Champery World Cup DH Qualifiers

By: Colin Meagher

After the mid-season break for various national championships, World Cup racing is back in the spotlight with a return to Champery, Switzerland for the fourth DH and XC races of the season, as well as a bit of a shake out for the 2011 World Champs.

Champery, Switzerland is all things that you'd expect in Switzerland: Epic with beautiful scenery being the main thing.

Champery, Switzerland is all things that you'd expect in Switzerland: Epic with beautiful scenery being the main thing.

Champery rocked the Downhill set in 2007 by showcasing a track that raised the bar for technical and nasty like no other track in the modern era had before. It was steep, descending 1932 feet in just under a mile, laced with slippery roots and committed fall line moves. On top of that, it vomited rain during the finals. And what gravity fan can forget Sam Hill’s amazing, and muddy third-place finish?

For XC, the race in ’07 saw Willow Koerber take third behind Ren of China on a track that featured a brutal climb and loads of fun singletrack. The course was tweaked to be more technical last year, and appears to be the same this year. And Ren is rumored to be making a return to World Cup racing.

Since this is a double event (XC and DH, but no 4X), the schedule has the DH final set for Saturday and the XC race on Sunday.

DH practice and qualifying:

Day One’s DH practice found a dry, dusty track that was a much ‘softer’ version of the ’07 track, with rounded berms in what had once been switchbacks hacked out of the hillside, quite a few more jumps and a distinct lack of wheel wrecking rocks. But it’s still steep as hell, and, with large amounts of clay in the soil, a nightmare in the wet. And the forecast for Friday’s qualifying race was rain.

Sure enough, a thunderstorm rolled in immediately following Thursday’s practice and proceeded to dump buckets of rain on the track. More rain as well as thick fog was the flavor for the morning, as racers clawed their way down the track in rain suits during pre-qualifying practice.

About an hour before the women’s run, the rain let up. Unfortunately, that meant that the clay started to get sticky. Bikes were coming down the track with riders doing whatever they could to maintain momentum in the thick goo. Peanut butter is one thing, but watching the fastest ladies in the world imitating Fred Flintstone in an effort to get down all but the steepest sections of the track was painful. Nicole Myriam took the top spot, with Sabrina Jonnier in second, then Emmeline Ragot, Manon Carpenter, and Tracy Moseley. There was nearly a 32 second spread from first to fifth. Moseley even passed Floriane Pugin somewhere in the middle of the track. Absolutely insane!

For the men, the rain came back, and not just a drizzle, but rather a full-on imitation of the 2007 epic. A number of top riders were well off the pace: Greg Minnaar was back 14.53 seconds, Mick Hannah crossed the line back in thirty-fourth, Steve Smith came home in fifty first, and Josh Bryceland failed to qualify at all. However, Sam Blenkinsop owned the day, coming home in 4:10.36, followed by Damien Spagnolo, Gee Atherton, Brendan Fairclough, and—with a ride of his life—Wyn Masters (just edging out Peaty).

All the Santa Cruz boys got new V-10 Carbon bikes to replace the prototypes that made their first appearance in Maribor back in May.  Here, Martin Hoyle applies a bit of tape to protect Josh Brycleland's sled from chain slap.

All the Santa Cruz boys got new V-10 Carbon bikes to replace the prototypes that made their first appearance in Maribor back in May. Here, Martin Hoyle applies a bit of tape to protect Josh Brycleland's sled from chain slap.

Privateer Harry Heath of the UK scored himself a hell of a parking spot; he's all of fifty yards from the finish line. ''I rolled in at about 11 pm or so the night before things started firing up and found this spot. I'm not sure if they want me here, but since they've already put up the fencing for the finish, now they can't really kick me out.''

Privateer Harry Heath of the UK scored himself a hell of a parking spot; he's all of fifty yards from the finish line. ''I rolled in at about 11 pm or so the night before things started firing up and found this spot. I'm not sure if they want me here, but since they've already put up the fencing for the finish, now they can't really kick me out.''

