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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
Told you a little bit about pro freerider Dave Watson’s road-gap jump overthe Tour de France while I was up in Whistler, but on Wednesday I got thisofficial press release from the guys at Freeride Entertainment who supplieda little more detail on exactly how things went down. Here are the highlights.“Freeride Entertainment was recently on location at the Tour de Francewhere Kona Clump rider Dave Watson jumped the tour peloton during the Alpd’Huez stage of the tour,” read the release. “The jump took place justbefore the summit of the Col de Galibier. The set-up and preparation hadto be done in secret, as the reaction of the fans and organizers was unknown.Showing up several days before hand, Watson and some of the staff at BigBike, a French freeride magazine, built the jump and cleared the landingbefore fans showed up.“With three 16mm cameras rolling to catch the action and a photographershooting stills, tension was high as the helicopters appeared on the horizonmarking the arrival of the lead group. The amount of police and the mayhemcreated by the fans on the take-off and landing meant that jumping thelead group was out of the question. With communication hardly possibledue to the noise created by the fans, a group of about 12 riders was sightedin the distance and the jump was on. Frantic preparations were made toclear the landing of spectators and take-off jump.“Jumping just over the back of the peloton as to take no chances ofinjuring riders on an unknown jump, Watson sailed approximately 45 feetbefore touching down. Due to a last minute brake check, Watson came upslightly short and was bucked by his bike into the rocky transition.“Paramedics insisted on taking Watson on a two-hour ride out the mountainsto the hospital and the police didn’t seem to mind since the only personpotentially hurt was Watson. Released from the hospital with a partiallyseparated shoulder, sore back, neck, and a severely bruised groin, he willrecover fully.”As you read this VeloNews is still trying to track down photosof the jump, but has been told the photographer will not be back in NorthAmerica until August 1. Stay tuned.Out of danger
After falling all the way to 14th in the last set of nation rankings,the U.S. cross-country men are back on solid ground after their standoutperformance at the Grouse Mountain World Cup. Led by the ninth-place finishof Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and the 11th-place effort of Todd Wells, theAmericans sit 12th in the most recent set of UCI rankings, issued July21.Also moving in a positive direction were the Canadian men, who wentfrom seventh to sixth and are now just one spot outside the all importanttop 5, which would mean three start spots at the Athens Olympics. Here’sthe current top five: 1. France, 2844 points; 2. Switzerland, 2588; 3.Netherlands, 2376; 4. Belgium, 2368; 5. Spain, 2297. Also: 6. Canada, 2130;12. U.S., 1068.Over in the women’s ledger, where only the top three countries earnthree start spots, the standings look like this: 1. Germany, 3027 points;2. Canada, 2355; 3. Switzerland, 2295; 4. Spain, 2074; 5. Poland, 2015;6. France, 1916; 7. U.S., 1681.
First it was bullet heads (downhillers wearing helmets without visors), now the latest fashion faux pas in the gravity-racing world is skinsuits. And no, I’m not kidding. Guys have grumbled about it for years, but this season a petition has actually been circulated in an attempt to get everyone to stop wearing the skin-tight ensembles and stick to loose fitting jerseys.
“Part of it is that some guys don’t have them, so it’s not fair,” saidSteve Peat. “Plus everyone agrees that they look bad. It’s just like thedeal we had with the visor last year.”
