Posted by Editoress on 06/1/03
Fort William World Cup
World Cup coverage sponsored byVélirium 2003
France still rules supreme when it comes to the downhill, although the names on the top step of the podium in Fort William were different from the usual ones. Anne-Caroline Chausson did not race, and Nicolas Vouilloz retired at the end of last year, but Cedric Gracia (Siemens Mobile Cannondale) and Celine Gros (Morzine Avoriaz) made sure that the French national anthem was playing after the first downhill World Cup. French riders went 1-2-3 in the women's race and 1-2 in the men's. Canadian's Jordie Lunn and Trevor Porter finished 37th and 60th respectively.
The course is very little changed from last year - 2.66 kilometres in length with a vertical drop of 525 meters. After a fast start, the riders go into a series of berms, log steps and short dropoffs before entering a wooded section at the halfway mark. After the muddy woods they hit a few more berms and the top riders will carry a lot of speed through the final jumps, including a tabletop, a double, and a final double step down into the finish, which was also the finish of the 4-Cross last night.
After exiting early in the 4-Cross the night before, Gracia came into the downhill "pissed off. I felt really bad after I was knocked out early (in the first round) in a crash, so I was really determined to do better today, even though DH is not my favourite event."
Gracia qualified third fastest, behind countrymen Mickael Pascal (Maxxis MSC) and Fabien Barel (Kona Clarks). However, when he got to the final, he changed his tactics for the second half of the course. "I didn't touch the brakes, and I was going crazy on the jumps. At the top I was terrible in the berms; they were so bumpy after the semi (qualifier), but at the bottom I was so fast."
Gracia finished 1.11 seconds in front of Pascal, and 1.87 seconds ahead of early leader Nathan Rennie, with 4-Cross winner Greg Minnaar (Haro-Lee Dungarees) finishing fourth after, in his words "a cautious run". The biggest disappointment to the crowd was the poor showing of defending World Cup champion Steve Peat (Team Orange). Peat almost didn't start after spending the evening at the hospital getting x-rays due to an injury to his right ankle in a crash in the 4-Cross final. In the morning he was hobbling around on crutches, but decided to try the qualifier, finishing 12th. He ended up 19th in the final.
"I was all right riding in a straight line, but I couldn't do right hand turns properly. I've got a bad right wrist from Big Bear, so I'm not so good on my right side!"
While Gracia won in the fast sections, Gros took her victory in the technical parts. "I feel I was very fast in the technical parts, with no mistakes. I didn't believe that I could win because Tracy (Moseley) has so much support here and knows the course very well."
It was that very support that hurt Moseley (Kona Clarks), the defending champion. "I knew it was going to be hard, and I had a hard time coping with the pressure. I have no excuses, I just wasn't fast enough."
Although Gros was extremely pleased to take her first ever World Cup victory (and World Cup leader's jersey), she feels that it is tainted by the non-appearance of World Cup and world champion Chausson. "I think it is a bad thing that Anne-Caroline is not here as the champion. I would have preferred to race her then win like this."
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