World Cup downhill a crash fest
Squaw Valley’s World Cup downhill viewers were treated to a concert on Sunday. Unfortunately for the world’s-best mountain bikers who tackled the technical and treacherous 1,350-foot descent near Red Dog Ridge, it was a rock ‘n’ roll concert that was hard on the bones, not the ears.
Even women’s World Cup overall leader Anne-Caroline Chausson of France crashed twice in winning her 2.26-kilometer technical course in a convincing 13.16 seconds.
The demands were so high that one racer collapsed in the finishing corral and another barreled across the finish line without a front tire.
However, men’s winner Nicolas Vouilloz of France was the exception. Although disappointed by several errors in descent approach, Vouilloz sailed through the tricky smattering of loose shale rock crash-free, narrowly beating Australia’s Christopher Kovarik by 1.43 seconds.
“I tried to go hard and fast, and did a mistake or two like everybody else. In these kind of conditions the track was very hard to do no mistakes,” said Vouilloz, whose winning time was 4:03.09.
“I almost fell once. It is one of the hardest courses we’ve had because of the steep degree and the track was bad.”
Hometown favorite Shaun Palmer wasn’t as fortunate. The Meeks Bay resident who won the previous circuit stop at Big Bear Lake pitched his bike into the safety net while trying to negotiate a treacherous 90-degree turn near the top of the mountain. But the 30-year-old retrieved his Specialized Bike from the protective netting and cracked the top 15.
He was visibly dejected as he congratulated Kovarik, the hot-seat leader, until Vouilloz, the final racer, came down the mountain.
“It was the steepest course and the most demanding course we’ve had so far. I had to pull off the track a couple of times,” Palmer said. “It was a (terrible) performance. I just wish I could have done better, but that’s all right, I’ll get them next time.”
Despite several more errors, Palmer pulled into the finish corral in 13th place with his time of 4:18.06, beating 57 other riders from around the world. He was the fourth-best American, just under 3 seconds behind seventh-place finisher Myles Rockwell of Durango, Colo.
“You have to have a perfect ride in order to win out here,” said Palmer, who congratulated and mingled with the other racers as they entered the finish area.
In the morning round, Palmer easily qualified among the top 70 riders, even though he crashed three times.
Jeremy Purdy of Reno finished the course in 4:26.49 – good enough for 29th place.
Steve Peat of Sheffield, England, lost the overall tour lead as he came in a less-than-satisfying sixth.
Chasson deprived Mercedes Gonzalez of Rancho Santa Maria, Calif., from giving herself the ultimate 36th birthday present.
“I like to win these races without any crashes, but it was really more technical than we’re used to. You have that big uphill climb at the start and that makes you tired all the way down,” said Chasson, who overcame crashes on two of the course’s steep turns to win for the fourth time in five tries this season.
Chasson was the only woman at the 27-rider finals to eclipse the 5-minute barrier with her top time of 4:58.03. Gonzales was second in 5:11.19; then came Katja Repo of Helsinki, Finland, at 5:11.36; Elke Brutsaert of Durango, Colo., with her fourth-place time of 5:15.76; Marla Streb of San Geronimo, Calif., in fifth at 5:16.44; and Missy Giove of Durango, Colo., a disappointing sixth at 5:18.21.
Notes: The South Shore’s Amber Ramos and Matt Mirell won their weekend divisions. Ramos, 12, cruised to a 45-second win in her debut in the women’s expert 19-34 cross country class Saturday, while Mirell won the beginner junior 12-15 downhill division. Also representing the South Shore in cross country races were Sean Sweeney, 12th, in the expert men 30-34 class with a time of 1:45.55.2; and Chad Gerken didn’t finish his expert junior 15-19 race.
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