iXS European Downhill Cup, race #1 in Verbier, 31st May 2009

America's Duncan Riffle blazes to first - Marcel Beer fifth without a chain. Over 300 participants from 19 nations entered the opener of the European series.

After having qualified as third-fastest, America's Duncan Riffle (DRR/Giantnerd) has won the "iXS European Downhill Cup"'s first race of the season in Verbier, clearly besting the times of New Zealand's Matthew Scoles (Bike NZ), Ireland's Ben Reid (Just Reid Race Team) and the surprisingly fast German Benny Strasser (Toxoholic/iXS) under completely different conditions than in the seeding run. As he flatted immediately after the start of his race run, the fastest qualifier Nick Beer (Scott 11) was not the fastest Swiss rider of the day. Instead it was Nick's elder brother Marcel (Ancelotti), who was riding without a chain all weekend. In the women's race, France's Floriane Pugin (Ironhorse) posted the fastest time, edging out Swiss national champion Emilie Siegenthaler (Scott 11) and Ecuador's Diana Marggraff (Zenith).

Saladini leads. World Cup 4X, Maribor, Slovenia

America's Duncan Riffle on his way to victory at Verbier's opener of the "iXS European Downhill Cup".

Photo: Martin Platter / velomedia.ch

For the athletes, it was a tricky weekend: On Friday, the first practice session took place under a clear sky and on a dry track. But on Saturday, the weather changed completely: Strong rain made the course's super steep, worldcup-worthy final part even more challenging. For Sunday's finals, the sun was shining again. But the course had been shaped by the practice runs of more than 300 participants, so plenty of holes and brakebumps had been shaped and roots were sticking out everywhere.

Nevertheless the results in the elite categories' finals were a lot like the ones in the seeding run - with those riders that suffered mechanicals as exceptions. "Both the choice of tires and the suspension set-up were not easy seen the changing conditions", Duncan Riffle summarized how most starters felt, quickly adding that he had not taken full risks in his run.

Saladini leads. World Cup 4X, Maribor, Slovenia

Despite three mistakes on his way down, Benny Strasser surprised everyone and even himself by finishing in fourth, thus being the fastest central European rider. "My results in the season's first Worldcup races gave some reasons to be optimistic, and posting the second-fastest time in the seeding run was an extra motivation, showing the potential of my new Turner bike", Strasser explained his exploit. Strasser has just promoted to the elite category last season and has already stood on the podium of the German national championships, finishing in third.

Without a doubt, Marcel Beer was the biggest surprise of the weekend: Riding without a chain, he finished in fifth, thus being the fastest Swiss rider of the day. The lack of a chain was caused by a missing derailleur mount on GT's exotic fullcarbon downhill bike. "I wanted to finish in a time of 3:30min", he explained on his race tactics. Well, it turned out to be a 3:14 much rather which is surprising as the course had some counter slopes which forced Beer to propel himself forward by doing running-like motions on his bike in order not to loose to much speed. "Just wait until I have got a chain on my bike again", he was teasing his competitors. Lars Peyer and Dominik Gspan, only separated by six thousandth of a second on the next positions, topped off the strong performance of Swiss riders in a race that was studded with lots of strong riders.

And that could have been even better: Nick Beer, the race's favorites after having postest the fastest time in the seeding run, suffered a flat tire right after the start and only managed to finish in 61st. Sam Zbinden suffered a similar faith, who was fourth in the seeding run but only finished in 51st in the finals.

As expected, the women's race was won by 2007's junior World champion Floriane Pugin, who has already scored podium finishes in Worldcup races repeatedly. Because of that, Emilie Siegenthaler was all the more satisfied with her 2nd place: "I have only lost five seconds on Floriane, which shows that I managed to reduce the gap to the World's best riders compared to last season", Siegenthaler showed some optimism. Miriam Ruchti was less lucky, only finishing in fifth after having crashed.


Elite men

1. Duncan Riffle (USA) 3:06,5.

2. Matthew Scoles (NZL) 0:01,8.

3. Ben Reid (IRL) 0:02,5.

4. Benny Strasser (GER) 0:06,5.

5. Marcel Beer (SUI) 0:08,1.

6. Lars Peyer (SUI) 0:08,2.

7. Dominik Gspan (SUI) 0:08,2.

8. Fabien Pedemanaud (FRA) 0:08,3.

9. Will Rischbreth (AUS) 0:11,1.

10. Loïc Delteil (FRA) 0:11,8.

Elite women:

1. Floriane Pugin (FRA) 3:52,7.

2. Emilie Siegenthaler (SUI) 0:04,9.

3. Diana Marggraff (ECU) 0:14,8.

4. Martina Brühlmann (SUI) 0:18,9.

5. Miriam Ruchti (SUI) 0:59,3

Duncan Riffle wins the iXS European Downhill Cup Verbier