Set up done, it's time to fire up the BBQ at the GT pits before calling it a day.

Set up done, it's time to fire up the BBQ at the GT pits before calling it a day.

If there's one thing Switzerland has in spades, it's cows. Lots of cows. And Ben Cathro, on World Cup Safari.

If there's one thing Switzerland has in spades, it's cows. Lots of cows. And Ben Cathro, on World Cup Safari.

Ruardh Cunningham sending it on the hip jump near the top.

Ruardh Cunningham sending it on the hip jump near the top.

Mick Hannah ripping the heart out of a steep berm, just one of many littering the track.

Mick Hannah ripping the heart out of a steep berm, just one of many littering the track.

2007 saw Sam Hill ride-or rather, crash-into history on this very same corner. A different Sam-Sam Blenkinsop-looks to put his stamp on the track this time.

2007 saw Sam Hill ride-or rather, crash-into history on this very same corner. A different Sam-Sam Blenkinsop-looks to put his stamp on the track this time.

Brook MacDonald had a bit of a pedal problem a few jumps back. ''My pedal spindle snapped off.'' He kept it cool, put in two more practice laps, and qualified 11th--his best WC showing to date.

Brook MacDonald had a bit of a pedal problem a few jumps back. ''My pedal spindle snapped off.'' He kept it cool, put in two more practice laps, and qualified 11th--his best WC showing to date.

Ooozing style, Ben Reid carves a tight corner under the lift.

Ooozing style, Ben Reid carves a tight corner under the lift.

MTB Racers take in a local road race  going on just over the border in France...

MTB Racers take in a local road race going on just over the border in France...

Chris, the Evil chauffeur and mechanic all wrapped in one, making a few final adjustments to Steve Smith's Revolt, specifically, putting on the number plate.

Chris, the Evil chauffeur and mechanic all wrapped in one, making a few final adjustments to Steve Smith's Revolt, specifically, putting on the number plate.

Now you see it...

Now you see it...

...now you don't. Fog was drifting on and off the course, making it tough for the racers to dial in lines at speed.

...now you don't. Fog was drifting on and off the course, making it tough for the racers to dial in lines at speed.

And sometimes that fog was a bit thick.

And sometimes that fog was a bit thick.

Gee Atherton was 2.16 seconds off the pace in qualifying.

Gee Atherton was 2.16 seconds off the pace in qualifying.

Bredan Fairclough: ''I count myself lucky that I stayed on my  bike today.''

Bredan Fairclough: ''I count myself lucky that I stayed on my bike today.''

Sabrina Jonnier was rocking mud spikes, but traction was still an issue in the goop covering the track.

Sabrina Jonnier was rocking mud spikes, but traction was still an issue in the goop covering the track.

Other racers were having an even harder time of it. This section of track is ridiculously steep but you'd never know it.

Other racers were having an even harder time of it. This section of track is ridiculously steep but you'd never know it.

Greg Minnaar took this sneaker line above the mud bog caking this corner and gained maybe .25 seconds, but he still finished over 14 seconds down.

Greg Minnaar took this sneaker line above the mud bog caking this corner and gained maybe .25 seconds, but he still finished over 14 seconds down.

Phenom is the word. Seventeen-year old Troy Brosnan has qualified in every World Cup race he's entered so far. Impressive considering that Josh Bryceland failed to qualify today.

Phenom is the word. Seventeen-year old Troy Brosnan has qualified in every World Cup race he's entered so far. Impressive considering that Josh Bryceland failed to qualify today.

Scott Meats putting some meat into the final corner of the track.

Scott Meats putting some meat into the final corner of the track.

Joseph Nation taking it all in.

Joseph Nation taking it all in.

Harry Heath, Ben Reid, and Dan Stanbridge talking shop after it's all over.

Harry Heath, Ben Reid, and Dan Stanbridge talking shop after it's all over.

A select group.

A select group.

Tomorrow’s forecast for the finals supposedly offers no rain, but just the same, I’m bringing an umbrella to finals.

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