700 meters below the surface
(photo courtesy of Red Bull Photofiles)
Mountain bike World Champion Brian Lopes from Los Angeles/CA won the most unusual mountain bike race on Earth - the "Red Bull Race Down". A mountain bike competition 700 meters below the surface in an old salt mine situated in the East German town of Sondershausen.
On Saturday night sixteen of the world?s best male downhill mountain bikers and eight of the top females competed at the Race Down in Sondershausen. The kilometer long course was 700 meters (over 2200 feet!) below the surface in an old salt mine and featured jumps, curves and wall rides, with a tunnel network more than 200 km(124 miles)long. With top speeds up to 70 km/h(43mph), the riders had to jump over diggers and lorries, taking care not to smash their heads on the only four to five meter high tunnel walls. Almost complete darkness and zero percent humidity created a truly diabolic atomosphere. "I have never been to a place like this before, not talking about racing my bike," said Brian Lopes.
The invitational race with a total prize money of 10,000 Euro featured athletes from twelve nations. The competition format was held as a dual elimination system.
(Photo courtesy of Red Bull Photofiles)
Among the remaining four men in the semi final were only top class mountain bikers: Cederic Gracia of France, Four-Cross World Champion Brian Lopes, Downhill-World Champion Gregg Minnaar of South Africa, as well as Steve Peat, the World Cup winner of 2002. In the final run, Lopes took the better start and finally the race against Gracia, while Minaar captured the third place against Peat. At the women`s competition "Miss Mountain bike" Anne-Caroline Chausson of France battled down American Marla Streb. Switzerland?s Marielle Saner took third place.
?I have claustrophobia,? said Cederic Gracia after the race, ?so I should not think about where I am at the moment, among rocks four times higher then the Eiffel Tower in Paris."
Men: 1. Brian Lopes (USA), 2. Cedric Gracia (FRA),Greg Minnaar (RSA), 4. Steve Peat (GBR), 5. Michal Marosi (SVK), 6. Bernard Guardia Pascual (ESP), 7. Oscar Saiz (ESP), 8. Andre Wagenknecht (GER),
(Photo courtesy of Commencal Bikes)
Women: 1. Anne-Caro Chausson (FRA), 2. Marla Streb (USA), 3. Marielle Saner (SUI), 4. Fionn Griffiths (GBR)