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MTB World Cup DH #2 - CDM
La Bresse, France, May 9-10, 2009
Race 1 - May 9: Downhill qualifying
Brits headline downhill qualifying
By Rob Jones
British riders took the top spots in qualifying on Saturday, at the second round of the Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup. Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) beat out world Champion and countryman Gee Atherton (Animal-Commencal) by less than four-tenths of a second in men's qualifying, while World Cup leader Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing) topped Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) by two seconds in the women's field.
France has a long and impressive history in hosting the highest level of mountain bike competition, however, surprisingly, the last time world-level competition was held in France was the 2004 World Championships in Les Gets. That all changes this weekend with the return of the Mountain Bike World Cup to La Bresse, France. Located in the northeast corner of France, La Bresse is on the Lorraine side of the Lorraine-Alsace border, and also within two hours of Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg - truly at the crossroads of Europe.
The 1.2 kilometre course drops 300 metres, for an average gradient of 25 percent. After a start in grassy, open country, with a number of ramps, stepdowns and a 'North Shore' style boardwalk. The course is similar in some ways to older World Cup courses like Kaprun (Austria) and Les Gets, with wide open grass sections which could rut up pretty quickly.
Further down it steepens considerably, but despite being a very wide track by modern standards, the line choice is surprisingly limited, with a lot of sections requiring all riders to follow a single tire width line. Riders are also commenting on the amount of off-camber trail, which will be more significant if the expect wet weather moves in for the weekend.
"It's a way more interesting course than anyone thought, especially if it rains," said Andrew Neethling (Trek World Racing).
What is also hampering putting together good runs is the constant changes the track is undergoing. With 211 men and 35 women practicing the natural track is taking a beating, plus add the late afternoon showers, coupled with last night's thunderstorm and you have an everchanging course to negotiate. Many of the steep sections are also revealing many hidden rocks and roots - and as practice goes on, more and more will show themselves, making line choice harder and harder. Riders are limiting their tire choice to cut spikes in training, with full spikes held in reserve in case of a torrential downpour come race day.
Moseley's win in qualifying shows that she is still on form, however, repeating her victory will not be easy - all of the top-10 ranked riders are in attendance, with the exception of Canada's Claire Buchar (Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense), who did not start in qualifying. The number five rider in the rankings after Pietermaritzburg has been sick with the flu - a local hospital actually put her in quarantine for five hours while they tested for swine flu (it wasn't).
The French riders, led by second ranked Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), will certainly be hoping to win on home soil. French riders took five of the top seven spots in qualifying, with only Moseley and number three Mio Suemasa breaking the French domination.
On the men's side all of the top-30 riders are on the start list, so the depth of talent is impressive. Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) pulled off a very impressive win in his home town for round one, but will he be able to hang onto the leader's jersey in fthe face of competition from past champions such as Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Specialized) and his team mate Peat? Another rider to watch for will be number two ranked Mick Hannah (GT Bicycles), who came back to the pro ranks after a year off to nearly upset Minnaar in the opening round and finished third in qualifying here.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Gary Perkin
Elite men 1 Steve Peat (GBr) Santa Cruz Syndicate 2.10.4 2 Gee Atherton (GBr) Animal Commencal 0.00.4 3 Michael Hannah (Aus) GT Bicycles 0.01.1 4 Samuel Hill (Aus) Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Cat 0.03.1 5 Samuel Blenkinsop (NZl) Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team 0.04.4 6 Brendan Fairclough (GBr) Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Cat 0.04.4 7 Greg Minnaar (RSA) Santa Cruz Syndicate 0.04.8 8 Bernat Guardia Pascual (Esp) Massi 0.04.9 9 Mickael Pascal (Fra) Msc Bikes 0.05.2 10 Andrew Neethling (RSA) Trek World Racing 0.05.5 11 Aurélien Giordanengo (Fra) 0.05.9 12 Marc Beaumont (GBr) Gt Bicycles 0.06.1 13 Steve Smith (Can) Ms Evil Racing 0.06.2 14 Duncan Riffle (USA) Duncan Riffle Racing 0.06.5 15 David Vazquez Lopez (Esp) Lapierre Powered By Saab Salomon 0.06.7 16 Cyrille Kurtz (Fra) Team Sunn 0.06.7 17 Dan Atherton (GBr) Animal Commencal 0.06.8 18 Dan Stanbridge (GBr) 0.07.1 19 Justin Leov (NZl) Trek World Racing 0.07.2 20 Filip Polc (Svk) Ms Evil Racing Elite women 1 Tracy Moseley (GBr) Trek World Racing 2.36.0 2 Sabrina Jonnier (Fra) Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles 0.01.7 3 Mio Suemasa (Jpn) 0.11.2 4 Emmeline Ragot (Fra) Suspension Center 0.11.4 5 Myriam Nicole (Fra) 0.11.5 6 Céline Gros (Fra) Morzine-Avoriaz 74 0.11.8 7 Floriane Pugin (Fra) Iron Horse-Kenda-Playbiker 0.12.0 8 Petra Bernhard (Aut) Ancillotti Doganaccia Racing Team 0.15.9 9 Fionn Griffiths (GBr) Norco World Team 0.15.9 10 Jessica Stone (GBr) 2stage Factory 0.16.1 11 Danice Uyesugi (Can) 0.17.1 12 Micayla Gatto (Can) 0.17.4 13 Emilie Siegenthaler (Sui) Scott 11 0.17.6 14 Diana Marggraff (Ecu) 15 Anita Molcik (Aut) 0.18.2 16 Melissa Buhl (USA) KHS 0.20.1 17 Helen Gaskell (GBr) 0.21.1 18 Caroline Sax (Fra) 0.22.2 19 Miriam Ruchti (Sui) Team Vario Racing 0.22.4 20 Joanna Petterson (RSA) 0.22.6 21 Miranda Miller (Can) 0.23.5 22 Sophie Borderes (Fra) 0.23.9 23 Fanny Lombard (Fra) 0.25.2 24 Harriet Rucknagel (Ger) 0.25.2 25 Sarah Newman (GBr) 0.25.6 26 Katy Curd (GBr) 0.27.9 27 Elisa Canepa (Ita) 0.30.3 28 Mélanie Pugin (Fra) Team Vario Racing 0.33.0 29 Helene Valerie Fruhwirth (Aut) Iron Horse-Kenda-Playbiker 0.38.3 30 Monet Adams (GBr) 0.49.6 31 Leoni-Caro Dickerhoff (Ger) 0.53.3 32 Carole Armanet (Fra) 1.21.2 33 Antje Kramer (Ger) 3.06.4 34 Sandra Rubesam (Ger) DNS Claire Buchar (Can) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense