World Cup Downhill in our Backyard

My favorite part of the mountain bike season usually comes in June. No, I’m not talking about the Blackfly hatch, I’m talking about our annual visit from the World’s elite Downhillers. Every year for the last 21 years, they have come to Mont Sainte Anne for a week of racing above the St Lawrence. I love some downhill racing, so I grabbed my camera and headed North for what was the driest and dustiest St Anne I’ve ever seen. After a few days of riding back at home in VT, I went down to see the Windham, NY WC which was even dustier, drier and hotter. I took about 6000 photos and would like to share a few with those who didn’t make the trip.

Jackie Harmony pinning it in qualifying on the “new” section at St Anne. Not much there is really new, this was used back in the 90’s.

Ben Reid gasses it out of the last corner under the gondola. A bit of rain Saturday night made for perfect dirt on Sunday.

Brook MacDonald can’t help himself when he sees a jump that needs jumping.

Quite a few people had their dreams crushed by flat tires in these rocks. Minnaar took home 2nd place, probably not what he was dreaming of either though.

Claire Buchar and Chris Kovarick came out of retirement for the North American round. Chris had a string of mechanicals and failed to qualify at St Anne and then jacked himself up at Windham. Claire was super fast but broke herself right before finals. She still managed 7th. Way to go.

The very popular Tracey Hannah rode through a louder than normal gauntlet of noise which included proposals of marriage from random spectators. 4th place at St Anne.

Rachel Atherton was racing fast and smart but didn’t seem totally dominant. She inherited two wins with Ragot suffering a mechanical at St Anne and a crash in Windham. Rachel also benefited from a controversial call by the commissar at Windham.

Transition rider Jono Jones. It’s hard enough for a national team rider to qualify in the top-80. Jono managed to do that and finish 47th. Not bad for a guy with a 154 plate stuck on his bike.

Guillaume Cauvin – what can I say it’s just a cool photo. Fun fact, Tracey Hannah liked having her French teammates around and not her brother Mick during warm-ups because with their lack of English, they couldn’t make her nervous.

The legend that is Steve Peat. Steve came to North America with a badly injured leg and having lost his protected status. He did however bring his focus and determination.

Mitch Ropelato had the chance of a lifetime. Filling in for an injured Troy Brosnan on Monster Energy Specialized he he got the factory rider treatment. 45th at St Anne, 23rd at Windham.

[Homer] Beer [/Homer]

Patrick Thome shutting it down at the end of the Saint Lawrence Speedway. 13th place.

Gwinner. He makes it look so easy. If it wasn’t for the clock you’d never have guessed that he was going the fastest.

Morganne Charre. The French keep pumping out fast women. This is the next one. Watch for her.

Markus Pekoll. In addition to dealing with Windham’s massive rocks, ever-changing holes and slippery dusty conditions, riding in and out of these pools of light can’t have been easy. Having some jerk photographer put a flash in front of your face probably didn’t help either.

Did I mention that it was dusty? Ben Reid.

Windham was dominated by some huge jumps, the Finish line jump, the Container drop, the Road Gap. This was a little roller in the woods that I didn’t even realize could be jumped. Jason Memmelaar thought otherwise.

Celebrating Gwindependence Day in the Rock Garden section. Yeah, he won. Again.

The Scott11 team was decimated by injuries. Only Emilie Siegethaler would race at Windham. Here she is trying not to join her teammates on the DL. 4th place.

Lewis Buchanan, not just fast, but also stylish over Windham’s finish line jump.

12 riders made the trip from Japan to the North American World Cup rounds. Kazuki Shimizu looks like he is riding a jetski off the finish line jump.

Brendan Fairclough did not have a good weekend. Shortly after this, he did a “nac” as he called it, half of a nac nac and broke his thumb. He didn’t look happy to be on the sidelines.

Jill Kintner was on a nice run with a 7th place at Mont Sainte Anne. She looked very fast and calm at Windham and was having a lot of fun on the jumps. Being one of the bigger/stronger girls and as an Olympic medalist in BMX, Sunday seemed like it was really shaping up to be good for her. When I felt the headwind on the lower jump section, I knew it would be a tough day for the elves like Ragot and Hannah. Sadly, Jill slipped out in a corner below the road gap and snapped her arm. She’ll be back though!

Bryn Atkinson seemed to be really getting up to speed after the injuries suffered last season. Sadly he had to go into his finals run knowing that his teammate and girlfriend Jill Kintner was in the back of an ambulance going to Albany. At least he already knew how to get around Albany Medical Center as that’s where he was sent last year.

More of those dust covered rocks.

Sam Dale gettin’ loose.

Sam Hill. Like LL Cool J says, “don’t call it a comeback!”

Gee Atherton 4th at St Anne, 3rd at Windham. Most people would be happy with that. Gee isn’t.

Dust in the wind.

Another injured Briton Manon Carpenter came to North America with a broken collarbone courtesy of an earlier round. She managed to avoid crashes and bring home some points. 13th in St Anne and 7th in Windham.

A good performance for Micayla Gatto 5th and 6th.

Danny Hart flies over the crowd at Windham’s road gap. 4th place.

Marc Beaumont qualified well at Windham, but wrecked in the Rock Garden. Here he is flying through the steep and loose horseshoe turn.

Sam Hill. No words needed.

Andrew Neethling in the top chute at Windham. 9th.

Steve Smith flew down the course to 2nd place.

Damien Spagnolo was on a winning run and up by a second at the first split. A flat tire put an end to that.

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