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By Andrew Hood
In a season that saw Anne-Caroline Chausson step back from the international circuit, many thought the 25-year-old would be vulnerable in Saturday’s women’s downhill world championship.
Chausson erased any doubts as to whether she’s still the queen bee of the women’s gravity circuit when she roared through the intermediate time check 12 seconds faster than runner-up Sabrina Jonnier en route to her record eighth consecutive world title.
“I didn’t think I was going that fast. That’s when you know things are going well, when things seem too easy,” said Chausson, who won in 5 minutes, 10.23 seconds. “I was angry after the qualifier because I thought I could go faster. But I didn’t think I could go that fast.”
Jonnier had just evicted compatriot Nolvenn Le Caer from the “hot seat” by a decisive five-second margin. But Jonnier was already climbing out before Chausson came within 10 seconds of the finish.
“I wanted to win today, but I played it too safe,” said Jonnier, who took silver at 12.41 seconds slower. “I have to be more confident if I am going to beat Anne-Caroline. That’s been my problem all year. I need to take more chances.”
Le Caer took bronze at 17.46 seconds slower to round out the French sweep and give the 1996 junior world champion her first medal since finishing second in 1998.
You’d think that after winning every world title since 1996, things would become almost routine for Chausson. They haven’t. Chausson said she was a sack of nerves before the start.
“I was really nervous before the start. I wasn’t talking with anyone,” said Chausson. “This is ‘the’ race for me. There’s always more pressure on me to win the world’s every year.”
Chausson was almost flawless on the technical, rocky course and sailed to one of her easiest wins ever.
Two-time runner-up Fionn Griffiths was an early leader with 5:35.06, but muttered, “It’s not enough, it’s not enough,” as she crossed the line. Compatriot Tracey Moseley usurped her by less than two seconds until Le Caer roared into the finish to set up the French sweep.
Kathy Pruitt, the junior world champion in 2000, led the Americans with sixth place at 25.42 seconds slower while Marla Streb settled for eighth at 26.85 seconds slower.
UCI women’s downhill world championship, Lugano, Switzerland
1. Anne-Caroline Chausson (F) 1.45 miles in 5 minutes, 10.23 seconds (27.15 kph)
2. Sabrina Jonnier (F) 5:22.64, +12.64 seconds
3. Nolvenn Le Caer (F) 5:27.69, +17.46
4. Tracy Moseley (GBr) 5:33.31
5. Fionn Griffiths (Gbr) 5:35.06
6. Kathy Pruitt (US) 5:35.65
7. Mio Suemasa (Japan) 5:36.81
8. Marla Streb (USA) 5:37.08
9. Vanessa Quin (NZl) 5:37.34
10. Amelie Thevoz (Swi) 5:42.40
Other North Americans
12. April Lawyer (USA) 5:48.90
14. Danika Schroeter (Can) 6:04.27
17. Michele Dumaresq (Can) 6:11.78
18. Debra Mac Killop (Can) 6:12.67
19. Dawn Bourque (USA) 6:19.90
22. Gale Dahlager (USA) 6:22.00
23. Claire Bucher (Can) 6:23.90
26. Holly Kuhn (USA) 6:41.77
29. Caroline Milot (Can) 6:52.37
DNF – Sheila Morris (Can)
Ragot wins another junior DH title
French rider Emmeline Ragot won her second consecutive junior women’s downhill title after taking a decisive win in the seven-rider field.
Ragot finished the course in 5 minutes, 41.07 seconds, a time that would have put her in 10th place in the women’s field.
The silver and bronze medalists were the first for their respective nations in gravity racing. Scarlett Hagen of New Zealand was second at 5.51 seconds slower while Bernadita Pizarro of Chile claimed third at 17.96 seconds slower.
Three American riders claimed fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.
UCI junior women’s downhill world championship, Lugano, Switzerland
1. Emmeline Ragot (F) 5 minutes, 1.45 miles in 41.07 seconds
2. Scarlett Hagen (NZl) 5:46.58, +5.51 seconds
3. Bernadita Pizarro (Chile) 5:59.03, +17.96 seconds
4. Claire Bauchet (F) 6:46.34
5. Leana Gerrard (USA) 7:29.04
6. Jenny Cornelison (USA) 7:44.52
7. Katie Holden (USA) 8:39.68