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05.29.09

Peat breaks record with World Cup win number 17

UCI World Cup - Vallnord, Andorra

By Rob Jones

It was a record-breaking weekend in Vallnord, Andorra, for round three of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) took his second consecutive win in the men's downhill and the 17th of his illustrious career, breaking Nicolas Vouilloz's record for most World Cup wins, and extending his lead in the overall standings.

Saturday's good weather carried over to Sunday for the downhill final. Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Specialized) qualified first, but that didn't mean much when it came to final. The drying track was getting loose and dusty at the top, and three days of hard riding was making the lower wooded portion rutted and full of braking bumps, pounding the riders as they pushed to shave extra tenths of a second from their times.

The men's final saw six lead changes in the first 60 riders, with American Ryan Condrashoff the first to take the time below 2:30. Condrashoff was eventually bumped by Australian Josh Button, who knocked two and a half seconds off the lead time, but was still slower than Hill's qualifying time.



American Cody Warren went faster than Hill's qualifying time by a few hundredths, but it was Australian Bryn Atkinson who was the first to go under 2:26 and set the first strong time. Atkinson's time would prove to be hard to beat, as rider after rider came close but could not budge him from the Hot Seat.

It took Michael "Mick" Hannah, 20 riders later, to finally knock Atkinson out of the lead. Hannah, who had been sick during the week, crashed during qualifying and started 17th from last. His run on the upper part of the course was strong, but it was in the rough and technical lower half where he really shone, making up 1.5 seconds in the final 400 metres to take the lead with a time of 2:23.71.

"I've been sick most of the week, and had a big crash yesterday," said Hannah "but I had a good, smooth run, and I'm back on the podium, so it's good."

Brendan Fairclough (Monster Energy-Specialized), four riders later, came within 35-hundredths of a second of Hannah, and that proved to be the pattern for the next dozen riders - close to or ahead of Hannah at the top, but losing ground in the lower section. It wasn't until round one winner Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) that Hannah was displaced, by a quarter of a second.

"I didn't crack the top as well as I wanted," said Minnaar. "And a couple of corners in the middle were a problem. It's good to be up there for points, but I think Steve's running away with it."

The field was down to three riders, with Peat the next up. The World Cup leader was even with Hannah through the upper sections, but really came into his own in the woods, knocking 1.41 seconds off the leading time. World champion Gee Atherton (Animal-Commencal), the defending champion in Andorra, was next, and came within a infinitesimal two-hundredths of Peat, but it just wasn't enough.

"I had a good run," said Atherton "but in a few places I was stalling and braking a bit. To lose by that small of an amount is pretty frustrating, I'm pretty pissed."

However, Hill was still to come, and he was everyone's favorite, after showing he was clearly in tune with this track, both in training and qualifying.

The favoritism looked to be justified, when the Australian went through the upper portion 1.6 seconds faster than Peat, and enter the final sections two seconds ahead. But then disaster in the form of a crash in the woods, and Hill's chance for his first win of the year disappeared, while Peat saw his dream of a World Cup record realized.

"It was really close," said Peat. "I didn't think I had the best time, I thought for sure that Sam would beat it. I had a couple of little bobbles and didn't think I was carrying speed. I needed a bit of luck, but you can see that he crashed, and that's it... history being made."

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