Peat and Chausson Win Downhill Opener|
Wednesday, June 13, 2001
Steve Peat (GBR, Team GT) and Anne-Caroline Chausson (FRA, Volvo-Cannondale) opened the 2001 world cup downhill season with wins in the men's and women's finals - signaling a close season among the top competitors. Conditions were perfect for racing Sunday, as sunny blue skies and warm temperatures greeted an enormous crowd of spectators, along with loud music and plenty of champagne for the winners.
Maribor's course was shortened this year, producing closer racing and faster times. The track is 2km in length, with an average slope of 20% - one of the steepest on the circuit. Top speeds were reported as 90 km/h.
Where the women's race was decided by a second, the men's race was even closer - as the top two riders were only .44 of a second apart. Steve Peat (GBR, Team GT) came out on top for the first time here in Maribor, beating his rival Nicolas Vouilloz (FRA, Vouilloz Racing Team) in an exciting men's final where the lead changed more than five times.
Peat grabbed the early momentum of the season with his win, looking to improve his current #2 ranking in the world cup. He had posted a disappointing qualifier run at fifth-fastest, but improved his time significantly in the final to produce a 2:54 - which proved to be unbeatable by any other racers.
"I always wanted to win at Maribor" said Peat after his win. "I was a bit ill this morning, but got some rest and did OK. The last two years here Nico had a bit of luck on his side, and I guess I had some luck this year."
Vouilloz had the second-fastest qualifying time, and crossed the finish while Peat was occupying the hotseat. "I tried to push it - and had a clean run," said Vouilloz. "I make a small mistake, and I think this course was a bit short for me - I don't have the power that some of the bigger riders have."
Upon realising he hadn't beaten his time, he shook Peat's hand - the riders starting the season with their healthy rivalry intact. "I beat him for two years here, so I can understand why he wanted to win this year," said Vouilloz. "I know that when I win it's close, and when he wins it will be close too. Steve's still the man to beat."
Fabien Barel (FRA, Team GT) had the fastest qualifying time, but a problem in the final technical section prevented him from achieving better than 3rd for the day. Chris Kovarik (AUS, Intense Cycles) also posted an outstanding time, sitting in the hotseat until Peat displaced him - as he finished 4th. Mickael Pascal (FRA, Be-One Team) rounded out the podium in 5th place.
Beginning this season, the qualifying runs award points along with the final runs, making it a bit more complicated to calculate the overall leader each week. With his win and 5th-fastest qualifier, Peat secured the overall lead, with Vouilloz in second overall - 20 points behind.
Anne-Caroline Chausson (FRA, Volvo-Cannondale) came into this season with both a new bike and new motivation - to defend her world cup title vigorously and maybe even improve her record from last season, where she was defeated only twice.
She posted fast times in training and qualifying, where she was the fastest rider. She therefore came down the mountain as the last rider in the finals, improving her semi-final run by three seconds to post a time of 3:21 and beat her next-closest rival Leigh Donovan (USA, Schwinn) by just one second.
Chausson said she thought she could shave three seconds off her final run based on the men's qualifying time, which turned out to be true. "I wanted a 3:20," she smiled. "I made a little mistake," she continued "but I used my brakes less in the final to save a few seconds, and I'm happy to win."
Chausson wanted to open the season with a win, to gain momentum for next week's round two in Vars. "It's important for me to do well in the first race of the season - I have new motivation this season and am looking forward to next week, where I know a lot of people."
Second-place Leigh Donovan (USA, Schwinn) was close behind Chausson, just one second slower after qualifying third. "I didn't ride that well," said Donovan. "I had massive hand-pump, but knew I'd probably get top-three." Donovan is in her final season racing and won here last year.
Missy Giove (USA, Global Racing Team) finished third, two seconds slower than Chausson, with Marla Streb (USA, Foes/Azonic) finishing fourth and Fionn Griffiths (GBR, Ancillotti Zeal) making her world cup podium debut at 5th place. Griffiths was the first contender to occupy the hotseat with a time of 3:29, but was replaced by Giove, and then Donovan.
"This is a deceptive course," said Streb. "The harder you try, the slower you seem to go."