By Andrew Hoop, VeloNews Corespondent
Defending World Cup dual champions Brian Lopes and Anne-Caroline Chausson picked up where they left off last year, winning the opening round races of the 2001 season in Maribor, Slovenia.
More than 10,000 fans lined the course under the lights in Maribor to cheer on racers in the World Cup season opener for dual downhill. Lopes didn’t put down his customary fastest time in the qualifier, so the Californian had tougher than usual competition, including a hard crash with Mickael Deldycke in the semis, to reach the finals against former Volvo-Cannondale teammate Cedric Gracia.
Gracia crashed high on the steep course – too steep says Lopes – and Lopes coasted to his 15th career World Cup dual victory.
“We were really close in that first turn and he landed on his front tire and crashed,” Lopes said. “I’ll take the win anyway I can get it. This takes a lot of pressure off by winning the first round.”
Deldycke easily beat Karim Armour in the runoff heat to take third.
In the women’s heat, Chausson held off Schwinn’s Leigh Donovan in the finals to show she’s in top form despite crashing hard in a French Cup race last weekend.
“When I crashed last week, I didn’t know how I could do today, but I felt good,” said Chausson, who’s never lost a duals final since she started racing the discipline last year.
Australia’s Katrina Miller held off Tara Llanes to win the consolation round.
Earlier in the day during downhill training, Steve Peat posted the fastest time at 2 minutes, 58.35 seconds while Chausson was fastest for the women at 3:23.66. The downhill finals are scheduled for Sunday.
TISSOT-UCI WORLD CUP NO. 1, Maribor, Slovenia, June 9
Men; 1. Brian Lopes (USA), GT-Fox, 50 points; 2. Cedric Gracia (F), Volvo-Cannondale, 40; 3. Mickael Deldycke (F), Schwinn, 30; 4. Karim Armour, 20
Women; 1. Anne-Caroline Chausson (F), Volvo-Cannondale, 50 points; 2. Leigh Donovan (USA), Schwinn, 40; 3. Katrina Miller (Aus), Jamis, 30; 4. Tara Llanes (USA), Yeti-Pear Izumi, 20