Posted by Editoress on 08/1/10
Ragot and Beaumont win, Steve Smith on the podium, Buchar 7th
Our coverage made possible with the support of Shimano
Both the men's and women's World Cup competitions tightened for round five of the Downhill in Val di Sole, Italy on Sunday. Emmeline Ragot (Suspension Center) took her second successive World Cup victory in two weekends in the women's competition, while Marc Beaumont (GT) took the men's victory, only the second World Cup win of his career. Canada's Steve Smith (MS Evil) finished fifth, becoming the first Canadian man in since Dustin Adams (2002 Teluride) to make a podium appearance at a Downhill World Cup.
The rain that had dampened the course for qualifying was long gone by the time the finals took place Sunday afternoon, leaving the course dry and dusty. After negotiating the tricky rock garden at the top of the course, riders were faced with soft, shifting lines at the bottom, making washouts a real concern in the corners.
Japan's Mio Suemasa set the first fast time for the women, and would claim the Hot Seat until the final five riders made their runs. Myriam Nicole (Commencal Superiders) took the lead by five seconds from Suemasa, but only held it for a few minutes before Jonnier came down over ten seconds faster. Next was Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing), but she could only slot in behind Jonnier. Finally, it was world champion Ragot, the fastest qualifier, who knocked another 2.4 seconds from Jonnier's time to claim the victory.
With her victory, Ragot moves from second to third behind Jonnier in the overall standings, 175 points behind her rival. While Jonnier still holds a commanding lead, it is by no means a sure thing, since a victory by Ragot and a poor showing by Jonnier could still cause an upset.
"I think my ride was okay," commented Ragot. "I did not make a lot of mistakes, but I thought I had flatted my tire on the first part, because the ground was so soft. My strategy was to just be smart, don't do crazy stuff. Just try to stay smooth on the bike. Don't go like crazy. And it worked, it went so good, that maybe I will try that for the world championships."
"Sabrina has a lot of points, and I missed the first race and crashed in the next two. So now I am second, but I don't know how it will go from there. But, I am feeling good and I have a new bike; I've only ridden it twice now [qualifying and final] and it rode well."
There were two races in the men's competition - the one for the World Cup win, and the one between Minnaar and Atherton for the overall title. Atherton qualified first, on the course where he had won his world title in 2008, while Minnaar struggled in the upper, rocky section. This actually put Atherton into the World Cup lead, based on ranking points awarded for qualifying. However, a similar situation had happened a week earlier at Champéry, and Minnaar had pulled out a stellar final run to retain his leader's jersey.
Australian Mitchell Delfs set the first fast time for the men, only to be bumped by Markus Pekoll (Solid A-Class). Pekoll spent a long time in the Hot Seat, and his time would eventually hold up for tenth place. It took Minnaar to finally knock the Austrian rider out of the lead, and his time would stand up to six riders before Beaumont finally took the best time down by nearly a second and a half.
At that point there were still seven riders to go, but none came close to unseating Beaumont until there was only Atherton left. But Atherton was over a second slower at the first split, and even further back at the second, eventually finishing third, behind Minnaar. However, the difference between second and third was not enough to keep Minnaar in the leader's jersey, and Atherton took it by a mere seven points - 1007 points to 1000 after five rounds of racing.
"Qualifying went pretty well," said Beaumont, "just steady and I put a nice run together, and I was feeling good again this morning, so I just tried to go about it as if it was practice. I posted a pretty good time, but there's some fast boys, and I was thinking maybe I can scrap a podium. I wasn't expecting to win by any means. I'm pretty shocked, and not really sure what to say. My previous win in Spain [in 2007], a lot of people frowned upon it, because it was weird circumstances with the weather. This proves to me that I'm capable of doing it, and I've done it on a level playing field. Hopefully this is kind of a resurgence, and I can get on the podium a little more often."
For Atherton, it was a bittersweet victory. "I knew that I had to put a solid run in, in qualifying, and start chasing the points," he explained. "It's what saved me and has given me the lead. But, taking third place wasn't exactly my game plan ... it's good enough, though. It's definitely been my best season, but it's been frustrating watching Greg, being so consistent. I've been waiting for him to slip up and hammer some points, but it hasn't happened. He's really making me work for it."
"I didn't make mistakes, exactly, but you do have to have a faultless run. I was riding a bit nervous and a bit tense, and really just fighting the bike all the way down, not flowing at all, and it showed in my results."
Smith, who has a string of top-ten results and has finished as high as sixth at World Cups in the past, was happy to finally make it onto the podium. "I crashed out in two of the other four [World Cups], so I just wanted to have a clean run here and have a solid race. I wasn't expecting to get on the podium, but conditions were tough up there, really loose powder, so anything can happen, and I just squeezed on the podium. I loved this track, it's rough and hard, first day of riding it I knew that I loved it. So far [this podium] is the highlight of my career, I've been trying to get on the podium the last couple of years, and with the crashes this year I was almost more worried about just making it down with a clean run. I did that and got a podium."
Smith jumps to 12th in the overall rankings
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