1998 World Cup Mountain Biking
Big Bear, California
June 20-21, 1998


Downhill #4
US Riders Cede To Europe
Chausson and Vazquez Take It Back

Vazquez Rocked
Too much snow and not enough time prompted Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley to give up its date with downhill mountain biking’s world cup as the Grundig/UCI traveling circus went south to the site of last month’s NORBA NCS. Same venue, similar course; only this time it was a DHO (downhill-only) affair with an international field and much more at stake.

Any hopes of a home field advantage were piqued then subsequently squashed as last month’s Mongeese winners Leigh Donovan (USA) and buddy Brian Lopes (USA) failed to prevent the powerful Anne-Caroline Chausson (FRA, Sunn- Un) and up-and-coming David Vazquez (ESP, Volvo-Cannondale) from doing what they do best... win. It was hot, sunny, clear and dusty as the 25 women and 70 men, who made the semi-final cut, bumped and grinded their way down Snow Summit’s course on a full Sunday of action. Here’s what happened:

First, David Vazquez “pipped” a tightly clustered men’s field by 1.86 seconds over second place’s Scott Sharples (AUS, Trek Volkswagen). Sharpie was only .03 secs faster than Sunn-un’s Mickael Pascal (FRA) and the whole top 10 finished within 5 seconds of each other. One slipped wheel, one bobble and you were O-U-T. Just ask Lopes who posted the fastest qualifying time and was this easily excitable reporter’s favorite for the win. But alas, Brian made two mistakes and was, well O-U-T. But his 4th place finish is pretty good by American standards... GT rider Eric Carter got 8th; an excellent ride for another local boy.

Brit bad-boy (and general nice-guy) Steve “don’t call me Rob” Peat got to sit in the hot seat for much of the race as one of the first leaders, followed by Misser and then Vazquez. The key for the day was pedaling and not blowing up on the top section where many a rider burned their biscuits before ever hitting the singletrack.

Wet Winner
Even the buff Chausson was panting at the bottom, impressed by the local heat and elevation. Giove had broken a jackshaft chain on her confangled Cannondale and still qualified within a few seconds of Chausson. We all figured hey - she’ll pedal in the finals and win. But, alas, she only lives in France part time and still got “pipped” by Chausson by a whopping 8.4 seconds. She kept the leader’s jersey though. Cheri Elliott (USA, Intense/Maxxis) had an awesome run and finished third, a local girl (and U.S. champ) done good. The only surprise in the women’s field was the poor performance of Leigh Donovan (USA, Mongoose). She always plays down her chances - usually smoking the field 5 minutes later, but this time crashed twice on course and finished 22nd. She was heard lamenting on course - during the race while retrieving her bike in the hot dust - “this just isn’t my week!”

Saturday evening featured the hellacious body pounding Dual tourney, a single- elimination affair which narrowed 16 women and 32 men to one David Cullinan (USA, Schwinn-Toyota) and Katrina Miller (AUS, Jamis) who both out-flew their friends and neighbors to win the event and wear the unattractive white Swatch leader’s jerseys. The course was the sickest yet but had the TV guys crazy happy even if it did take out one famous face (see next item). Cully was so overcome with emotion at beating Mikey King in front of his girlfriend and family that he needed a moment to collect himself before talking to us media scum.

Fiction and Fact: The Mountain Zone Almanac
A bummin’ Shaun Palmer (USA, Mt. Dew/Specialized) was spotted cruising the venue Sunday with a big arm brace after busting his collarbone (clavicle) during Saturday’s Dual warmup. Asked if the course was too gnarly, Napalm replied “It ain’t the course’s fault I crashed, it’s mine.”

Speaking of broken collarbones, John Tomac decided he wanted to have a knitting contest instead of a racing contest with ‘Palm and promptly broke HIS collarbone during Sunday’s DH finals. We’ll see if either of these two can come back by Mammoth.

Volvo-Cannondale now has 5 of the 7 leaders jerseys which exist, with 3 XC jerseys (Evans/Sydor) and both DH jerseys (Giove/Vazquez). Just wait until they hire a Dual specialist next season...

Nicolas Vouilloz (FRA, Sunn-Un) hurt his hand during practice but said it had nothing to do with his lackluster 12th place finish. Actually, he couldn’t figure out why he did so poorly, and was at a loss to explain his final run.

Sharples was riding an off-the-shelf, production Trek DH bike which happens to be built to his measurements. Go buy one now.. oops, they’re sold out.

The Sintesi Verlicchi team went to Disneyland Monday and surfing in LA Tues. before heading up to Seattle. What a site that must be...

Zapata Espinoza, “the editor so good he’s in the hall of fame” (TM) rode a fast (unconfirmed) 4:51 amateur DH run in a funky green-accented bike/gear kit. Industry honch Steve Boehmke (OC, Shimano) won his Clydesdale class.

April Lawyer looked as good as Regina Stiefl as both raced in silver skinsuits. Seems like the women’s field is getting cuter and cuter (and faster and faster).

Word Watch: “Presstitute” Coined by PR hack Matt Lanning to describe all us sell-out media types.
Rich Neare, his people melting in the desert sun for The Mountain Zone

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