At the opening World Cup downhill of the 2001 season at Maribor, Slovenia, GT’s Steve Peat finally beat France’s Nicolas Vouilloz on this high-speed course, while Anne-Caroline Chausson (Volvo-Cannondale) did what she usually does — win.
Vouilloz won at Maribor the first two years races had been held here, but Peat was fast enough to edge Vouilloz to win the year’s season opener.
“I had a clean run; you have to, to beat Nico,” said Peat, who won in 2 minutes, 54.30 seconds. Vouilloz was just 0.44 seconds slower. “I knew I had to go fast. I was clean through most of the run, just made one little mistake.”
Vouilloz, a winner here in 1999 and 2000, said a few minor mistakes cost him the victory. Only two riders posted times under 3 minutes in the semi-finals; five did in the finals.
Fabien Barel (GT), fastest in the semis, Chris Kovarik (Intense) and Michael Pascal (Be-One) rounded out the podium.
In the women’s heat, Chausson won her 21st career World Cup, snatching victory from Leigh Donovan (Schwinn), the winner her last year.
“It’s always a great fight with Leigh. She is a great competitor and I knew I had to go fast to beat her,” said Chausson, a winner in 3:22.47. Donovan was 1.04 seconds slower.
Missy Giove (Global) was third at 2.08 seconds back, while Marla Streb (Foes-Azonic) and Fion Griffiths (Ancillotti) rounded out the podium.
David Vazquez (Giant) and Nolvenn Le Caer (Fiat-Rothweiller) both crashed hard during the semis and were transported to a local hospital. Both returned to watch the finals, with Vazquez’ broken clavicle in a cast.
New this year, the UCI is awarding points during the semi-final rounds, putting the heat on competitors to turn up the speed during the qualifier. With 50 points going to the winner, the semi-final scoring could play into the final overall World Cup title run.
Once again, Maribor served up one of the best venues in mountain biking. More than 10,000 fans turned up to watch the action on Friday. With cheap beer and a “Miss Bike” contest, no wonder Maribor is one of the favorite stops on the downhill circuit.
Next stop on the downhill-dual circuit is Vars, France, next weekend. Nearly everyone is heading to the Cote d’Azur for several days on the beach.