Posted by Editoress on 04/10/10
Day 2 of the Pan American Mountain Bike Championships continued with the Gravity events, as the Downhill titles were awarded in Elite, Junior and Masters categories. The dusty, loose course continued to catch riders by surprise, with numerous crashes in the seeding run. Brazil and the USA were the big winners of the day, taking the Elite men's and women's titles respectively.
American Katie Holden, out of Santa Cruz, California, qualified second behind 4-Cross winner Luana Oliveira of Brazil. However, the American had almost crashed in the qualifier, so decided to take a different approach for the final.
""I knew that my qualifier hadn't gone so well, hadn't gone as well as it could of, so I decided to do the final differently. I realized that I had to slow down to go faster, just be super smooth and concentrate on taking the best lines. I know that I probably could have gone a lot faster, but this track can catch you off guard. So, I toned it back a bit, and the whole way down I was thinking 'tranquilo, tranquilo'..."
Oliveira, who reportedly did crash, finished third, behind Mexico's Lorena Dromundo, and was clearly disappointed not to win the double, not cracking a smile on the podium.
In the men's race, it appeared to be a battle between veteran Markolf Berchtold (Brazil) and a pair of Colombians - Marcelo Gutiérrez and Mauricio Estrada. Gutiérrez was clearly the fastest in qualifying, four seconds ahead of Berchtold, with Estrada a further second back. The top American in the seeding run was Yeti Fox pro Joey Schusler, but he was a full 14 seconds behind Gutiérrez, while Canada's lone entry, Rob Fraser was 23 seconds behind.
However, both North American riders had crashed in the seeding run - Fraser more spectacularly, injuring his left wrist after he drove it into a dirt bank on the side of the trail and took a tumble.
Berchtold improved for the final, beating Gutiérrez, however the Colombians put in a protest, claiming that Berchtold had jumped the start gate, gaining a time advantage. The officials dismissed the claim, and Berchtold took the men's title, with Gutiérrez second. Schusler had come to the same conclusion as his team mate Holden and rode a smoother race, to move up significantly to win the bronze medal. Fraser, riding with an injured wrist that didn't allow him to grip the handlebars properly, still improved from 19th to 13th (unofficial, since results are not yet available beyond top-3).
"I was having a really good run in qualifying," commented Schusler, "but I crashed right at the end ... it still told me that I had a possible winning time. In the final I struggled a bit at the top, but nothing to really complain about. I played it more conservative, cautious, because it is such a long physical track."
For Fraser it was a bit of a disappointing day. "I was riding well until the crash, I just got turned around a bit, and then dumped it, hitting my shoulder (right) and wrist (left). It's disappointing to get injured like this at the start of the season."
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