The “visor deal,” for those of you unfamiliar, was an agreement amongriders that everyone would run the sun shields on their downhill helmets,forsaking whatever speed advantage the “bullet head” look might give inthe name of looking good.Peat also points out that there is one more layer to the skinsuit issue,and that’s marketing. “Our sponsors aren’t going to sell a lot of skinsuitsto people,” he explained. “They want us to wear the stuff that looks good.”Only problem with all this is that invariably some racers will continueto wear skinsuits, and once in a awhile they may even make a difference.And if you think that’s silly, consider this. Three years ago in the GrouseMountain World Cup downhill Fabien Barel beat Chris Kovarik by 0.01 second.Guess who wasn’t wearing a skinsuit?Professor Shandro
Caught up with former pro downhiller Andrew Shandro during VN’srecent swing through Whistler. He was one of the six sponsored athletesShimano rolled out during its launch of the new freeride Saint group. ButShandro is much more than a pitchman these days. During the summer he worksas the camp director at Whistler-Blackcomb, running their summer gravitycamps.“They’re weeklong camps for riders 13 and up,” the 32-year-old Shandroexplained. “They include lodging, lift passes, breakfast and lunch, andof course lots of coaching.”Shandro added that the focus of the camps depends on what the studentswant. “Some want to do more race stuff,” he said. “Others are more interestedin jumps or drops or riding steep lines. We try to be flexible.”As for his credentials, Shandro considers himself to be part of theoriginal North Shore freeride movement, and 10 years of racing doesn’thurt either. For more info check out http://www.whistler-blackcomb.com.VN picks
Based on my record thus far in 2003, I’d be better off picking my nosethan prognosticating on mountain-bike race winners. But with the stakesbeing what they are, I’ll give it another shot with this weekend’s NORBAstop in Sandpoint, Idaho.Cross county
Men: Going to wrap myself around the proverbial tree trunk onthis one, and go with reigning world champ Roland Green. The Trek-Volkswagenrider looks to be all healed up from his early-season mishap, and he hadlittle trouble rolling away from Ryder Hesjedal at last weekend’s Canadiannational championships.Women: While at least a few of her primary competitors were tearingup the trails at the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, word was that JimenaFlorit rolled into Idaho early to get a solid feel for the course.Florit’s had an up and down season this year, but the pick here is an upweek for the Argentinean.Short track
Men: This has been the wild card event of the 2003 season thusfar, with three different riders taking wins in the first three events.Let’s make it 4-for-4 and go with last year’s overall champ Ryder Hesjedal.Women: Just like the men, the women’s short track has had threedifferent winners. And just like the men last year’s overall champ hasyet to win one this year. Let’s make it a big weekend for Jimena Floritand give her the endurance-racing sweep.Downhill
Men: It may not seem fair for the world’s best gravity racerto show up at these little old U.S. national series races, but the Canadiansand Aussies have been doing it for years, so why can’t Frenchman CédricGracia. Well he can, he will, and yes, he’ll win.Women: Let’s stick with the trend of tabbing last year’s overallchamps, and give Sabrina Jonnier the “W.”Mountain cross
Men: With few exceptions this year, Americans Eric Carter andMike King have been the best four-rider racers. Two weekends ago Carterwrapped up the overall World Cup title, while King grabbed the race win.Who’s it going to be this week? Well Carter’s been chilling at home eversince Grouse Mountain, while King went up to Whistler, then flew to Coloradofor the Jeep KOM. Give the win to the rested rider — Carter.Women: Seems like every time I pick Jill Kintner to win, shedoesn’t, and when I pick her to lose she wins. Well, I guess it’s likethe lotto, play the same numbers long enough and your bound to hit sometime.I’ll stick with Kintner and hope it finally pays off.Waddell update
Lastly, the sad note of the week comes from the ITS-Santa Cruz camp,who are dealing with the very real possibility that downhiller John Waddell’sracing career is over. According to team manager Derin Stockton, Waddell’scondition is actually worse than initially thought. This was determinedafter the 22-year-old was examined by Dr. Peter Cassini, a neurologistat the Stanford University medical center.“Dr. Cassini had access to all of John’s medical records and there weresome things he spotted on the scans that were not previously noticed,”wrote Stockton in a recent e-mail to the mountain-biking community. “Someof the injuries to John’s Brain are on the inside, and are not just limitedto the surface. Because of this, his prognosis for recovery is not as positiveas we had previously hoped. John will have some permanent damage from hiscrash that will be with him for life. Exactly how bad it will be is reallystill up in the air.“On the short side, John will not compete again, at least not at thelevel he has in the past. How close his speech, personality and motor skillsreturn to their normal pre-crash state will not be known for 6-12 months.In three months they will perform another scan on John’s brain after ithas completely healed, and they will be able to see what areas of Johnsbrain have had permanent damage. After that it will give us a much clearerview of where his progress will go.”The crash that originally put Waddell in the hospital occurred nearthe end of his run at the Mont-Ste-Anne World Cup downhill on June 28,when he carried too much speed into a jump and overshot the landing. Themajority of the impact was to Waddell’s head and he has been unconsciousever since. After spending several weeks in a Quebec City hospital, Waddellwas flown back to his native Western Australia accompanied by his motherIrene.Our best to John and his family as he begins the recovery process.