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World Cup finals: Everything’s up for grabs

Already it will go down as the shortest World Cup season in the history of the series, but it also might end up being one of the most exciting. With only five races on the calendar this year, points have been harder than ever to come by. And unlike a year ago at the finals in Mont-Ste-Anne where three overall titles had been clinched before racing even started, every one of this year's crowns is still on the line as the finals in Les Gets, France get set to commence on Saturday. The tightest race is in the men's four-cross where Brian Lopes leads Cédric Gracia by just nine points — the

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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor

Already it will go down as the shortest World Cup season in the history of the series, but it also might end up being one of the most exciting. With only five races on the calendar this year, points have been harder than ever to come by. And unlike a year ago at the finals in Mont-Ste-Anne where three overall titles had been clinched before racing even started, every one of this year’s crowns is still on the line as the finals in Les Gets, France get set to commence on Saturday.

The tightest race is in the men’s four-cross where Brian Lopes leads Cédric Gracia by just nine points — the difference between any of the top four places. But at least three riders are still alive in all six events. Here is a look at all six races, plus start times and the VeloNews picks on who the winners will be. Current standings and point breakdowns for each discipline are listed at the end.

Check back to VeloNews.com all weekend for full reports, results and photos. Also don’t miss an exclusive interview with Alison Dunlap, as she tries to become the first American since Juli Furtado in 1995 to win an overall World Cup cross-country title.

CROSS COUNTRY
MEN (Sunday 2 p.m.):
After two straight World Cup wins, Roland Green derailed Filip Meirhaeghe’s winning streak at last week’s world championships in Austria when the Canadian repeated as world champ while Meirhaeghe took silver. But with a 120-point lead coming into the finals, the Belgian Specialized rider is as close as he’s ever been to taking the overall title. If Meirhaeghe finishes anywhere in the top four the title is his. If not four other riders — Bart Brentjens (-120), Christoph Sauser (-225), Roel Paulissen (-243) and Green (-245) — are still mathematically alive. Brentjens has the only realistic shot, and the Dutchman could do well on what is definitely a power course here in the French Alps.
VELONEWS PICK: Meirhaeghe is riding as well as he ever has and a top four should be well within his reach. Put him down for the overall title, but give the Les Gets win to Green who looks to be back on the form that made him nearly unbeatable in 2001.

WOMEN (Sunday 11 a.m.): If Alison Dunlap can avoid the mechanical problems that plagued her at world’s, she has a chance to break a six-year dry spell in the cross-country overall for the U.S. The Colorado Springs resident has her work cut out for her, though. Her lead is a precarious 75 points over German Sabine Spitz and the American is still not fully recovered from a training ride accident in August that left her with a broken wrist. Annabella Stropparo (-170) and Marga Fullana (-220) are also still alive in the title hunt. Like Dunlap they both failed to finish the difficult world’s race.
VELONEWS PICK: Dunlap is still hurting but the gritty American is as determined as ever. Give her the overall title and Fullana the race win.

DOWNHILL
MEN (Saturday 2:45 p.m.):
Following one of the biggest disappointments of his career, Steve Peat has a chance to wipe away another world’s silver medal with an overall win in the World Cup series. The native of Sheffield, England comes into the finals with a 143-point lead over Frenchman Cédric Gracia, and Peat has won the last two World Cup races. Australian Chris Kovarik (-148) and Frenchman Mickael Pascal (-247) are also still in the hunt, though Pascal’s chances are minimal.
VELONEWS PICK: It will be interesting to see what happens in qualifying, because though Peat doesn’t like to start last in the finals, he can’t pull up in the semis because of the points that are on the line. Still the big Brit is way overdue to win one of the big ones, and this time he’ll get it done. Give him the race win and the overall title.

WOMEN (Saturday 2 p.m.): Usually by this time of the year Anne-Caroline Chausson has already locked this one up. But when you combine the Frenchwoman’s rare off day at the season opener in Fort William, Scotland (she finished 19th) and a consistent season by compatriot Sabrina Jonnier (she’s been on the podium at every race) Chausson’s lead is only 62 points. Round No. 1 winner Tracy Moseley (-127) is the only other rider with a chance at the overall.
VELONEWS PICK: Chausson has never choked under pressure and don’t expect her to do it here. Make it career World Cup downhill win No. 36 and career overall title No. 5.

