Over in Livigno, Italy, there was a serious case of déjà vu happening as all four defending champions in the downhill and cross country races regained their titles at the MTB World Championships. On Saturday, it was an all-French affair as Anne-Caroline Chausson and Fabien Barel successfully defended their rainbow jerseys in the Downhill, with Chausson's ninth elite title also marking the end of her professional career. However, the margins were awfully slim - 0.37 seconds for Chausson over Sabrina Jonnier, and 0.77 seconds for Barel over Australia's Sam Hill.
"I'm very happy to win, in this my last championship," Chausson said. "The difference was very small today. I had a crash in the first part of the race and at that moment I knew that it would be difficult to win. But I just concentrated harder until the end of the race."
"There were maybe five or six guys who could win," admitted men's winner Barel, "so this is a big victory. Waiting at the bottom is a big stress. I did an early ride as a tactic because of the weather, but then watching Greg [Minnaar - South Africa] and Sam [Hill] come very, very close to my split was very, very stressful."
Said a disappointed Hill: "I have always dreamed of winning a World Cup, so that was a big victory. This race was my other focus for the season, but Fabien was faster today. It was definitely a disappointment not to win, but someone's got to, so you just have to take it, suck it in."
Yesterday (Sunday), world and Athens Olympic champion Gunn-Rita Dahle made it look easy on her way to cross country world title number three, the Norweigan not offering her rivals any encouragement for the future, either - announcing in the post-race press conference that she intends to keep racing until the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
"Achieving another rainbow jersey makes this a perfect day for me," said Dahle. "It is still unbelievable for me to win a rainbow jersey. Today, I think I had my best race of the year. Everything came down on me at the podium, with all my family there it was an unbelievable moment."
In contrast, Frenchman Julien Absalon had a much tougher time in the men's cross country; both Absalon and silver medallist Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) suffering flats, the winning margin just 18 seconds in the end, with Spain's Jose Antonio Hermida rounding out the podium. Said Absalon: "I had a rear flat on the second lap and I didn't realize it right away. After my wheel change I took a bath in the river after I fell off the bank! then I started to get cramps, so it took great concentration to continue to the end."
Second-placed Sauser felt that he made a tactical error which cost him the title. "I cornered too hard, and lost some pressure in my wheel - not completely flat but slower, harder to ride. I should have taken (the time) to use a CO2 cartridge in the first zone, but I decided to tell the team, so that they could have it all prepared at the next zone," he said.
"But this slowed me down a lot to get to the next zone and I lost concentration, and when I got there I saw Julien just pulling out and realized he had a mechanical problem also. If I had taken the cartridge (earlier) I think I would be world champion now."
Click here for full race coverage, including results, reports & photos.