By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
It’s been a long time since the French haven’t owned at least one of the World Cup downhill leader’s jerseys, but that’s just what happened in Scotland Sunday after a pair of Commonwealth riders stormed away with wins at round one in Fort William. Aussie Chris Kovarik and Great Britain’s Tracy Moseley are now on top of the series standings, after each took dramatic victories on the steep slopes of the Nevis Range Ski Resort.
For Kovarik it was his second straight World Cup win. The Intense rider closed the 2001 season on top of the podium at the finals in Mont-Ste-Anne.
“I’ve managed to keep things rolling,” said Kovarik, who also took the NORBA season opener three weeks ago at Snow Summit in California.
Rolling might have been an understatement on this day. Kovarik’s winning time was a whopping 14.02 seconds faster than No. 2 riders Nathan Rennie and Cédric Gracia who finished in a dead heat at 4:48.00. Fourth place went to reigning world champ Nicolas Vouilloz, while Mickael Pascal was fifth.
The big disappointment of the day was the final run of Steve Peat. The hugely popular British rider posted the morning’s fastest qualifier but crashed twice during his afternoon run, and settled for a distant 17th. His ride was made particularly difficult after he ripped his saddle off its seatpost during the first crash.
“The rain had really softened things up and my front wheel just got bogged down,” said Peat afterward. “I went flying into the rocks.”
The crack-up also damaged one of Peat’s brake levers, causing him to go down again later in the run.
The Orange rider wasn’t the only one to crash, though. Outside Kovarik, nearly every other big name had at least one encounter with the dirt. Last year’s overall World Cup winner Greg Minnaar went hurtling over bars in sight of the finish, while Gracia and Vouilloz were toppled higher up on the 1.65-mile course.
In the women’s race, Anne-Caroline Chausson was the biggest name to be claimed by the track that started high above tree line, before funneling riders into the woods. The usually unbeatable Frenchwoman had a terrible run, crashing up high on the course, then again near the halfway point. The result was a 19th-place finish and the end of her run as No. 1 in the World Cup that dated all the way back to the second round of 1998.
“Once I crash once I start pushing too hard,” said the Volvo-Cannondale rider. “I tried a line I’d never tried before and crash again.”
Also running into trouble was No. 1 qualifier Missy Giove. The Global Racing rider flatted shortly into her run and was never in contention, settling for fifth behind Vanessa Quin, Sabrina Jonnier and Fionn Griffiths.
For Moseley (Kona), whose winning time of 5:45.99 was 6.48 better than Quin, it was huge homesoil win on the heels of a tough offseason that saw her team’s primary sponsor pull its support.
“Ford bailed but the guys here have kept things together,” she said. “They’ve done an amazing job.”
Moseley qualified 20th in the morning session, then posted a finals time that was more than six seconds slower than Giove’s qualifier. No one in the finish area figured it would hold up very long, including Moseley.
“There were still so many fast girls up on the hill,” she said.
But one by one Moseley’s challengers came up short, until finally the victory was sealed sending the partisan crowd into a frenzy.
“This is so unbelievable,” said Moseley of her first World Cup win. “I’ve dreamt of this for years.”
TISSOT UCI WORLD CUP NO. 1; FORT WILLIAM, SCOTLAND, JUNE 1-2; DOWNHILL; MEN; 1. Chris Kovarik (Aus), Intense, 4:33.98; 2. Cédric Gracia (F), Volvo-Cannondale, at 14.02; 2. Nathan Rennie (Aus), Yeti-Pearl Izumi, at 14.02; 4. Nicolas Vouilloz (F), Vouilloz Racing, at 16.38; 5. Mickael Pascal (F), Be One, at 17.46; 6. Fabien Barel (F), Maxxis-MSC, at 18.74; 7. Mick Hannah (Aus), Haro-Lee Dungarees, at 20.42; 8. John Kirkcaldie (NZ), Maxxis, at 20.74; 9. Kirt Voreis (USA), Haro-Lee Dungarees, at 21.05; 10. Nigel Page (GB), Intense, at 21.63; 11. David Vazquez (Sp), Giant, at 21.74; 12. Cesar Rojo (Sp), Global Racing, at 22.43; 13. Bas De Bever (Nl), Be One, at 26.33; 14. Oscar Saiz (Sp), Maxxis-MSC, at 28.91; 15. Daniel Atherton (GB), at 28.95; 16. Ivan Moreno (Sp), at 29.13; 17. Steve Peat (GB), Orange-English, at 29.39; 18. Bernat Guardia (Sp), Maxxis-MSC, at 30.13; 19. Wilfred Van Der Haterd (Nl), at 31.22; 20. Matti Lehikoinen (Fin), Global Racing, at 31.85; Other North Americans; 45. Trevor Porter (Can), at 45.82; WOMEN; 1. Tracy Moseley (GB), Kona, 5:45.99; 2. Vanessa Quin (NZ), Intense, at 6.48; 3. Sabrina Jonnier (F), Intense, at 10.64; 4. Fionn Griffiths (GB), Ancillotti-UK, at 11.45; 5. Missy Giove (USA), Global Racing, at 14.18; 6. Nolveen Le Caer (F), Fiat-Rotwild, at 19.83; 7. Miriam Blas (Sp), at 21.29; 8. Marielle Saner (Swi), Global Racing, at 24.13; 9. Helen Gaskel (GB), at 27.11; 10. Mio Suemasa (Jpn), Trek-Volkswagen, at 28.48; 11. Anita Molcik (A), Bank Austria, at 36.27; 12. Anneke Beerten (Nl), Be One, at 37.27; 13. Pascaline Ruesser (Swi), at 42.53; 14. April Lawyer (USA), Maxxis, at 44.65; 15. Bernardita Pizarro (Chi), at 51.13; 16. Sandra Walker (Swi), at 58.80; 17. Diana Marggraff (Ecu), Royal Orange, at 1:06.26; 18. Petra Bernhard (A), Bank Austria, at 1:10.65; 20. Celine Gros (F), Morzine-Avori, at 1:19.46; Other North Americans; 26. Kathy Pruitt (USA), Dirtworks, at 2:11.54
World Cup Downhill Standings; After 1 of 6 races; Men; 1. Kovarik, 230 points; 2. Gracia, 180; 3. Rennie, 171; 4. Vouilloz, 165; 5. Pascal, 135; 6. Barel, 105; 6. Hannah, 105; 8. Peat, 99; 9. Kirkcaldie, 85; 10. Vazquez, 84
Women; 1. Moseley, 200 points; 2. Quin, 185; 3. Giove, 160; 4. Jonnier, 153; 5. Griffiths, 145; 6. Gaskel, 120; 7. Saner, 115; 8. Le Caer, 95; 9. Blas, 90; 10. Suemasa