By: Colin Meagher
Old School vs. New School. That sounds a bit trite. But it was the unvarnished truth of the Garbanzo DH race with the likes of Emmeline Ragot, Justin Leov, Gee Atherton, and Sam Blenkinsop facing off against the two most dominant forces in downhill racing from a generation back: Anne Caroline Chausson and Nicolas Vouilloz. Both “retired” from World Cup racing on their own terms nearly a decade ago, and both are still just as awe inspiring now as they were back then, with Chausson winning gold at the Beijing Olympics in BMX and Vouilloz, when he’s not crushing it on the rally car circuit, crushing it in the Avalanche race series and other Enduro style races back in Europe. For that matter, Chausson won this year’s edition of the Alpe D’Huez Megavalanche—the monster in the Megavalanche series.
“Can Nico still compete at a World Cup level?” was a posed to Sam Blenkinsop after a training session in San Romolo, Italy last May.
“Absolutely!” was Blenkinsop’s response. “Sure, this is one of his training tracks (in San Romolo), but even after four runs together there were places on this track where he’d just drop me, and I have no idea how he was able to do that. I mean, he’d just flat out drop me, no matter what I did.”
In the women, it was Old School on top with Anne Caroline Chausson taking the win—even passing former US and World DH champ Leigh Donovan mid run—and that was with 90 second start intervals. In the men, New School had the edge, with Chris Kovarik, Justin Leov, and Sam Blenkinsop filling the podium. Vouilloz took a still impressive 5th place–just over 5 seconds faster than 6th place rider, Gee Atherton.
“For me this was a physical track,” commented a smiling Vouilloz. “Perhaps a bit more physical than I anticipated. My bike was fine, but I was a bit tired near the bottom and perhaps did not pedal as much as I should have.”
With the Crankworx “Enduro” coming on Tuesday, and incorporating many of the same trails, look to see another clash of the old school and new school on the upper slopes of Whistler’s bike park. Not only will Chausson and Vouilloz race again, but also the likes of Brian Lopes, Ross Schnell, and Remy Absalon will be in the hunt.