August 10/97 8:30 am - National Downhill Championships
Posted by Editor on 08/10/97
Tim Hortonâ€šs National Mountain Bike Downhill Championships
(note: full results posted yesterday)
Hot. Hot weather (30 plus degrees Celcius) and a hot course for this years Downhill Nationals. There had been concerns that an eastern course could not possibly provide the level of difficulty required for a national championships. In answer to these concerns, the organizer - Hardwood Hills Mountain Bike Centre, about one hour north of Toronto - brought in top downhiller Eric Cseff to design the course. The 2.5 kilometre course was, in the words of defending Canada Cup champion Chris Colbeck (Dekerf): â€žone of the best, thereâ€šs everything in this courseâ€°. As a measure of the difficulty, no one appeared to make down without either coming off or making multiple dabs.
To do well, a rider had to excel in both fitness and technique. The course took the riders through both heavily rutted and rocky singletrack and wide open road sections. To combat concerns about the shortness of the course (the organizer couldnâ€št do anything about the lack of mountains!), the Pro Elite men and women did two runs, with the best combined times winning.
In the womenâ€šs race the big competition was expected to be between veteran Elladee Brown (Rocky Mountain) and relative newcomer Daamiann Skelton (Norco). Chantal Boulianne (Rocky Mountain) set a strong time of 2:40.99, but was beaten by the next rider down - Skelton with 2:40.58. Brown came across the line a couple of places later, visibly disappointed with her time of 2:44.83 - good enough to put her in third after the first run, but well out of contention. The unusual dual run format had the top riders debating strategy - did you go out hard again (and take the chance crashing), or take it a little more conservative? Leader Skelton opted for some energy conservation: â€žI tried to be more conservative up top and have something left to pedal at the bottom.â€° It actually led to a faster run - 2:29.59. Brown went even faster, with a time of 2:28.29, drawing on her years of international experience to erase the memory of the first run. Skelton took her first national title with her consistency, while Brown managed to jump into second. Boulianne suffered a brief encounter with a tree (something managed by many riders), and dropped from second to fifth, while a consistent performance by Schwinnâ€šs Cecile Gambin moved her up to third place.
In the menâ€šs race there were at least 5 strong contenders, led by multi-time National champion Andrew Shandro (Troy Lee - Manitou). Other riders to watch included course designer (and Whistler/Silver Star Canada Cups winner) Eric Cseff (KHS/Fox), Colbeck and Mike Jones (Outland/Oakley). Cseff scorched the course on his first run in 2:03.67. The only other rider to go under 2:10 was Shandro, with 2:07.20. A surprise third was B.C.â€šs Rob Hewitt (unattached), who was first rider down the course, and whose time held up until Cseff and Shandro. Hewitt was riding with a broken knuckle, which limited his ability to grip the bars, and would lead to a crash in the second run. Cseff confirmed his strength with another strong run 2:05.67 and, with the crash of Shandro, easily took his first national title. Shandro dropped way back to 22nd, with Mike Jones vaulting into second and Chris Colbeck in third.
In the Junior Menâ€šs category it was Dustin Adams (Norco) all the way, keeping his perfect record intact.
Downhillers are somewhat unused to drug testing, and while waiting around to see who would be tested, comments such â€ždoes it detect mushrooms?â€° were heard from the crowd.
The most common setup among the top riders was 4â€° in the front and 5â€°-6â€° rear, although this still didnâ€št stop everyone from bottoming out on the final large dropoff.
Eric Cseff, managed to toast his fatherâ€šs car on the course, while setting it up. He had driven the car to the top of the course to offload some supplies: â€žI left it in Park, but I didnâ€št set the emergency brake.â€° Well, it rolled forward and over a 60â€š embankment to end up in the trees below. To pull the car out took a large tow trunk with a winch, and a snowcat - to stop the tow trunk going off the embankment...
Daamiann Skelton and Cseff won the Canada Cup series with their victories.