A DAY AT THE RACES
We know who he's rooting for  
     
     
 
Even if you've never heard of Alison Sydor, Missy Giove or Ned Overend, it doesn't mean you won’t enjoy a mountain bike race. Mont Ste. Anne, in Quebec, hosted the world championships last fall, providing a couple of days of exciting entertainment.  
Alison Sydor, our Canadian Champion
 
     
 
A heavy crowd watches the downhill
  On Saturday the rains fell, but it didn't prevent a huge crowd from witnessing one of the more appealing events of the weekend, the World Cup Downhill. While you may have seen pictures of a downhill event or perhaps even watched one on TV, nothing prepares you for the hair raising reality of this spectacle.
 
     
 
Clad in the armor of a modern day gladiator, these warriors do battle with the hill, each other and the wild demands of gravity. Down hill courses are carefully tailored to tax the competitors to their limits and provide the spectators with an overwhelming show.  
Getting air on the downhill
 
     
  A course usually runs from the very top of a mountain to the bottom and in some venues competitors reach speeds up to 100kmh (60mph).  
     
 
Winning is sweet
  These extremely fast stretches are interspersed with hairpin turns, loose rutted washouts, drop-offs and crazy off-camber jumps. Add some rain to the mix and you get a really hairy ride, which takes a rider's bike handling skills to the limit. In spite of the difficulties, the top riders often manage to finish within a hundredth of a second of each other.
 
     
 
If you're looking for some names to root for, check your program for Shaun Palmer, an ex snow board champion and all around professional wild man. Or watch for Miles Rockwell, who may well have the greatest potential in the sport if he can ride the tiger.

Some female riders to look for are Leigh Donavan, the American Champion, and Anne-Caroline Chausson of France who is currently dominating the woman’s field.

 
Paula Pezzo, the gold medal winner in the 1997 summer Olympics.
 
     
  Perhaps the best spectator sport, the dual challenge, is usually run late in the day but it’s definitely worth hanging around for. Two riders compete head to head on courses designed to test the competitors' mettle and to provide the high flying acrobatics that keep the crowds straining for a better look.

The competition works its way through a series of eliminations until only the best (or sometimes the luckiest?) are left in the game. The favorites have to be careful not to let their desire to play to the crowd interfere with the competition. Even one second of extra air on a jump can cost them the race.

 
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A DAY AT THE RACES continued