By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
After skipping the second half of the World Cup dual season because of nagging injuries, Anne-Caroline Chausson is back. On Thursday the French Volvo-Cannondale rider was fastest in dual qualifying, posting a time of 44.93 on the world championship course in Vail, Colorado. Just a breath behind Chausson was 2001 World Cup dual champion Leigh Donovan (Schwinn), who was .06 seconds behind Chausson.
Australia’s Katrina Miller (Jamis) was third, followed by Tai-Lee Muxlow (Dirt Works), Tara Llanes (Yeti-Pearl Izumi) and Sabrina Jonnier (Intense). Only 13 women started on Thursday, meaning the top three riders will all receive byes in the first round.
In men’s dual qualifying World Cup champion Brian Lopes (GT-Fox) was fastest. The Laguna Beach, California resident was the only rider to post a sub-40-second time, coming across the line in 39.56. France’s Cedric Gracia (Volvo-Cannondale) was second, at .82, followed by Eric Carter (Mongoose-Hyundai), France’s Karim Armour, and South African Global Racing rider Greg Minnaar. Noticeably missing from the top five was last year’s world champion Wade Bootes (Trek-Volkswagen). The Aussie nearly crashed during his qualifying run and ended up 11th, 2.78 seconds behind Lopes.
Dual finals are slated for Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Downhill seeding also took place on Thursday. On the men’s side Britain’s Steve Peat (GT) returned from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss most of the second half of the season and posted the day’s fastest run, 3:43.38. Reigning World Cup downhill champion Minnaar was second, at 4.79, followed by Chris Kovarik (Intense), Mickael Pascal (Be One) and Nicolas Vouilloz (Vouilloz Racing).
The top American was Haro-Lee Dungarees rider Kirt Voreis made his way down the course at Vail in 3:56.79, 13.41 behind Peat. Defending world champion Myles Rockwell (Giant) was 31st.
On the women’s side, Chausson looked to be in a league of her own, posting a 4:18.77, 9.53 seconds quicker than second-place rider Fionn Griffiths of Great Britain. Katja Repo (GT), Marla Streb (Foes-Azonic) and Vanessa Quinn rounded out the top five.
American Missy Giove (Global Racing), the one rider who might be able to unseat Chausson, crashed Thursday, finishing second to last at 2:24.17.
In the junior races Australia’s Ben Cory was the fastest man, while Japan’s Mio Suemasa topped the women’s standings.
The finals of the downhill are set to begin at 10:30 Saturday morning.