Sunday, May 24, 2009

Round Trois --- Andorra, France/Spain

Andorra is one of those small, "island" countries within a country like Luxemborg or Monoco. A left over from long dead royalties. The third installment of the World Cup series took place on the recently snow covered ski slopes in the Pyrennes along the Spanish/French border. Apparently it was the same course as last year, but much drier, and less sketchy.

Surprisingly the mood and crowds were much tamer than last week's race in La Bresse. Maybe everybody was exhausted from all the travel of back-to-back races? Anyways, Steve Peat managed to win two in a row and set the all-time UCI DH race win record with 17. Sam Hill or Gee Atherton could beat this someday, or maybe not? The competition is so much fiercer, and it is hard to see anybody racing as long as Peaty.

Notable results also included a back-to-back win by Sabrina Jonnier (France, Rocky Mountain-Maxxis) on a fast, burly track, which obviously fits her strengths. For the men, the entire Santa Cruz team finished in the top 10, the MS Evil team in the top 20, and Trek Bikes got their first men's podium with Justin Leov piloting the Session 88 to a notable 5th place finish. Sam Hill was leading all the way down, but had a nasty over the bars crash near the finish, and came in around 30th place. He will be back and more motivated than ever.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Round Deux --- La Bresse, France

So first off, where the hell is La Bresse? I had to look that one up, and it turns out it is east of Dijon, near the German border. Not quite Strasbourg, but headed in that direction. I wonder how the riders got there? Anyway, on to the qualifier race...A large field of 195 starters were fighting for one of 80 spots in the finals, and after a long day of riding the top three were Steve Peat, Gee Atherton, and Mick Hannah.

Race day brought out huge crowds, particularly along the lower, rocky section of the course. I managed to get up and actually watch the last seven riders on Freecaster. The usual suspects did well, but a few sleepers such as Kyle Straight (USA/Specialized), Brendan Fairclough (Great Britain/Specialized), Sam Blenkinsop (NZ/Yeti-Fox Racing), Aaron Gwin (USA/Yeti-Fox Racing), Steve Smith (Canada/MS Evil Cycles) and Julian Camellini (France/Chain Reaction-Intense Cycles) managed to crack the top 15. The entire MS Evil Cycles team managed to crack the top 30 (Steve Smith 15th, Matti Lehikoinen 19th, and Filip Polc 30th).

The highlight of the day was watching Steve Peat crush it at the end, under all the pressure of being the last rider on the course. He was clearly pushing the limit as he appeared to be sliding/drifting in lots of sections on the course. The best part of his ride was his victory celebration which included high fiving the entire fan section surrounding the finish line, followed by a full sprint power slide on his knee pads. Its no wonder that Peaty is the most beloved MTB rider in the world.