By VeloNews Interactive
The first European triple of the Tissot-UCI World Cup mountain-bike season kicked off Saturday in the mountains of Switzerland, featuring the gravity crew for the first half of the weekend. And in varying stages of sun, clouds and rain, four riders took the wins in downhill and dual, making the picture for the overall championships a bit clearer.
Frenchman Mickael Pascal of the Dutch-based Be One team won his second downhill of the year, while GT’s Katja Repo captured her first World Cup downhill win after coming close several times.
Then, hours later in the dual, American Brian Lopes (Fox-GT) and Australian Katrina Miller (Jamis) took top honors after some wild action on the muddy slopes of Leysin.
With just three rounds remaining (including this one), the traveling circus is spending two weeks in Europe. First stop this week is Leysin, just South of Lausanne and up the steep peaks from Lake Geneva. Next week the tour will head east to the Austrian ski town of Kaprun, before heading back to Canada for the finals in Mont Sainte-Anne.
Pascal qualified fourth-fastest in the morning session to earn a late run in the afternoon finals, which was good for him as conditions went from wet and sloppy to drier – but only a bit less sloppy. One of only five men to occupy the hot seat, Pascal bumped last week’s runner-up Sean McCarroll (Global Racing Team), who had earlier bumped off Spaniard David Vazquez Lopez (Giant). It was Lopez’s first race since breaking a collarbone in Maribor’s round one.
Pascal then awaited the top-three qualifiers, including second-fastest Greg Minnaar (Global Racing Team) and No. 1 Nicolas Vouilloz (Vouilloz Racing Team). Minnaar came close to Pascal’s winning time of 4:41 to take second, but Vouilloz crashed on course and arrived at the finish sans saddle — finishing a distant 29th for the day.
With previous series leader Fabien Barel (Team GT) out this week with an injury sustained last week in Japan, Vouilloz took his 50 points from the qualifier and overtook the series lead. Barel is now second, with Pascal third overall.
Cedric Gracia (Volvo-Cannondale), who won here last year, managed to hang on after a crash to finish third, while surprising Czech rider Michel Marosi (Author RB Skoda Auto) and McCarroll rounded out the podium in 4th and 5th respectively.
In women’s downhill, Repo finally ended the perfect season of Anne-Caroline Chausson (Volvo-Cannondale). Repo qualified fastest, using her skills in the mud to finally earn a World Cup win.
Her visions for a perfect season dashed, Chausson now turns her attention to the overall championship, which she has all but locked up at this point. Her nearest threat, Missy Giove (Global Racing Team), finished sixth Saturday, out of reach for the overall title so long as Chausson posts decent results in the remaining two rounds.
Eighteen-year-old Celine Gros (Scott USA) of France finished third for the second-straight year on this track, while American Leigh Donovan (Schwinn) remained consistent in fourth, and 19-year-old Anneke Beerten (Be-One) finished fifth.
Lopes was taking no chances after losing last week in Japan, so he was extra-determined to take the win here and further his overall championship quest. He qualified fastest on Friday, then used his lane choice to snap the lead in each run, and hold off his competitors all the way down the steep — and eventually muddy — dual course.
Lopes got past No. 2-ranked Wade Bootes (Trek-Volkswagen) in the quarter-finals, ensuring his overall series lead, then got to work eliminating his friend Mike King (Haro-Lee Dungarees) in the semi-finals. Lopes then met up with another friend and rival in Eric Carter (Mongoose), whom he dispensed with in a picture-perfect run under a light drizzle.
Carter had sent Brit Scott Beaumont (Kona-Ford Focus) to the consolation round to face King, and “Boom-Boom” Beaumont got the better of King with a risky inside move on a critical left hairpin turn. King began to slide, Beaumont made the pass and earned third for the day (and his first points of the season), while King earned his best result of the season.
Miller had some luck on her side when she beat Sabrina Jonnier (RSP Import Intense) in the women’s final. The No. 2 qualifier, Miller conceded lane choice in the final run to number-one qualifier Jonnier. Seconds into the run it looked bad for Miller as she stalled into a hay bail. But her luck soon changed.
Jonnier slid out in the mud near the final jump, losing enough time for Miller to close the gap — and then nearly jump over Jonnier’s head on the final road gap jump to overtake the lead and win the finals — her first win of the season.
Donovan met up with Gros in the consolation round after each had been eliminated by the finalists. Donovan had the advantage for most of the run, but was passed by Gros in the same critical left-hander, finishing fourth — also on a muddy track under a steady drizzle.
Even though she didn’t win, Donovan hangs on to the top spot overall ahead of Miller, while Chausson has all but conceded the season and will most likely pass on the remaining two duals as she concentrates on the downhill title.
1. Katja Repo (Fin) Team GT, in 5:39; 2. Anne-Caroline Chausson (F), Volvo-Cannondale), at 6.3 seconds; 3. Celine Gros (F), Scott USA, at 57.3; 4. Leigh Donovan (USA), Schwinn, at 59.2; 5. Anneke Beerten (Nl), Be-One, at 1:06; 6. Missy Giove (USA), Global Racing Team, at 1:14; 7. Sabrina Jonnier (F), RSP Import Intense, at 1:16; 8. Marielle Saner (Swi), Team Global Racing, at 1:21; 9. Sandra Walker (Swi), at 1:23; 10. Tracy Moseley (GB), Team Kona-Ford Focus, at 1:48.;
1. Mickael Pascal (F), Be-One Team, in 4:41; 2. Greg Minnaar (SA), Global Racing Team, at 3.01 seconds; 3. Cedric Gracia (F), Volvo-Cannondale, at 10.03; 4. Michel Marosi (CZ), Author RB Skoda Auto, at 10.07; 5. Sean McCarroll (Aus), Global Racing Team, at 12.77; 6. Karim Amour (F), Diamondback, at 12.8; 7. Julien Camellini (F), at 13.45; 8. David Vazquez Lopez (Sp), Giant, at 13.45; 9. Marcus Klausmann (G), MK Racing Team, at 17.62; 10. Claudio Calouri (Swi), Tomac, at 18.7
1. Katrina Miller (Aus), Jamis; 2. Sabrina Jonnier (F), RSP Import Intense; 3. Celine Gros (F), Scott USA; 4. Leigh Donovan (USA), Schwinn.;
1. Brian Lopes (USA), Fox-GT; 2. Eric Carter (USA), Mongoose; 3. Scott Beaumont (GB), Kona-Ford Focus; 4. Mike King (USA), Haro-Lee Dungarees.