1999 World Cup Mountain Biking
Quebec, CAN
8/6-8/8, 1999

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Brutal Bromont
The Gnarliest Course on the Cup
Bromont, Quebec: DH#7, DS#7

There was no fat lady singing on Bromont's racecourse at this weekend's World Cup downhill, and even there had been, she'd surely have slipped and fallen in the mud. But you could practically hear the voices in the trees Sunday, announcing not only another win for Vouilloz and Chausson, but the end of '99's championship contest.

The two French racers continued their utter domination of the downhill set, locking up the overall championships one week before the series finals and leaving no doubt that they are the chosen ones, at least for the end of this millennium. Each beat their chief rivals, in anything but clean races.

Pro Mt. Biker Anne-Caroline Chausson A-C Chausson
First Anne-Caroline Chausson cooly won her season's sixth event with little effort, then countryman Nicolas Vouilloz won his season's third - in the same relaxed manner. All this mellow riding on another sick course that simply punished anyone who dared try to master it.

Under heavy rains and upon mud-soaked rocks and roots, the Bromont course was doused by the elements all day Sunday, providing the season's second round of mud-wrestling. There hasn't been an international DH event here since the '92 Worlds, and the track was "updated" for its '99 re-debut.

The new track here in Bromont is a shin-dinging, ankle-grabbing, knee gashing, head banging deathtrap. And, unlike our description of Squaw's vertical madness, this is not really a compliment. See, Bromont suffers from a bit of an inferiority complex. It's a bit short, a bit vertically challenged and subsequently a bit gnarlier than it needs to be. Some liked it, many didn't - but it sure kicked this field's collective butt.

Chausson said she was afraid of getting hurt on this course, and therefore came down cautiously. She only needed a top-10 to lock up the series, but rode so cleanly she wound up with another victory - her sixth in seven tries. She did crash in qualifying though, flatting her rear tire for an uncharacteristically early final run 14 spots from the end.

Pro Mt. Biker Katja Repo Katja Repo
Once in the hotseat, Chausson was there to stay as no one bumped her from her throne. Top-seeded Missy Giove was expected to give her a good run for her money, but only managed 4th. The woman closest to her time was '97 World's bronze medalist Katja Repo, who hasn't finished lower than 6th all season. Giove is ranked second in the overall, Repo third.

Sandwiched between Repo and Giove was Marla Streb, who continues to have her best-ever season, with a third-place finish even after crashing hard in the mud. Sarah Stieger rounded out the podium with her best-ever World Cup finish, thrilled to at last be on the podium after so many tries.

Men's winner Nicolas Vouilloz usually makes it look easy, but judging by Sunday's results it just may have been that way for the unworldly racer. Confessing that he too was nervous about the damage this course could do to his body (and his season's remaining races), Nico also took his runs on the cautious side - but still won.

Pro Mt. Biker Nico Vouilloz Nico Vouilloz
He came into today's race challenged by '99 rival Steve Peat who was just 20 points behind him, and a genuine contender for the season's title. The fact that Peat qualified fastest in the morning's semi-final was no comfort either - Vouilloz needed some psychological advantage if he wanted to survive a race that looked as if it were designed for the mud-loving British technician.

So Nico did what he does best - compete both on and off the bike. Taking his semi-final run easy, Vouilloz qualified third fastest and put the day's pressure squarely on the shoulders of number-one qualifying Peat. He figured he'd let his rival see what it's like to be in the pressure cooker up top, racing last for all the marbles.

Early leaders included a resurging Michael Ronning and Pau Misser, eventually replaced by third-ranked Gerwin Peters. Peters was bounced by Guillaume Koch, who was subsequently topped by the white-hot Eric Carter. Carter occupied the hotseat for awhile, until number-four qualifying Mickael Pascal overtook the hotseat for one last change of ownership.

Vouilloz came down next, politely shaking Pascal's hand as he sat down in his familiar spot. While he sat in the hotseat after beating his teammate and training buddy, Vouilloz only had to wait for ex-teammate (and not-such-good-friend) Cédric Gracia before watching Peat's run on the live TV feed. By the first split, Peat was 13 seconds off the pace after crashing in the mud and getting his gloves slippery - every downhiller's worst foul weather fear.

He crashed, got up, crashed three more times and made a courageous attempt at salvaging his run. But by then it was too late, and Peat's race (and indeed his season's championship hopes) were finished. Vouilloz could finish as poorly as 48th next week in Kaprun, and still capture his 4th championship.

Australia Rules the Dual
In Saturday's Swatch Dual World Series, Australians Wade Bootes and Katrina Miller won their final runs against a strong field in a mid-afternoon event. It was Bootes' first World Cup dual win, and Miller's sixth, the two continuing Australia's strong season. "It's all the kangaroos jumping around that inspire us," quipped Miller's soigneur.

With a big and fast course packed hard from rains the night before, racing got underway on a sunny and warm afternoon - a huge paying audience ready for some action. The track was full of jumps and obstacles as usual, but made for unusually close racing between both the men and women.

Katrina Miller, winner of every World Cup dual she's entered this season, was the obvious favorite for yet another 50 points this weekend. But in the final run against U.S. champ Leigh Donovan, it looked like she had finally met her match, as Donovan bombed down the course from the get-go. But "never say die" Miller had a stealthy inside line toward the bottom, and caught up with Leigh with two turns to go. By the finish line she had just barely caught her, Miller crossing the line literally inches ahead of Donovan.

Pro Mt. Biker Wade Bootes Wade Bootes
Men's racing was more definite, as Bootes crushed last week's winner Eric Carter with a sweet inside move from the gun. Bootes got in front of Carter then slowed, throwing off Carter's pace before accelerating away toward the bottom. He still had time for a mid-air look back on the final tabletop jump, and was the most enthusiastically happy winner we've seen in a long while.

In consolation racing, Cheri Elliott beat Malin Lindgren in the women's bracket, while Cédric Gracia (who threw the hugest air of the day) beat Rich Houseman.

Brian Lopes was eliminated early this round, his second bad showing in two races. Carter, with a win and a second, moves dangerously close to Lopes in the overall, just 20 points behind for the championship - to be determined next weekend in Kaprun.

Next weekend is the big event - the DH and Dual finals in Kaprun, Austria. You know we'll be there!

— MountainZone.com Correspondents, slip slidin' away

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