By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
For the first time in the nine-year history of the World Cup downhill series, someone from outside the European continent has captured the men’s overall title. On Saturday, 19-year-old South African Greg Minnaar, finished second on the sun-soaked slopes of Mont-Ste-Anne, Quebec, at the World Cup finals. But the man ahead of him wasn’t named Nicolas Vouilloz, which meant the Global Racing rider had overtaken the Frenchman in the overall points standings.
“I thought I had a chance today and it worked out,” said an elated Minnaar, moments after seeking out his parents in the large crowd and summoning them into the finish area. “This is the first time they’ve seen me race the World Cup. It’s great taking the overall in front of them.”
For the record, Australian Chris Kovarik (Intense) won Saturday’s race, putting down an eye-popping time of 4:59.96 on the mostly tight, technical course. But all the attention went to Minnaar who came out of nowhere to win the overall title. Minnaar finished 1.52 seconds back of Kovarik, but was .32 seconds quicker than Vouilloz (Vouilloz Racing), allowing him to erase the eight-point deficit he’d carried into the finals.
Two weeks earlier Minnaar became the first African to win a World Cup race when he took the downhill at Kaprun, Austria.
“Until Kaprun I didn’t really think I could win a World Cup,” Minnaar admitted. “But that gave me a lot of confidence.”
Vouilloz, always gracious, didn’t have any specific reasons for his disappointing season, which saw him win just one World Cup race.
“I lost the World Cup (overall) at every race, not just today,” Vouilloz said. “Today I was confident and only made one big mistake. But it was not enough.”
The final overall points tally saw Minnaar with 1222, followed by Vouilloz with 1210, then Mickael Pascal (Be One) at 1055, Kovarik with 852, and Cedric Gracia (Volvo-Cannondale) at 851.
Lost in the shuffle of Minnaar’s historical win was Kovarik, who picked up the first World Cup win of his young career.
“Today makes me think a little bit about what could have been,” said Kovarik, who missed the World Cup in Durango after being forced to return to his native Australia because of visa problems.
In the women’s race, 20-year-old Sabrina Jonnier (Intense) bested her older rivals, beating second-place finisher Fionn Griffiths by 1.51. The win vaulted the Frenchwoman from sixth to third in the overall standings.
“I knew I could win here,” Jonnier said. “I like technical courses like this. I knew I could go fast.”
Anne-Caroline Chausson (Volvo-Cannondale) easily won the overall title, but had a bad crash on Saturday and ended up last after she DNF’d. Chausson’s rear disc brake broke when it hit a rock early in her run, and without it she quickly crashed.
“Two seconds after the brake broke I crash,” Chausson recalled. “I tried to get back on, but I was very dizzy.”
After the race a Volvo-Cannondale staff member was seen icing Chausson’s left knee, and there was some concern she may have torn ligaments. The Frenchwoman will return home next week and have an MRI done.
Global Racing’s Missy Giove was second in the overall standings after finishing fourth on Saturday. However, that didn’t stop Giove’s Global squad from easily walking away with the overall downhill team title. Still, Giove had some problems that weren’t her fault.
“There was course tape all over the place and it came up across my bike and my body,” she explained. “Obviously I made a few errors, but having stuff all over me didn’t help.” Giove contemplated asking for a rerun, but eventually decided against it.
Racing at Mont-Ste-Anne concludes Sunday with the men’s and women’s cross-country races. The women go first at 10:30 a.m. The men follow at 1:30 p.m. Check back to VeloNews.com for a full report, results and photos.
TISSOT-UCI WORLD CUP CROSS COUNTRY/DOWNHILL/DUAL NO. 8, Mont-Ste-Anne, Quebec. August 25-26.; Downhill; Men: 1. Chris Kovarik (Aus), Intense, 4:59:96(36.15 kph); 2. Greg Minnaar (SA), Global Racing, at 1.52; 3. Nicolas Vouilloz (F), Vouilloz Racing, at 2.24; 4. Mickael Pascal (F), Be One, at 4.17; 5. Cedric Gracia (F), Volvo-Cannondale, at 4.74; 6. Nathan Rankin (NZ), NZMBZ, at 9.96; 7. John Waddell (Aus), SunRace-Sturm, at 10.86; 8. Kirt Voreis (USA), Haro-Lee Dungarees, at 10.89; 9. Rob Warner (GB), Giant-Toyota, at 11.46; 10. John Kircaldie (NZ), Maxxis, at 12.60; Other North Americans: 16. Colin Bailey (USA), Maxxis, at 15.63; 18. Todd LeDuc (USA), Azonic-Foes, at 16.58; 19. Derin Stockton (USA), Intense Tires, at 18.33; 20. Leon May (Can), Balfa Cycles, at 18.98; 22. Eric Carter (USA), Mongoose-Hyundai, at 19.11; 66. Andrew Shandro (Can), Ford-Devinci, at 2:18.47; Women: 1. Sabrina Jonnier (F), Intense, 5:40.49 (31.85 kph); 2. Fionn Griffiths (GB), Ancillotti UK, at 1.51; 3. Marielle Saner (Swi), Global Racing, at 5.50; 4. Missy Giove (USA), Global Racing, at 7.36; 5. Katja Repo (Fin), GT, at 11.66; 6. Leigh Donovan (USA), Schwinn, at 14.46; 7. Marla Streb (USA), Azonic-Foes, at 16.82; 8. Tracy Moseley (GB), Kona-Ford-Focus, at 19.73; 9. Helen Mortimer (GB), Giant-Toyota, at 21.55; 10. April Lawyer (USA), Maxxis, at 25.77; Other North Americans: 11. Kathy Pruitt (USA), Dirt Works, at 25.78; 13. Danielle Connolly (USA), Karpiel, at 30.46; 15. Sylvie Allen (Can), Rocky Mountain, at 36.41; 20. Melissa Buhl (USA), ODI-KHS, at 49.36; Final overall standings; Men;
1. Minnaar, 1222 points; 2. Vouilloz, 1210; 3. Pascal, 1055; 4. Kovarik, 852; 5. Gracia, 851; 6. Fabien Barel (F), GT, 834; 7. Oscar Saiz (Sp), Be One, 673; 8. Sean McCarroll (Aus), Global Racing, 632; 9. Steve Peat (GB), GT, 600; 10. Mick Hannah (Aus), Global Racing, 531; North Americans;11. Carter, 516; 20. Voreis, 278; 22. Myles Rockwell (USA), Giant, 267; 24. Colin Bailey (USA), Maxxis, 254; 25. Rich Houseman (USA), Tomac, 250; 62. Andrew Shandro (Can), Ford-Devinci, 56; Women;1. Anne-Caroline Chausson (F), Volvo-Cannondale, 1695 points; 2. Giove, 1360; 3. Jonnier, 1161; 4. Griffiths, 1114; 5. Repo, 1097; 6. Donovan, 1039; 7. Moseley, 1014; 8. Saner, 844; 9. Streb, 559; 10. Celine Gros (F), Scott-USA, 465; Other North Americans;13. Tara Llanes (USA), Yeti-Pearl Izumi, 325; 16. Lawyer, 294; 17. Pruitt, 272; 22. Buhl, 185; 23. Elke Brutsaert (USA), Schwinn, 181; 28. Allen, 148; 30. Connolly, 134