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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Season Ends in Reigns
Downhill #8

Leysin, Switzerland: August 27, 2000

The fast, hot downhill World Cup season ended at last this weekend, though this time, cold and slow due to the huge rainstorm that slammed into the side of this Swiss Alpine town and dropped enough rain to transform a fast course into a slow, muddy chute of crashing. Cédric Gracia and Anne-Caroline Chausson (FRA, Volvo-Cannondale) were loving it though, and the two gave their team another sweep. It was mayhem, it was mud. Let's get to it!

Chausson never really got used to her bike this season, but still aimed it down the hill 40 seconds faster than Leigh Donovan (USA, Schwinn/Toyota) to win round eight. She has won six of the eight races this season, won the World Cup overall, and did it by taking it easy Sunday. She did the same thing in qualifying, finishing 1st in both the semi-finals and the finals.

Conditions were what you could call abysmal for both women and men, as the rains were falling all day, which kept the large crowds that surrounded Saturday's dual away. There was live TV though, airing throughout the country, and the course was in good enough shape to get the women down the 3.9km course in under 10 minutes. It could have been worse.

Only 23 women entered the final race and only 21 finished, so it was a good event in which to gain World Cup points — if you could make it down in one piece. Donovan didn't even think she'd be racing when she woke up this morning, so sore was she from crashing in practice on Leysin's deadly-fast course. But with all the mud, speed was the least of her worries, so she suited up and went to battle with Chausson. She was the second-fastest for the day, after qualifying third and said she was only competing with herself.

Behind her, young up-and-comer Celine Gros (FRA, Scott La Clusaz) finished 3rd with her best World Cup result, after qualifying second. Gros and Chausson were the only two women we saw make it down the toughest technical section in qualifying, so it's no surprise that they did so well. Gros, who won the 1999 Junior Worlds, as well as this year's European Championship, says she will work on her pedaling strength to take it to the next level.

Missy Giove (USA, Foes/Azonic) managed 4th after crashing into a boulder "chest-first," the "missile" going off the goat path, and off the course.

"Then," added Giove, "I went to tear off one of my tear-offs from my goggles, and tore all of them off! At that point I was just laughing."

The mud turned more than just riders upside down, as Sandra Walker (SUI) finished 6th with her first top-10 finish of the season (maybe ever). Even Mami Masuda (JPN, Team MX/Haro) made the top-10.

After an hour's break for the live TV to set up (and for the soaking wet journalists to grab some Swiss cheese and wine) it was time for the men's comp.

Cédric Gracia (FRA, Volvo-Cannondale) hasn't won a World Cup since taking his first, and that was two years ago in a wet and muddy Nevegal race in Italy. Here we were again in another wet and muddy Euro event, and Gracia didn't let the opportunity pass.

First he raised a few eyebrows by qualifying fastest in the morning — even after crashing. But speed is never enough for Cédric; he likes to get style points as well, so he was throwing stylish jumps whenever he could, giving the sparse crowd something to cheer about. Nicolas Vouilloz (FRA, Vouilloz Racing Team) was second fastest in qualifying, and Mickael Pascal (FRA, Be-One) was third.

Then came the long final race, with men slipping and sliding down the mountain toward the finish, although at higher speeds than the women. After several leaders sat shivering in the not-so-hot hotseat, seventh-fastest qualifier Kristian Eriksson (SWE, Scott USA) took the hotseat with just six riders remaining.

Pascal eventually took over in the hotseat, but said he had too many problems on his run to win the race. He was right as the next rider was Vouilloz, who overtook the hotseat. But he didn't sound confident either, saying he had problems right from the start of his run.

No sooner did he start to explain than it was announced that Gracia had the fastest split time, and everyone's attention went uphill to await the fun-loving speedster. He didn't disappoint, looking fluid in the muddy lower section to post the fastest time by nine long seconds.

It's a long time when you consider that Vouilloz and Pascal were within a second of each other — and that Gracia's next best finish this season was a 5th in Cortina.

"I rode safe, and only had a couple problems on my run," he said. "Once I almost flipped over the handlebars, but I didn't crash. You can ride safe, but you can't win that way; but you can't ride crazy either. Do that and you're out."

Anne-Caroline Chausson
So, he found the fine balance between speed and safety, and took his second career world cup win — just in time for a new season's salary negotiations as he leaves Volvo-Cannondale, the team dissolving their DH program. If he keeps riding like this on a bike he likes, he could be next season's biggest star.

Ari Cheren, amazed at the wet stuff falling from the sky, for MountainZone. com

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