterward race officials ruled that Peat had cut a gate near the end of the course, relegating him to fourth and moving Lopes into third.
“I went straight through the gate,” Peat said. “They got it right.”
Gracia’s win was his second in World Cup gated racing (he took the dual at Mont-Ste-Anne in 2000), but he definitely prefers the new format.
“This is much more fun for me,” Gracia said. “You don’t have to just focus on one guy and it’s better for the fans, too.”
The women’s final didn’t have quite the drama of the men’s. Chausson was quickest to the first turn and never looked back, cruising to her ninth gated World Cup win. Behind her Tara Llanes (Yeti-Pear Izumi) was in good position for second before crashing hard coming out of the first jump sequence. The American stayed down for several minutes, but eventually walked off the course under her own power.
Back at the front Sabrina Jonnier (Intense) followed Chausson across the line in second, with fellow Frenchwoman Celine Gros taking third. Afterward Chausson echoed Gracia’s sentiment about the new discipline.
“The people like it that’s what’s important,” she said.
Racing at Fort William continues Sunday with the downhill. The semifinals begin at 10 a.m. local time, followed by the final at 1:30 p.m. Check back to VeloNews.com for a full report, results and photos.
TISSOT UCI WORLD CUP NO. 1; FORT WILLIAM, SCOTLAND, JUNE 1-2;FOUR-CROSS; MEN; 1. Cédric Gracia (F), Volvo-Cannondale; 2. Wade Bootes (Aus), Trek-Volkswagen; 3. Brian Lopes (USA), GT-Fox; 4. Steve Peat (GB), Orange-English; 5. Michal Prokop (Czh), Be One; 6. Dale Holmes (GB); 7. Kirt Voreis (USA), Haro-Lee Dungarees; 8. Bas De Bever (Nl), Be One; WOMEN; 1. Anne-Caroline Chausson (F), Volvo-Cannondale; 2. Sabrina Jonnier (F), Intense; 3. Celine Gros (F), Morzine-Avoriaz; 4. Tara Llanes (USA), Yeti-Pear Izumi; 5. Katrina Miller (Aus), Jamis; 6. Melissa Buhl (USA), ODI-KHS; 7. Vanessa Quin (NZ), Intense; 8. Miwa Sakamoto (Jpn)