Posted by Editoress on 06/5/11
Round two of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano saw the return of some familiar faces to the top of the podium in the Downhill for the tenth anniversary of competition at Fort William, Scotland. Steve Smith (Devinci) was the top Canadian of the day, finishing tenth in the men's race, and maintaining sixth in the overall rankings.
For the fifth time in seven years, Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing) has won the women's Downhill World Cup at Fort William. Rachel Atherton (Commencal) made it a 1-2 British day for the women, with France taking the rest of the top-5 spots. Moseley's second consecutive win gives her a siginificant 170 point lead over second ranked Floriane Pugin (Scott 11) in the overall rankings.
American Jacqueline Harmony set the early fast time, but was soon surpassed by Morgane Charre (Passion Velo Thiers Stemtee), who was the first to go under six minutes in the final. German Harriet Rucknagel dropped the leading time marginally before Petra Bernhard (Alpine Commencal Austria) knocked a more significant seven seconds off to take the leading time down to 5:45.
However, the faster riders were still to start, and former world champion Emmeline Ragot (Team GR) soon knocked a further six seconds off the leading time. Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), the only woman other than Moseley to have won at Fort William since 2005, took the lead down by another six and half seconds, despite having to restart her run when a rider ahead of her crashed on the course.
Myriam Nicole (Riding Addiction Commencal) shaved another 1.821 seconds off the lead, but the three fastest qualifiers were next on the track, and each of them was faster. Pugin, after a steady, unspectacular run, was ahead by three quarters of a second, but the two Brits were up next, and Moseley obliterated the leading time, finishing seven and a half seconds in front of Pugin. Significantly, Moseley gained time in the lower half of the course, where other riders were fading.
Last was Rachel Atherton, in her first World Cup after missing the first round to finish her recovery from a shoulder industry suffered last season. Atherton had qualified a bare two-tenths of a second ahead of Moseley in qualifying and, after posting the fastest split at the upper half of the course, she faded slightly in the bottom portion, to finish 1.721 seconds back.
American DH champion Jill Kintner, a former 4-Cross World and World Cup champion, continues to progress in her switch to Downhill, finishing sixth in qualifying, and maintaining that spot in the Final; just one spot off the podium. Canadian women did not fare as well, with Miranda Miller crashing and Canadian national champion Micayla Gatto ending up 13th.
"It's pretty amazing. To come here as world champion is pretty special, but to come here and win as world champion and manage to win, it's just awesome," commented Moseley. "The crowd is amazing, it makes it such a pleasure to ride and to push harder and harder. It means a lot to win here, to win five times here ... I'm happy. I really pushed, I knew Rach [Atherton] was going to be tough; every time you race her, you know it's going to be hard to beat her. It's good to have another British girl to push me. Guaranteed, it meant the crowd was going to get a British win one way or another."
While Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) took the win in round two for the men, it was the young riders who finished second and third - Danny Hart (Giant) and Brook MacDonald (MS Evil Racing) - who were the real story of the day, signalling the arrival of the next generation of downhillers. Minnaar's win, coupled with round one winner Aaron Gwin's (Trek World Racing) fifth place, put the South African into the leader's jersey for the overall standings.
American Mitch Ropelato, another sub-21year old, was the first leader to go under five minutes, but he was quickly supplanted by Australian Mitchell Delfs (Kona), who was in turn replaced in the lead by another Australian, Mick Hannah, who took the leading time down to 4:53.433 .
Hannah held onto the lead for a long time before a third Aussie, Josh Button (SC-Intense) just barely edged him. However, the faster riders were just starting to come down the track, and Fabien Pedemanaud (Scott 11) took the leading time down to 4:52.5 shortly afterward.
This set the stage for MacDonald's incredible ride. Starting 48th (out of 81), MacDonald absolutely nailed the pedalling bottom half of the course, to finish a staggering 5.643 seconds ahead of the next best rider at the time. The young New Zealand rider, who won't turn 20 until November, was the Junior World Champion in 2009, but this ride put him in a whole new league.
As rider after rider came down, none could surpass his time., with another young Kiwi - Cameron Cole (Lapierre) - slotting into second, but still 1.8 seconds back. Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate), world champion Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Specialized/Mad Catz), Fabien Barel (Mondraker) who DNF'd ... none were able to knock the youngster out of the Hot Seat. Canada's Steve Smith came close on the top half of the course, but faded in the lower portion.
It wasn't until Minnaar, a two-time winner at Fort William, and fourth from last to start, came down that MacDonald was finally dislodged from the lead. The South African, a prodigy himself when he won his world title in 2003, was eighth fastest at the top split, and continued to improve as the course went on, to knock nearly two seconds off of MacDonald's incredible run. Hart, starting just after Minnaar and only a month older than MacDonald, pushed the Kiwi down to third by 0.65 seconds.
The final two starters - Gee Atherton (Commencal) and World Cup leader Gwin - slotted in to fourth and fifth respectively after their runs. Gwin was on a strong run, and was the fastest by a wide margin after the second intermediate split, but then crashed, losing eight seconds in the process. Canadian Steve Smith was the only other North American to make the top-ten, finishing in tenth place after a slide out in a switchback cost him time.
"Just a simple crash really," explained Gwin. "I knew I'd had a good run and was on for a good time, but unfortunately I came into a corner where I was using the inside line, and I was coming in a little too hot and ran wide and got hooked up before going down. Frustrating crash, but it definitely makes me hungry for next week."
"It was tough today," admitted Minnaar. "I was really nervous, I didn't think I had it today. Yesterday's qualifying, I was behind, and I wasn't sure I could find the time. [Brook] MacDonald had a great ride, but I'm stoked to be on top ... it's just an awesome day. I'm just speechless."