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By Lennard Zinn
In an exciting race in front of a huge crowd on a chilly night under the lights of Vail’s Golden Peak, the two most successful riders in dual history donned the crowns once again. On a course designed by American rider Eric Carter that made for some gripping races, there were some successful passes in some of the pairings, something too often missing on the majority of World Cup dual courses.
Chausson and Lopes had been the fastest qualifiers and consequently got to choose their course every run.
“Lane choice was definitely key,” said Lopes afterwards. “You saw some people pass, but starting on the inside was a big advantage.”
Both former champions were the fastest out of the gate every run. Lopes had every one of his races won by the first turn and was even unchallenged in his semifinal and final against Frenchmen Karim Amour and Cédric Gracia.
Chausson had some closer calls in her last two rounds. In a semifinal against American Tara Llanes, both of Chausson’s feet flew off the pedals and were sticking out behind her as she got big air off a double jump before the third-turn tabletop. Somehow, she landed it in the huge berm of the turn, and that was the last chance Llanes would have. In the final, Australian Katrina Miller had one brief opportunity to come underneath on the second turn, but she did not have the speed to come alongside the French red-headed human-powered rocket and crashed trying.
The most exciting racing was for the minor placings. In her last race, America’s Leigh Donovan had the lead in her quarterfinal against Miller, but the Australian went underneath and pushed her off in the second turn. In her consolation final against Llanes, it looked like Donovan would end the last day of her career with a second bronze medal, as she had a large, early lead. But the Schwinn rider left the door open to the inside on the second-to-last turn, and Llanes forced her pale blue Yeti underneath.
Donovan went down in the ensuing contact but was gracious in her loss and yelled to the crowd, “Thanks for sharing my final race with me tonight!”
In an all-French men’s semifinal, Mickael Deldycke’s string of ending up on the wrong end of another physical, contact-filled race continued, this time against Gracia. The tall Volvo-Cannondale rider seemed to have Deldycke soundly beaten the entire run until the powerful Schwinn rider T-boned him right into the crowd on the final turn. Once Gracia got untangled from the fencing, he was furious.
“He f—ing ran me right off,” he said, and continued in a similar vein with equally forceful words.
Gracia could have saved his breath, as Deldycke was disqualified. In the consolation final, Australian Wade Bootes led Gracia into the first turn, but Gracia came underneath in the second one. They tangled in a mass of bikes, bodies, and dust and ended up off the course. Since the Frenchman was on the inside, he ended up on top and was able to drag himself and his bike back up onto the course first. Bootes didn’t have a chance after that.
The crowd, which belied all predictions of low spectator turnout due to Tuesday’s tragic events, loudly expressed their appreciation for the exciting racing, even though the identity of the final victors was never in doubt.
UCI MOUNTAIN BIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS DUAL, Vail, Colorado. September 15;;
1. Brian Lopes, USA; 2. Cédric Gracia, France; 3. Wade Bootes, Australia; 4. Karim Amour, France;;
1. Anne Caroline Chausson, France; 2. Katrina Miller, Australia; 3. Tara Llannes, USA; 4. Leigh Donovan, USA.