1999 World Cup Mountain Biking
Snow Summit, CA
June 26-27, 1999

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Vouilloz and Chausson Dominate
But who's Christopher Kovarik?
Squaw Valley, CA: DH#5, DS#5

First place finishers in the downhill World Cup are sometimes a surprise, such as those from last round's American upset over established French powerhouses Nicolas Vouilloz and Anne-Caroline Chausson. This week, however, it was the second-place finishers that were not only a surprise, but a reminder that sometimes it really isn't whether you win or lose...

Pro Mt. Biker Anne-Caroline Chausson A-C Chausson
Yes, Vouilloz and Chausson won yet another World Cup downhill, in the blazing sun of the Diesel-UCI international series round 5. But while Chausson dominated the womens' field by 13 seconds to win her fourth race this season against a jubilant birthday girl Mercedes Gonzalez, in the case of Vouilloz's victory it was a nail-biting, last second affair where the multi-champ showed why he's, well, a multi-time champ. Vouilloz pulled the clutch win over someone you've never heard of, but may soon become familiar with.

Christopher Kovarik is yet another talented Australian downhiller to hit the World Cup scene, this week finishing in grand style against the very best - and nearly getting away with it. Sponsored by GT Australia and Qranc components, he took second place - just 1.43 seconds slower than Vouilloz in a brilliant run that was only his second in the US... ever.

Pro Mt. Biker Kovarik NKOTB Kovarik
Kovarik has two Australian national wins under his belt and, like Scott Sharples and Michael Ronning did years ago, is living on the cheap to go to races. He was down to his last fifty bucks before scoring over two grand at this race, which should keep him in the country long enough to show if he's the real deal or just one lucky sod.

Vouilloz didn't have time to find out this week though, sitting in the start gate as the top seed and wondering what he was going to do to not only beat this upstart, but top his own semi-final time by four long seconds. He headed out, also worried about rival (and then-series-leading) Steve Peat who was just in front of him as the day's second-fastest qualifier.

Pro Mt. Biker Nico Vouilloz Nico V
Nico found out mid-way through his run that Peat had flatted out of contention, and that if he wanted the win against the new Aussie, he'd have to power the rest of the course. And so, like he's done in the past, he rallied to win by the slimmest of margins (and regain the series lead) on one fat bastard of a course.

The course at Squaw Valley is several things. One, it's brand-spankin' new - riders putting their mark on virgin dirt when training began Thursday. Second, it's steep. Really, really steep. Third, it's technical. Really, really technical. Add it up and you get (we're not bashful in proclaiming) is the toughest course in the Western Hemisphere (wherever that is)... one of the all-time hardest tracks in the world.

Riders were falling all over the place during competition, with Chausson saying that the winner is the one who falls the least. Even Nico admitted it would be nearly impossible to have a clean run on this non-stop, unrelenting rock chute of an elevator shaft. Whew! It hurts our feet just remembering.

Speaking of Chausson, she won her event after - yes - crashing several times and arriving at the finish covered in dust with a torn uniform and even some blood. After collapsing at the finish arena for several minutes, she went on to explain how she beat Gonzalez and the rest of the field.

"She then learned that she had a 10 second advantage and relaxed, just for a moment. That's all it took for her to crash seconds later, throwing her confidence and power reserves out the window...."

Missy Giove, who last week beat the champ in Big Bear, had crashed three times herself to land in 6th place. Knowing that Gonzalez - who was sitting in the hot seat - had posted a strong time, Chausson went for it on the top section at full speed. She then learned that she had a 10 second advantage and relaxed, just for a moment. That's all it took for her to crash seconds later, throwing her confidence and power reserves out the window.

Chausson, ever the downhill magician, did manage to beat Gonzalez by a whopping 13 seconds though, giving her new Volvo-Cannondale sponsors their US win and maintaining the series lead with three races remaining in the season.

Pro Mt. Biker Brian Lopes Lopes Laps
A short and tight course was the setting for Saturday afternoon's first race of the weekend, when round five of the Swatch Dual World Series went off in the hot California sun. With the season in full swing and the series already nearly locked up by the current leaders, Brian Lopes took win number four of the season while Tara Llanes nabbed her first win since taking the title at the '98 Worlds.

Lopes beat rival Eric Carter in the men's final just after Karim Amour beat out Scott Beaumont in the consolation round. Lopes caught Carter napping at the start, taking the holeshot to get into the first quickly and controlling the race from that point. Lopes, whose main goal this season is the World Cup title, maintains the leader's jersey.

The course design for this fifth round is short, with high-banked turns hugging the ski slopes and plenty of man-made obstacles for jumping. A good-sized crowd showed up for the action, sitting on the hill over the track while a small field competed in the single-elimination event. Due to the tough downhill course wearing riders out in training, several riders opted to pass on this round of the Dual to save strength.

The women's points leader is Katrina Miller but, due to a twisted ankle sustained in downhill training, she was unable to race in the Dual where she had a perfect record this season. With the opening for another winner beckoning, Tara Llanes beat out Leigh Donovan in the women's final. In the consolation round, Sari Jorgenson beat Helen Mortimer. Miller, meanwhile, keeps the leader's jersey.

Racing continues next week with the Mammoth Mountain NORBA event, while the next World Cup downhill is in Mont Ste-Anne, Quebec, Canada.

— MountainZone.com Correspondents, bakin' potatoes, baking in the sun.

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