2000 Mountain Biking World Cup 2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup 2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup 2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup

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Are You Big In Japan?
Downhill #6

Arai Mountain, Japan: July 23, 2000

Nicolas Vouilloz and Anne-Caroline Chausson, two of the sports burliest figures and best racers, were just plain huge this weekend in Arai City, winning the downhill finals to both the cheers of 30,000 fans and the dismay of their peers. The two #1 ranked riders beat the sport's two #2 riders in close racing in the heat and fun that make up the Japanese countryside.

Racing took place on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon, the 16 women and 50 men looking to score valuable World Cup points in the diminished field of racers. But with all the top-15 men and most of the top-10 women here to race in the third-to-last event of 2000, the competition was as tough as ever — if not as deep.

Chausson (FRA, Volvo-Cannondale) is looking to win yet another World Cup overall this season, and has been battling rival Missy Giove (USA, Foes/Azonic) the whole way, with the two going at each other for points. Sunday the two kept it up, when Giove qualified fastest ahead of Chausson, then Chausson beat Giove in the final by just 1.1 seconds.

Chausson crashed on her way down the mountain, wadding it up in the final minute on a long green hillside in front of an enormous crowd in the race's final minutes. She had been leading the hot-seat occupying Marla Streb (USA, Yeti) by 9 seconds at the time split, but ousted Streb by just 3.4 seconds when she had collected herself up and finished; dusty, sore and bloodied.

Then top-seeded Giove came down the mountain and was on pace to at least come close to Chausson's time, but she too crashed in the final seconds of her run, wiping out of a berm exit and throwing a cloud of dust into the air. She got up and finished, discouraged but then surprised to hold on to 2nd place — just 1.19 seconds off the win.

Streb held on for 3rd, while third-ranked Katja Repo (FIN, Team GT) finished 4th and Helen Mortimer (GBR, MBUK Jamis) earned her season's second-best result. Chausson is now 210 points ahead of Giove, giving the American one last chance to overtake the series lead, albeit a narrow chance in the next round.

There's another hot rivalry going on in the downhill, this one in the men's field between series-leading Nicolas Vouilloz (FRA, Vouilloz Racing Team) and second-ranked Steve Peat (GBR, Team GT). The two have been close all season in their results, but today was a bit too close as the two produced the tightest winning margin of the whole season — .06 seconds.

Vouilloz was on the winning side of that margin, beating Peat by a hair to distance himself even further in the race for the overall trophy this season. Peat and Nico had qualified 5th and 3rd, respectively with Peaty coming first down the mountain after a relaxed qualifying run in the morning.

He overtook the hot seat from then-leader David Vazquez (ESP, Subaru-Specialized), then watched as Cédric Gracia (FRA, Volvo-Cannondale) failed to post a top finish. Vouilloz was next though, and edged out Peat by just six hundredths of a second to overtake the lead. He then awaited the two fastest qualifiers, Gerwin Peters (NED, Be-One) and Mickael Pascal (FRA, Be-One).

Peters came close, but missed their time by 1.19 seconds for 3rd place, and then Pascal tripped the mid-race clock .6 seconds faster than Nico and looked good for his first win. But he flatted after that and finished third from last, showing how quickly fortunes change in a two-mile race when you're arcing at 42kph.

Peters took his season's best finish with his 3rd, with Vazquez in 4th and Bas DeBever (NED, Be-One) — having his best season in years — finishing on the podium again with 5th place for his fourth top 6 result this season.

And so, Nico got his first win since Maribor, holding on to the overall lead by 315 points — enough for now so long as he doesn't self-destruct while Peat wins a pair. Action will heat up soon enough when the World Cup goes to round seven on August 13th in Austria.

Ari Cheren, looking to do some damage in Tokyo's electronic district (Akihabara), for MountainZone.com

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