FOUR-CROSS
MEN (Saturday 6 p.m.):
American Brian Lopes has yet to win a four-rider race on the World Cup circuit, but his consistency (three top threes in four tries) has given him a nine-point lead over Cédric Gracia coming into the finals. The leader of the series ought to be Eric Carter (-15), but his back-to-back wins in the last two races aren’t enough to make up for the fact that he skipped the year’s first two races. Wade Bootes (-38) and Mike King (-43) also both still have slim chances for the season crown.
VELONEWS PICK: Any of the top three riders could walk away with the overall, but the nod here goes to Carter in a small upset. To make it happen Carter will need to win, while Lopes finishes third. Stick Gracia between them in second on race day.

WOMEN (Saturday 6 p.m.): This is another tight race, with Anne-Caroline Chausson again sitting one spot ahead of Sabrina Jonnier. The difference is 20 points, with Katrina Miller (-45) barley breathing. Chausson’s only four-cross loss this year came at stop No. 4 in Telluride, Colorado when she and Miller got tangled up early in the finals and Chausson ended up going to the hospital with a concussion.
VELONEWS PICK: It gets a little boring after awhile, but you just can’t bet against Chausson. She’s the best ever and she’ll prove it again with a race win and another overall title.

WORLD CUP STANDINGS AFTER 4 OF 5 RACES
CROSS COUNTRY
MEN
1. Filip Meirhaeghe, 765 points
2. Bart Brentjens, 645
3. Christoph Sauser, 540
4. Roel Paulissen, 522
5. Roland Green, 520
6. Christophe Dupouey, 401
7. Lado Fumic, 390
8. Julien Absalon, 379
9. Kashi Leuchs, 344
10. Jose Antonio Hermida, 340
WOMEN
1. Alison Dunlap, 720
2. Sabine Spitz, 645
3. Annabella Stropparo, 550
4. Marga Fullana, 500
5. Alison Sydor, 455
6. Caroline Alexander, 350
7. Barbara Blatter, 330
8. Regina Marunde, 280
9. Sue Haywood, 279
10. Ivonne Kraft, 265

DOWNHILL
MEN

1. Steve Peat, 752 points
2. Cédric Gracia, 609
3. Chris Kovarik, 604
4. Mickael Pascal, 505
5. Fabien Barel, 487
6. Mick Hannah, 411
7. Greg Minnaar, 365
8. Nicolas Vouilloz, 315
9. Oscar Saiz, 300
10. Cyril Lagneau, 275
WOMEN
1. Anne-Caroline Chausson, 777 points
2. Sabrina Jonnier, 715
3. Tracy Moseley, 650
4. Marielle Saner, 508
5. Fionn Griffiths, 466
6. Missy Giove, 422
7. Vanessa Quin, 421
8. Celine Gros, 306
9. Kathy Pruitt, 282
10. Mio Suemasa, 280

FOUR-CROSS
MEN

1. Brian Lopes, 115 points
2. Cédric Gracia, 106
3. Eric Carter, 100
4. Wade Bootes, 77
5. Mike King, 72
6. Michal Prokop, 57
7. Steve Peat, 50
8. Kirt Voreis, 35
9. Greg Minnaar, 30
10. Will Longden, 28
WOMEN
1. Anne-Caroline Chausson, 170 points
2. Sabrina Jonnier, 150
3. Katrina Miller, 125
4. Tara Llanes, 70
5. Celine Gros, 65
6. April Lawyer, 45
7. Lisa Sher, 20
8. Vanessa Quin, 17
9. Melissa Buhl, 10
10. Jamie Lilly, 7

EVENT POINT BREAKDOWNS
CROSS COUNTRY

FIRST PLACE: 250
SECOND PLACE: 200
THIRD PLACE: 170
FOURTH PLACE: 150
FIFTH PLACE: 130

DOWNHILL
FINALS

FIRST PLACE: 200
SECOND PLACE: 160
THIRD PLACE: 140
FOURTH PLACE: 125
FIFTH PLACE: 110
SEMIFINALS
FIRST PLACE: 50
SECOND PLACE: 40
THIRD PLACE: 30
FOURTH PLACE: 25
FIFTH PLACE: 20

FOUR-CROSS
FIRST PLACE: 50
SECOND PLACE: 40
THIRD PLACE: 30
FOURTH PLACE: 20
FIFTH PLACE: 15