Posted by Editoress on 07/25/09
In a day of absolutely schizophrenic weather conditions, Sabrina Jonnier (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles) and Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Specialized/Mad Cat) claimed the downhill wins at Mont Ste Anne, Quebec. Both riders mastered a difficult course made even more challenging by the variable amounts of moisture on track.
MSA had rain overnight. Not a lot, but enough to make things pretty slick for this morning's training. Based on the cloud cover, wind and drizzle, common thought was that it would be a wet afternoon. At the beginning of the women's race, the top half of the mountain was obscured by cloud. However, the expected rain didn't happen, and there were even a few brief moments of sun. What it meant to the racers though was an incredibly difficult time selecting the right tire. There was still a lot of mud in some sections, whereas other spots had dried out considerably by race time. Running mud tires robs top end speed but, of course, aids traction in the loose soil. In a sport where fractions of a second can separate several racers, it was a very important consideration.
The women's field had 20 starters. Through the first 10 racers, there was rapid and frequent turnover in the hot seat. The first rider to hang on to the hot seat for a bit was Emilie Siegenthaler (Scott 11). Siegenthaler was eventually dislodged by Melissa Buhl, who was clearly stoked by her run. “It was pretty good. I struggled a bit in the mud but I kept it together. I was going back and forth between the mud and the dry tires and I was glad I stuck to the dry. There were a couple of spots of mud where I would have like spikes, but it paid off in the rocks because they were pretty slippery.“
After Buhl was Canadian Champion Claire Buchar (Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense). Buchar was having a good run, but unfortunately crashed on the lower part of the course. She was very disappointed with herself. “It happened in the last section of woods. I was having such a good run up until then. Everything was going good and I was giving it all I had. I don't know what happened. It happened so quickly. I went over that same rock every single time and this time my front wheel went out. I lost a whole bunch of time. I'm really disappointed because I wanted to do well this weekend. That's racing.” Buchar finished in 13th place, 30.02 seconds back.
The next rider to lay down a fast run was Emmeline Ragot (Suspension Center) at 5:30.29, which was good enough to maintain the Hot Seat until only Jonnier remained to descend. Jonnier was the class of the field, with the big TV screen at the finish showing her great control. Her run was 5:26.50, beating Ragot by 3.79 seconds. “That run was the best of the weekend. Conditions were a lot different than this morning. It dried out a lot. I decided to be a bit cautious and then go fast when I could. I just want to win and be happy on my bike.” Jonnier's win was her fifth consecutive of the season.
Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing) finished in 3rd place, 4.77 seconds back. Top Canadian was Micayla Gatto in 11th at 26.80 seconds, Danice Uyesugi in 15th at 31.69 and Rebecca McQueen in 17th at 34.36.
With her win here, Jonnier stretches her lead in the World Cup standings to 1382 points, with Emmeline Ragot a distant second with 1115 points. 4 of the top 5 are now French riders, with only Moseley, in 3rd, breaking the streak.
The men's field required almost 2 hours to get everyone down. The first fast run of the afternoon was produced by Marcel Beer at 4:59.94. Beer held the Hot Seat for 17 racers, finally being overtaken by Joseph Smith (K ona). Smith wasn't there long as Cameron Cole (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles) came in at 4:55.57. Cole was destined to be up there for a long time.
While Cole was in the Hot Seat there were some racers coming close, but his time held firm. The only notable event was a spectacular crash within centimetres of the finish line by Australian Junior Shaun O'Connor (Iron Horse/Kenda/Playbiker). O'Connor's bike went end over end. While on the ground he dragged himself and his bike over the line, much to the appreciation of the spectators.
Cole stayed in the hot seat for 20 riders with Pierre Charles Georges (Solid Aclass) finally bumping him with a run of 4:51.69. Georges was leading for a little bit but as the race got to the final 20 riders, more frequent lead changes were happening. With 10 riders to go, the leader was US National Champion Aaron Gwin (Yeti/Fox) at 4:42.91, with Chris Kovarik (Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense) in 2nd at 2.62 seconds and Canadian rider Steve Smith (MS Evil Racing) in 3rd at 3.48.
Many were hoping to see a good run from World Cup leader Greg Minnaar who started in 21st place due to a flat tire during qualifying yesterday. Unfortunately Minnaar had a crash, which cost him time. He could only manage a 22nd place finish. “I washed out my front wheel in some mud under the lift and down I went. I got up pretty quick but my glove was half off so I had to freewheel while I took it off. Definitely not a good weekend.”
Fabien Barel (Subaru) came close to Gwin to temporarily claim 2nd place, leaving Gwin to anxiously wait the final 4 down the mountain. Samuel Blenkinsop (Yeti/Fox) had a slow run (16th place) and quickly left the finish area, visibly unhappy. Gee Atherton (Animal Commencal), the reigning World Champion) came close to Gwin but couldn't dislodge him. That left only Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate), a perennial favourite here, and Hill to come down.
To thunderous applause, Peat didn't disappoint, with a time of 4:41.48 to Gwin's 4:42.91. He took the Hot Seat, but didn't really settle in. All eyes were glued to the big screen TV and the scoreboard, which was showing the splits on the course. Hill was the fastest through every split, showing incredible control skills through the rock gardens. To huge applause he finished in 4:38.44, 3.04 seconds better than Peat.
Hill was pleased with his win, the first of the season for him after an uncharacteristically long drought. “This is one of the most high speed, and the longest courses, on the World Cup circuit. It was a lot slicker this morning. It dried out a lot. I was conservative in the first few corners just to check it out. It was good so I went hard from there.”
Peat, had another stellar day with his second place. This is his 50th World Cup podium appearance, which is unprecedented. He also holds the record for the most World Cup career wins. “I think this course suits me. You've got to be an all a rounder to do well here. I've got another podium which I'm pleased about.”
Gwin hung on to 3rd for his first podium appearance. On the podium the other racers did their best to drown him in champagne. “It was pretty crazy watching Gee and those guys come through. I'm happy. It's about time!”
With his win Hill moves from 3rd to 1st in the World Cup Points race with 1039, a mere 4 points in front of Peat. Minnaar drops from 1st to 3rd. Smith retains his 9th place standing.
Making his first World Cup appearance was Canadian Junior Kyle Marshall ”It was pretty cool going up there and seeing everyone. It kind of hit me going out of the start gate that I'm racing a World Cup! It was pretty cool.” Marshall finished in 74th.
Smith was the top Canadian with his 7th place. “I almost bit it a bunch of times, but I stayed up today. I kept it smooth and made it down. Another top 10 makes me really happy. I'm stoked that I'm racing in Canada. It was nice to have the Canadian fans up there with signs, not like Europe.”
The third Canadian finisher was Dean Tennant in 66th place, while Simon Garstin failed to finish.
Former racing legend Shaun Palmer returned to the World Cup after a 10-year absence. He enjoyed himself but had a bit of a rough time, finishing in 75th.
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