By Andrew Hood
Hometown favorite Anne-Caroline Chausson and first-time winner Nathan Rennie were fastest Sunday on a speedy, rocky downhill course high in the French Alps.
On a mountain more famous for being climbed up, cycling’s fastest downhillers ripped down a wide-open course criticized for its lack of technical challenges. With wide sweeping turns and long straights, the course favored big riders and that was certainly true in the men’s field, where young bucks Rennie and Chris Kovarik ruled the roost.
A decent crowd turned out under brilliant sunny skies to catch the action for the second round of the 2003 World Cup.
In the men’s heat, Frenchie Mickael Pascal posted the early fastest time and enjoyed a nice run in the “hot seat” (now nothing more than a plastic chair in these troubled times for mountain bike racing) until Kovarik came through.
He didn’t have much time to get comfy in the “hot seat.” As the second-to-last rider, Rennie barreled through the bottom half of the course and pipped his compatriot.
France’s Fabian Barel was the fastest qualifier and was the only rider left standing between Rennie and victory. Barel was clean on the upper section, but lost pace over the final turns. As he came across to take third, Rennie scored his first World Cup win.
“I’m so stoked. I’ve come close so many times before. This was a wide open track and I love going fast,” said Rennie, a former world junior champion. “I’m just so happy. This is my first one.”
Pre-race favorite Cedric Gracia and defending World Cup champion Steve Peat struggled against the young Aussies.
In the women’s heat, Chausson couldn’t help herself; she just had to win.
Following an early exit in Saturday’s 4-Cross, Chausson was back to her old habits and put down the fastest qualifying time. Afternoon rain from Saturday seemed to make the fast course even faster as it greased out the corners.
Chausson used to win downhill races by huge gaps, but this time it was actually a nail-biter and she came across just 3.13 seconds faster than runner-up Tracy Moseley.
“I knew the course was fast, but I am not as strong as in years past. I had the advantage of knowing that the fastest time was still not as fast as my qualifying time, so I knew all I had to do was ride a clean race,” said Chausson, who collapsed on the ground after coming across in the final start position.
Chausson is stepping back from racing this year and instead focusing on free riding. She’ll skip the remainder of the World Cups, but will defend her world title in Lugano, Switzerland.
Moseley wrapped up a big weekend, finishing second to go along with the victory in the 4-Cross.
Results, UCI Downhill World Cup Round Two
Alpe d’Huez, June 8, 2003
1. Anne-Caroline Chausson (F), 3 minutes, 37 seconds.15 seconds
2. Tracy Moseley (GBr), at 3.13
3. Celine Gros (F), at 3.52
4. Sabrina Jonnier (F), at 5.14
5. Emmeline Ragot (F) at 5.28OTHERS
6. Marla Streb (USA) at 5.93
11. Kathy Pruitt (USA) at 10.11Men
1. Nathan Rennie (Aus), 3 minutes, 16.71 seconds
2. Chris Kovarik (Aus), at 0.60 seconds
3. Fabien Barel (F), at 0.65
4. Mickael Pascal (F), at 1.78
5. Greg Minnaar (RSA), at 2.65OTHERS
20. Eric Carter (USA) at 7.95