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By Fred Dreier
Steve Peat can now stake his claim to be the best World Cup downhiller of all time. One month before his 35th birthday, the British downhiller squeaked by countryman Gee Atherton (Animal-Commençal) to win the fourth round of the 2009 UCI Downhill World Cup in Vallnord, Andorra. In doing so Peat took his 17th career World Cup victory, surpassing Frenchman Nicolas Vouilloz as the winningest man in the series’ 16-year history.
Peat was the third fastest rider to qualify, and in the finals knocked his Santa Cruz-Syndicate teammate Greg Minnaar out of the hot seat. Reigning downhill world champ Atherton was up next, and slotted in just .02 seconds slower than Peat. Last to take to the track was the fastest qualifier Sam Hill (Monster-Specialized) of Australia. Hill looked to have Peat beaten, speeding through the first time check 1.6 seconds faster than Peat. But the Aussie crashed in the woods, dashing his chance to win.
“It was really close,” Peat said. “I didn’t think I had the best time, I thought for sure that Sam would beat it, but you can see that he crashed, and that’s it … history being made.”
Peat took his first career World Cup victory in 1998 in Snoqualmie, Washington, during the midst of Vouilloz’ reign as the sport’s champion. The Frenchman won the inaugural downhill World Cup, held in 1993 in Cap d’Ail, France, and continued winning through 2002. His palmares include seven world championships, 16 World Cup wins and five World Cup overall titles.
Peat has won the World Cup overall three times however the world championship stripes have still eluded him.
Peat’s win came after Frenchwoman Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) grabbed her second World Cup victory of the season. Jonnier, the 2006 and 2007 world champion, was the fastest rider in qualifying and knocked countrywoman Emmeline Ragot into second place by nearly four seconds.
American Melissa Buhl (KHS) was the top finishing North American in eighth place.
Jonnier now leads the World Cup series, having overtaken British rider Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing).