Zero Responsibility | Nissan UCI World Cup Round 3
Mont Sainte Anne has always been the pinnacle of downhill racing on the UCI World Cup circuit...
UCI World cup, Mont Sainte Anne, Canada, June 23-24
Mont Sainte Anne has always been the pinnacle of downhill racing on the UCI World Cup circuit. The history that is attached to this place is almost legendry. The riders come and go, but the mountain remains. The way things have been going lately on the World Cup tour, you just can never tell who is going to win one. There has been a World Cup race here every year since 1993 (excluding the world championships in 1998).
DIRT ISSUE 66 - AUGUST 2007
Words by John Lawlor
1993 John Tomac
1994 Jurgen Beneke
1995 Frank Roman
1996 Tomi Misser
1997 Corrado Herin
1998 (World Championships) Nico Vouilloz
1999 Steve Peat
2000 Fabien Barel
2001 Chris Kovarik
2002 Steve Peat
2003 Steve Peat
2004 Steve Peat
2005 Fabien Barel
2006 Chris Kovarik
But I'm sure that as the 2007 World Cup rolled into town all of these facts and figures are the last things on the riders’ minds (excluding twice winner Chris Kovarik who was turned around at the border and refused entry into the country). This leaves three previous winners racing in this round. Steve Peat, Fabien Barel and Jurgen Beneke. Champery must still be fresh in the minds of the top dogs, and of course Sam Hill’s final run, while he did not win, but riding in the pouring rain and still managing to take third spot. Surely Mont Sainte Anne will not deal the same conditions as Champery…surely not. Most people will have noticed that the weather has begun to form a pattern here also, the same way it did in Switzerland. Clouding over mid afternoon. Surely rain tactics must be on the minds of more than a few riders? After Champery, some riders will have labelled Sam a freak show for being able to ride so well in the wet. Others will have put it down to the timing of his run, and that the rain had a chance to soak into the track by the time he came down the hill. But the truth of it is that when Sam wants to win, he can win, and nothing can stop him when he is in this mindset. Period.
Most people are rolling down today and finding their way. Three hours practice and still three days till race day. Line choice seeming to be the most important part of the day. Very few people are pinned except for Peaty who is doing sections for the New World Collective film crew who are in town. The course seems to be tamed down from last year. The signature forest section near the top has been bermed up making it roll a lot smoother. I’m sure a lot of riders will beg to differ on this one.
The hire car is f–ked. Donuts. Doughnuts. Whatever way you spell it, the result is still the same. Tyres…tyres are worn, power steering it hanging. Funny shit, but nerve wrecking knowing that a company has your credit card number and have the authorisation to take as much money as they see fit in order to fix their piece of shit car. It says ‘zero responsibility’ on our rental agreement…but I’m not so sure.
There’s a lot more happening today. The course seemed to come alive with riders. The flow of the course is beginning to show and it’s a fast one. Mick Hannah is taking it easy after hurting his back during yesterdays practice and only does one run. There seem to be a few fast lines forming in the forest sections. Marc Beaumont looks quick. Sam Hill does too and it would seem these corners will suit his style, as they are all bermed up. Having said that, there is a section that can be gapped, that has a pretty tight run in and a very short (if any) take off. On this section alone about half a second can be made up on the normal line. Ben Reid takes it and makes it look so easy.
Three of the five previous winners have been well built, heavy riders, but I have the feeling that a younger lighter rider is going to take the win this year. The nature of the hill requires a lot of bull power, but some of the new sections suit the smaller rider.
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Greg Minnaar says he will be happy if he is on the podium, and after Champery and his current position in the world cup overall he wants to take every race as it comes. Could he take this one? Today he is cruising, still picking his lines and taking it easy, and is also nursing an old injury on his shoulder, having to have it strapped up before practice starts. He recently popped it out walking the course in Champery, he slipped and went down, dislocating his shoulder in the process.
Riders who look fast to me today are: Sam Hill. The new forest section with its berms are fast and suit his style, same too with the fast open corners on the upper and middle sections. Sam is a cornerer and Mont Sainte Anne has plenty of them in all shapes and sizes. Steve Peat is smooth and in control, two wheels on the ground in most places and his pedalling ability on the lower sections will pay off come race day. Steve knows how to do well on this track.
Marc Beaumont was pinned on his second run yesterday, pinned all day today. Proof that small riders can do well on this track, third here in ‘05 he could be up there again this year. Brendan Fairclough, similar style to Steve Peat, corners are his forte. He says pedalling is not, but race day will decide that. He says he has been out on the cross-country bike doing some training! Matti Lehikoinen is loose as hell every time I saw him. Seems to be spraying his way down the hill. Mickael Pascal medalled here back in ’98, he too knows how to ride this course and he was flat out everywhere I saw him today. And Rennie, a big rider typically suited to this type of track. Seems relaxed and was sucking down a few Stellas after practice with Peaty. There are plenty of others…
It’s a tough one to call. I think riders who can stay relaxed and fresh for race day will be the ones gracing the podium.
Hey just to help you out, here’s list of things said on this trip:
Pinner (opposite to pedaller)
Pinner’s, generally are those riders who you might label as people who would seemingly be unable to do anything else other than pin a track.
Pedaller (opposite to pinner)
Pedallers have a history of doing well on this track and with only one of the previous winners on this track winning on flat pedals, the statistics favour the pedaller. Although some of the changes to this year may indicate a change in the way the track is riding.
Someone who spray cans their way down the track, i.e. a sketchy motherf–ker. Some of the spray will hit the target, the rest misses completely (Ivan Oulego Moreno is a perfect example). In most cases none of the spray will hit the target ending up in a big mess of spray on the side of the track. Calculated sprayers will do well on his track. The words of Ben Reid.
Really there is no place for sprinklers in the world of downhill. The only time a sprinkler will do well is if the pedallers, pinners and sprayers all over–cook their speciality. If you combine a sprinkler with a sprayer, you might be on for something good.
‘Send er’ on the f—k’
The words of been Ben Reid every time we leave the petrol station a few miles outside the town as he presses the ‘traction control ‘OFF’ button. You must remember that its not every day you get to drive a 3.5lt rear wheel drive Dodge Charger. Dry tarmac…sideways!
Did you mention the bit about the rims?
Mont Sainte Anne is hard on wheels. Lets just say if you had a certain rim you bent the shit out of it, but did not puncture. If you had the other kind of rim, you kept is reasonably straight, but had more of a chance of a puncture.>>>
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It’s as if downhill has no history. I have asked everybody who could possibly know the answer to the question, ‘How many times has there been a world cup race in MSA?’ It mattered not how many the actual figure was in the end, because it brought into light just how forgetful most riders are about shit like this. Monkey (GT mechanic) reckons he has been here 17 times, but is unsure as to how many of those times have been at World Cup races.
People are pinned on the track today. Loads of practice. Six hours today and six hours yesterday. Gee and Dan Atherton walked it this morning during practice. They reckon that it’s smoother than last years, and Gee doesn’t seem to know where he is going. He is being guided down by older brother Dan, who he has not been riding with Gee too much this week. Walking the track with Dan is a bit of an eye opener really. Every inch of it counts with him. It’s funny to think that all of his skill at spotting lines has not won him a World Cup race yet.
Bryn Atkinson takes five after hitting a tree on the lower section of the track. Most people don’t appear to be getting much faster. The fast guys are fast, but the rest of the field seem to be on the same pace as day one. Something seems to be missing from the usual Mont Sainte Anne buzz. It’s Cedric. No sign of him. He has been recovering from an infected cut that he received at Champery, and his doctor advised him not to travel to this race to give it time to heal properly.
Steve and Sam discuss the track after a few laps on the PSP. Steve reckons the new forest section isn’t as challenging as last years. They both agree that the track is much smoother on the whole. Seeing Sam this morning on the section under the chairlift took me by surprise. Flat out drifting around a turn, off a drop, foot out, absolutely pinned. This track will suit pinners (see pinners).
Rims getting dinged is a big problem for mechanics and riders alike. It seems to be a rim a run for a lot of people. It seems that it’s better to have soft rims than strong ones. Less chance of a puncture. Good in the race world, but a bit of a pain in the hole when you have to rebuild nigh on three to four wheels a day.
Rennie is at the petrol station trying to buy a copy of 'Borat'. Turns out it’s a rental only, and it’s booked out already. He leaves with a big box of fireworks and a big smile…pre–race ritual.
Clouds loom over Mont Sainte Anne on the eve of the race. What will tomorrow bring I wonder? Alex Rankin locks his keys in the boot of his car and has to bend the back seats to get in there and retrieve them. It would seem that he also has ‘zero responsibility’ printed on his rental agreement. So too does Will Longden, and he drives back to his apartment with two strips of rubber for a tyre on his front rim. The police pull him over and tow his car. The rental company send him out a replacement car of which he also has ‘zero responsibility’.>>>
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My theory about the clouds coming in to repeat what happened in Vigo and Champery is truly blown out of the water today, as it is the hottest day of the week. Most of the fast boys do two practice runs, cruising the first one, pinning the second. Matti Lehikoinen looks hellishly fast in the mornings practice, team mate Minnaar also looks flat out. Its rarely you will see Greg flat out on practice runs, he seems to cruise sections, or section parts of the track.
A visit to the Honda truck and a chat with Martin Whitley about the race team and the history of mountainbiking is a bit of an eye opener. He has the result of every World Cup ever raced. He realised a few years ago that the UCI were going to pull all of this race information off their website, so he took it upon himself to keep all of this information for himself. It would seem that even the UCI have a problem remembering the past.
Steve wins qualifying over Sam. Sam is not taking his fast lines he had been taking during the weeks practice. Some of the turns leading into his lines have gotton blown out. He is back on the standard fast lines, not his usual Sam ‘drift’ or ‘insane’ lines, although the few I did see him were probably not the only different ones he was on. I’m sure there were a few more up those white stripy sleeves for his race run.
The women begin to come down the mountain. Kiwi Scarlet Hagen slams down hard just seconds from the finish line. The race is held up for half an hour as she is taken to hospital. She has broken her shoulder, and seems happy as Larry later on when we see her walking back to her apartment in a sling. Probably a lot of painkillers and a good attitude.
Interestingly, since World Cup racing has started here, from the first race here in 1993 to 2006, only eight women have claimed victory. Sabrina wraps it up over Tracey and the rest of the field, making this her fourth win in Mont Sainte Anne, beating some of the men on the way to the top step of the podium (she would have been top 60 in the men’s race). Upon her arrival to the top step, she downs her bottle of champagne, Tracey Hannah’s and Tracey Moseley’s. Then downs the team overall champagne also. She staggered off the podium looking quite happy.
Marc Beaumont held the hot seat for quite a while and eventually ends up in eighth spot. Greg Minnaar's injury plus some bad luck on his run, when he popped his shoulder out on the last rock section near the bottom of the course. He rides sitting down for a few seconds and pops it back in, then races down to go fastest when he gets to the bottom.
Then there were two…Sam Hill and Steve Peat, the so-called ‘pinner’ and ‘pedaller’. This track has had only a handful of winners in its long history. My money was on Sam for the win simply because of his sheer determination, but deep down I thought Steve was going to do it. Sam came through and went fastest and that was it. Steve arrived at the split fastest but arrived late at the finish line and went third.
Hill admitted later to not really having a great run, as did Steve. Sam was surprised that Steve didn’t go fastest at the end of the day, but Steve knew that Sam had it in him to take the win. It seems to be the case of who wants it the most, and it seems to be Sam Hill at the moment. It appears that Sam is the ultimate rider on the circuit at the moment. He seems to have it all. He can pedal, ride mud like it’s dry, but most importantly he accepts no responsibility for how he makes the rest of the field feel after he obliterated them here. On a track that has so much history for those who can pedal, he turned up, pinned it and won. Simple as that. The same thing happened in Champery, but while he didn’t win on paper there, he did in the hearts and minds of those who witnessed his amazing bike skills.>>>
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Sam hill has ‘zero responsibility’ written into his contract. He does not care how he makes the fastest bike riders in the world feel. He is neither a pedaller or a pinner. He is simply the best rider in the world. Period. Here he took the leaders jersey off Steve and with a 32 point lead over the man of steel heading for Schladming, the pressure is on Sam to keep hold of the jersey, but also on Steve heading for a track which he has a not so good track record on.
There was an air of discontent among the riders. There seemed to be something not quite right. It seems to be a tough one to get right these days. Maybe it’s the riders being forced to race after the downhill event, or maybe it’s the riders pursuit of the impossible perfect track. Whatever it was, something just didn’t feel right in Mont Sainte Anne.
In the women’s field Jill Kintner should have walked it, but instead had to chase hard after a nightmare first round where she was taken out by Melissa Buhl on the second corner. Picking up her bike in fourth place, easily catching back up by the finish line to go into the final. But it was to be Anneke Beerten’s night as Jill went down on the first corner leading, and left the keys in the front door for Beerten to walk in and take the silverware for herself.
Brian Lopes looked good all evening. He seemed comfortable and took the win. Things might have been a bit different had Prokop shown up, but there's no point going into that. A bit of controversy in the men’s semi final however as Scott Beaumont crossed a flag to go from third place to second place, taking out Ross Milan in the process. It wasn’t until after the final that this was pointed out to UCI officials by which time it was too late for anything to be done about it. It seems that the UCI accept ‘zero responsibility’ for riders crossing the flags, instead they told protesters to tell Scott to ‘ride inside the flags next time’.
With the penultimate round in Schladming only two weeks after MSA, the leaders will have their jerseys printed up, sponsors logo’s in place and will be hoping to hold onto them heading for the infamous course in Maribor, Slovenia for the World Cup finals in September.>>>
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1. Sam HILL 4:29.58
2. Greg MINNAAR 4:31.27
3. Steve PEAT 4:31.30
4. Matti LEHIKOINEN 4:33.00
5. Fabien BAREL 4:34.64
1. Sabrina JONNIER 5:04.45
2. Tracy MOSELEY 5:06.77
3. Emmeline RAGOT 5:16.90
4. Tracey HANNAH 5:16.92
5. Céline GROS 5:18.77
1. Brian LOPES
2. Scott BEAUMONT
3. Filip POLC
4. Kamil TATARKOVIC
1. Anneke BEERTEN
2. Fionn GRIFFITHS
3. Jill KINTNER
4. Mio SUEMASA