1999 World Cup Mountain Biking
Maribor, Slovenia
May 29-30, 1999

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Nothing Slow in Slovenia
Chausson and Vouilloz Speed to WC Wins
Maribor, Slovenia: DH #2

The weather was perfect, the course was perfect and the venue just as close. So what was there to complain about at the second downhill of '99? Well, nothing unless you hate mountain bike racing. Maribor's first crack at world cup MTB racing was a raging success and left attendees heads' spinning faster than Vouilloz's rear wheel.

Pro Mt. Biker Anne-Caroline Chausson A-C Chausson
At the end of each season, the UCI awards a crystal globe trophy to the best downhill and cross-country event – based on voting from riders, media and officials. While the downhill season may only be in its second round of action, the bar was set high in Maribor this weekend with spectacular action.

First there was the Swatch Dual World Series, where Aussie Katrina Miller (Jamis) and France's Karim Amour (GT) survived an epic battle. Then on Sunday Nicolas Vouilloz (FRA, Sunn) and Anne-Caroline Chausson (FRA, Volvo-Cannondale) brought some savoie-faire to eastern Europe, edging out their rivals in a hard-fought alpine event. What a weekend...

"There were more crashes, thrills, spills and dazed competitors than we've ever witnessed...."

The industry arrived in Maribor wondering what the UCI had gotten them into, racing in the former Yugoslavia while NATO jets roar overhead each night. But everyone (and we do mean everyone) was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful city, great host hotel and a sweeet course.

Let's talk about that course for a moment. Imagine all the best elements of the world's finest tracks: Kaprun's speed, Mt. Snow's rocks, Mt Ste-Anne's roots, Les Gets' banked turns and jumps; now put them together on a lush green world cup ski slope, which finishes at a hotel built around the arena. If it sounds nice, imagine how much the racers liked training and contesting it.

It all came together last week, as sunny warm days were spent riding fast, sitting on patios, and soaking in the positive vibe of Slovenia. Then, come Saturday, it all reached a fever pitch when the Dual went off like a freak-show.

Pro Mt. Biker Nicolas Vouilloz Nicolas Vouilloz
Miller and Amour won, but that's not as exciting as all the high-flying carnage that got them there. There were more crashes, thrills, spills and dazed competitors than we've ever witnessed. Mike King (USA, Haro) crashed hard in the final run against Amour and was on his back for several minutes. He was so upset he wouldn't shake the winner's hand on the awards podium.

Then there was Sean McCarroll (AUS, Giant) dicing it with the best of them, taking out points-leader Brian Lopes (USA, Volvo-Cannondale) with on-the-edge aggressive style. David Cullinan didn't make it to the race, as he crashed so hard in Friday's training. Even Eric Carter (USA, GT) and Cédric Gracia (FRA, Volvo-Cannondale) crashed hard in their runs, bikes flying everywhere across the steep, winding course.

Sunday was the big event, riders again greeted by blue skies and bright sun. The course began on an open slope before immediately launching riders off a jump and into a banked left, followed by the hugest, sickest jump on the circuit. After winding in and out of the trees for four more minutes, racers eventually flew into the finish arena, where VIPs and sun-baked spectators sat on the patio in amazement. Chausson described the track with one word: Perfect.

Pro Mt. Biker Leigh Donovan Leigh Donovan
Anne-Caro know of what she speaks. She converted a second-place qualifying run into a win when top-seeded Missy Giove (USA, Foes/Azonic) flatted in her run and landed 10th. Leigh Donovan (USA, Intense) also did the stars ‘n stripes proud with a powerful second-place finish. Leigh rode a clean run to end within 7.3 seconds of AC. Katja Repo (FIN, GT-Finland) continued her strong season for 3rd, and two Americans rounded out the podium when Elke Brutsaert (Schwinn/Toyota) and Lisa Sher (Foes/Azonic) took 4th and 5th.

This was also a course on which Nicolas Vouilloz (FRA, Sunn) really had to earn his pay when last week's winner Steve Peat (GBR, GT) took an early lead by nearly ten seconds after a disastrous qualifying run - in which course tape shut down his rear brake. Peaty got comfortable in the hotseat until Nico finally ousted him at the last minute by uncorking an inspired run.

Pro Mt. Biker Steve Peat Steve Peat
Vouilloz only beat Peat by 3 seconds, proving that this season will be anything but easy for the French alien. Third place went to '98 World's silver-medallist Gerwin Peters (NED, Be-One), followed by a pair of Specialized riders Oscar Saiz (ESP) and Kirt Voreis (USA).

Two races into the season, Peat donned the Diesel leader's jersey again, 30 points ahead of Vouilloz, while Chausson is two for two, 200 points ahead of Repo, with Donovan in third overall. Next week racing will do it all again in the mountains above Venice, Italy as round three lands in Belluno.

MountainZone.com reporters, wondering why we didn't race here before.

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