Words: Colin Meagher
Bromont is a funny little track. In the wet, it's downright nasty and sections that riders wouldn't think twice about in the dry become super sketchy. Riders faced the worst of it in qualifying, but even as the track dried out for the finals, the soil remained absolutely treacherous.
Ladies first, and at precisely 1:15 p.m. Joanna Petterson from the Republic of South Africa was on track. Despite a few impressive runs from the early riders, they only served as a warm up for the devastating run that Sabrina Jonnier would lay down.
She had only qualified fifth, suffering from a cold during qualifying. But as soon as she hit the course on Saturday, it was clear she had kicked the cold and was prowling for a victory. At the first split, she was six seconds faster the previous day's best time. By split two she was up by nearly thirteen seconds and finished with a time of 2:58.28—nearly 16 seconds faster than the previous day. None of the final four riders could match her speed; second place finisher Floriane Pugin finshed more than 2 seconds back. With the win, Jonnier clinches the World Cup overall title for 2009.
One rider who's been quietly turning in top finishes is Mio Suemasa of Japan. She is essentially a privateer with a contract to ride for the Japanese Intense distributor, but has posted solid results recently, including today's third place (+2.64). Look for her to do well in Canberra at the World Championships. Tracy Moseley finished fourth (+3.96), followed by Celine Gros (+5.96). Emmeline Ragot was a disappointing eighth on the day.
"I crashed in the rock garden and lost some time," Ragot said, shrugging off her first non-podium finish of the year. "But that's racing, you know? My focus now is for the Worlds in Australia."
Top American riders on the day were Kathy Pruitt in tenth, and Melissa Buhl in fourteenth. Buhl had a crash that cost her a bit of time.
While Jonnier dominated the women's race, the men's was much tighter. Line choice on the treacherous—and short—course was crucial. Choosing one line over another could be difference of a second or more—time racers couldn't afford to lose when only 1.41 seconds separated the top five spots.
This race was Sam Hill's to lose. He trained in Bromont for weeks and knew the course better than anyone else—how the soil hooked up, how the rocks would hold rubber. But all that knowledge couldn't bring Hill the victory. He would only finish third on the day .63 seconds behind race winner Greg Minnaar, who rebounded magnificently from a disastrous race last week in Mont-Sainte-Anne. Fabien Barel finished second (+00.46), proving the two-time world champion will be a serious threat in Canberra.
Gee Atherton was1.03 seconds back from Minnaar in fourth, and American Aaron Gwin took the final podium spot (+01.41).
This make two podiums in two weeks for Gwin: the kid is getting the flavor, although he did get lost trying to find the right step on the podium. Fellow American Duncan Riffle finished 19th and Luke Strobel took 25th.
The results in Bromont makes the race for the World Cup overall title interesting heading into the final race of the season in Schladming, Austria (the World Championships don't count for the overall). Hill now leads Minnaar by a scant 16 points, with Peaty lurking 69 points back. If Hill wins in Schladming, he takes the title. Same goes for Minnaar. Peaty would need a disastrous race for Hill, and a merely bad one for Minnaar to win. The race is going to be very, very, interesting.
Bromont World Cup Men’s DH Results:
1. Greg Minnaar
2. Fabien Barel
3. Sam Hill
4. Gee Atherton
5. Aaron Gwin
6. Michael Hannah
7. Steve Peat
8. Chris Kovarik
9. Josh Bryceland
10. Brendan Fairclough
Bromont World Cup Women’s DH Results:
1. Sabrina Jonnier
2. Floriane Pugin
3. Mio Suemasa
4. Tracy Mosley
5. Celine Gros
6. Micayla Gatto
7. Claire Buchar
8. Emmeline Ragot
9. Emilie Siegenthaler
10. Kathleen Pruitt