1999 World Cup Mountain Biking
8/14-8/15, 1999

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Downhill Champs Crowned
Vouilloz and Chausson Take 2nd Consecutive Titles
Kaprun, Austria: DH#8, DS#8

Everyone knew it was coming, but this weekend the Diesel-UCI World Cup downhill series was officially locked up by the dynamic duo of racing, France's Nicolas Vouilloz and Anne-Caroline Chausson. In a rain-influenced final round in front of thousands of boisterous Austrian fans, the downhill season ended this weekend just as it had begun - with Nico and A-C wearing the leader's jerseys.

Chausson also won round eight itself Sunday, with victors also including first-time winner Gerwin Peters in the men's division, and Katrina Miller and Eric Carter securing both the wins and overall titles in Dual racing Saturday. With such a huge venue, crowds, and amount at stake, the finals are always a big deal - this weeend was no exception.

Pro Mt. Biker Anne-Caroline Chausson Chausson again
Kaprun's course is known for its long, grassy, old-school flavor, the long track first built back when bikes were built for fast, but not technical, racing. Times changed and so did this course this year, but sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. While organizers - who really want to host the 2002 World Championships - did change the course to make it more technical, they also made it longer and no less controversial.

It's now 4.8 km long, still with a long grassy run in its mid-section. Riders seem to love it or hate it. Chausson, for instance, hates it and says she'll quit the sport if it becomes a World's course in its present configuration, but top-qualifying Marla Streb loves it. Just depends on who you ask.

Regardless of the course, the venue was awesome - now moved to the center of the village with a huge tech area, beer tents and easy access to the track. Eurosport was going live again this week, and up to 8,000 spectators paid admission to see it all. Weather had been dry for several days, a Thursday night shower giving way to sunny skies Friday and Saturday. The conditions, however, would not last...

Downhill Women:
Sunday's race amongst the women was a bit strange for a couple reasons. First, Chausson crashed hard in qualifying, coming close to missing the final event. It wouldn't have mattered in her overall points (she had the series locked up coming into Kaprun), but she certainly didn't want to go out like that. So she went off as the 8th slowest rider, in humid but fast conditions (her words). Marla Streb and Missy Giove were the fastest qualifiers and it looked like maybe this was Marla's day.

After Chausson arrived at the finish, she got comfortable watching the live TV feed, as she waited for the world's other best women to make a run at her time - something she says she hates to do because she doesn't know if she'll win or not.

Soon though it became clear that she would win. Rain began falling mid-way through the race with just nine of the best women waiting at the top of the hill. The wet conditions not only made the roots and rocks slippery, it also bogged down the long grassy section, and made it physically impossible for anyone to beat AC's time of 7:22.

Streb wound up crashing five times in her run, Giove twice - giving the race to those women who completed their runs in the dry. That accounts for the less-than-familiar top-five finishers. Just as the women's event completed, the rain stopped and Chausson explained how tough this season had been, and how much she likes racing for her new Volvo-Cannondale squad.

She beat Giove with consistent excellence, winning seven of the eight rounds this year - Giove won one. Chausson is now is obliged to go to the NORBA finals this weekend in Mt. Snow, but may be a bit off her game, as she is exhausted from the long season.

Downhill Men:
Seventy men made the final from 124 semi-finalists, and most all of the world's best were ready for last-minutes points. Take Steve Peat. If he could win with Vouilloz dnf-ing or ending way back, he could conceivably take the title. Regardless, Nico wanted to beat Steve one more time this season, while Peaty wanted nothing more than to end his season with win number three.

Peat qualified fastest, Pascal second and Vouilloz third... a familiar scenario for a great final race. Everything was in place, except the crazy Austrian weather which again unleashed a steady rain half way through the lineup.

Just as 4th-ranked Gerwin Peters finished his run with a then-fastest time, the skies got damp and the track slick. Nico's girlfriend Sandrine informed us that she spoke to him by radio, and he wasn't too happy with the conditions - plus it would turn out he had chosen the wrong tire.

The men's race then became a carbon copy of the women's, with those riders who made it down dry winding up on the podium. And what of the top-ranked men? They all slid right out of the running, except for France's Gracia and Pascal, both of whom managed to make the top ten. A couple Swedes made the podium, a German and one very happy Dutchman.

Pro Mt. Biker Gerwin Peters Peters podiums
Gerwin Peters took the bronze in '98s Worlds, and had a great season. But his luck (and speed) gave him his first World Cup win Sunday, as the rains gave a gift to some and took away from others. Both Vouilloz and Peat crashed in the same spot in their runs, finishing 20th and 14th respectively. Nico had tape wrapped around his rear cassette, rendering his drivetrain useless. Peat simply flew over the handlebars, all of his supporters watching in the TV tent at the finish, groaning at the same time.

Vouilloz therefore took his fourth World Cup title, to go with his myriad World Championships. While he didn't get the close race he wanted with Peat, he can sleep easy knowing he is again the best anywhere. And his competition will no doubt lose sleep, trying to figure out how to get the Alien.

Swatch Dual World Series:
Kaprun also featured the finals of the dual series, the UCI's newest official mountain bike discipline - now in its second season. The course was 24 seconds long and full of great features, and at least 5,000 fans showed up Saturday afternoon to watch the action.

Pro Mt. Biker Eric Carter Carter triumphs
Katrina Miller had the series locked up coming into the finals, the amazing racer taking wins in all seven of the races she entered this season. She missed round five due to injury, but that couldn't stop her from winning the title convincingly over Leigh Donovan. So Kaprun was icing on the cake, and she ate it up - beating Donovan in a fast final run where she again flew past in the air on the big double jumps and took her second consecutive championship. In consolation racing, Helen Mortimer beat Helena Kurandova for 3rd and 4th places.

Men's racing saw Eric Carter slip past Brian Lopes for the series title, reminiscent of Lopes doing the same to David Cullinan last season in Japan. But this year it was Lopes who missed not only the win, but the entire race due to an injured ankle.

Lopes hurt his ankle last week in Bromont, and rather than risking both the World Cup and NORBA championship, he opted to sit out this series and heal for this weekend's NCS event. The decision was unfortunate, as Brian gave the series to the white-hot Carter. Carter, who took 2nd last week in the dual, won handily over Mike King in the final run to pass Lopes in the overall points race and capture the series championship. All the more impressive considering that Carter was himself injured in round two, but healed enough to finish the season with the speed needed. Lopes' teammate Cedric Gracia hoped he could take out Carter in the quarter-finals, but the luck of the draw didn't see the two meet until the semi's... and Carter beat him anyway. Gracia went on to beat Michal Marosi in the consolation run.

The downhill season may be over until Worlds, but World Cup racing continues in two weeks with the XC finals in Belgium. The U.S. finals are this week in Vermont - we'll see you there!

— MountainZone.com Correspondents, feelin' strict in Austria and missing planes in Munich.

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