Posted by Editoress on 08/8/15
Canada's Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing) has finally returned to the World Cup podium after a season plagued with injuries and frustrating results, finishing fifth in Windham, NY, on Saturday. Casey Brown (Bergamont Hayes) was the only Canadian woman racing, and finished eighth.
Round 6 of the Mountain Bike World Cup saw World Cup leaders Rachel Atherton (GT Factory) and Aaron Gwin (Specialized) solidify their overall leads with dominating wins.
The dry, dusty conditions made the rough, steep track even more difficult, with riders sliding out in the corners as they lost traction.
Rachel Atherton had already mathematically won the women's overall title before the Final in the this penultimate round after qualifying first. However, it was clear that the British rider wouldn't back off as she chased her fifth consecutive win.
Emilie Siegenthaler (Pivot Factory) set the first sub-3:30 time, but that only held up through two riders before Katy Curd took the lead, with Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) then dropping the top time to 3:13.669, which would be good enough for fourth.
World champion Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen) was next up, and she took over three and a half seconds off the best time, with three riders remaining. Neither Tahnee Seagrave (FMD Racing) or Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Vallnord) could beat Carpenter's time, leaving only Atherton to ride.
Atherton was clearly riding at another level from the rest of the field, finishing over nine seconds ahead of Carpenter.
"My approach changed a little bit [after locking up the overall], but I really wanted to win, obviously. I knew PomPom [Myriam Nicole] was going to go wild for it, and it kinda relaxed me. I thought I can push now, push hard and it doesn't matter if I crash. I was kinda relieved in a way. I try not to crash for a year and now I'm like wide open and hope for the best."
"This track is THE worst for the dry and dusty conditions, it's crazy. We are getting used to it, as it has been pretty dry on the World Cup circuit so far. I'm always stoked to race in Windham, I always do well here. I couldn't believe how noisy it was on the way down. All the fans and the Americans were just wild.. they love it. Pretty cool."
"This is the most World Cups I've won in one year. I've won four before so five is pretty cool. I just try and take each day as it comes. The World Cup overall means a lot. You have to be so consistent all year. World Champs you can just let it go, it doesn't matter if you crash. The overall, week after week the nerves, the worry, it's pretty intense. So, yeah, I am happy to have it back."
Atherton now has 1410 points with one race remaining. Carpenter, in the absence of former second placed Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker), out from an injury before Round 5, moves into second with 899 points, followed by Seagrave at 836 and Ragot drops to fourth with 785 points. Casey Brown drops one spot, from eighth to ninth, with 444 points.
After qualifying first before a home crowd with a gap of over two seconds on Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic), and the defending champion at Windham, Gwin was clearly the rider to beat.
Loris Vergier (Lapierre Gravity Republic) set the first fast time of 2:42.398, after starting mid-field, in 47th place. His time held up through rider after rider, and would eventually be good enough for third. Smith slotted in behind Vergier and then world champion Gee Atherton (GT Factory), starting fifth from last came close, but Vergier was still in the lead with only four riders to go.
The next rider down, South Africa's Greg Minnaar, the record holder for World Cup victories, finally displaced Vergier by eight-tenths of a second. Troy Brosnan (Specialized) fell short, and Bruni, the number two qualifier and second in the World Cup standings, came limping in with a flat tire, leaving Gwin to come down the mountain.
By the first split, Gwin was two seconds up, and he extended it to three seconds by Split 2, and then three and a half seconds at the finish as he went over the final jump beside a sea of cheering fans waving American flags.
"It is just epically cool [to win at home]. There is no feeling like racing in your home country. If there is one race I kinda want to win every year, just for the fun of it, it's this one. A huge blessing, I'm so stoked."
"It was pretty good [the run]; I made a few errors. The track was so wild and blown out. So you had to find the line. To be honest I wasn't really sure [how good it was], it felt good, but you never know because everyone else's run was good too. I'm just pumped."
"I just try to take it one race at a time and do the best I can. I've had a couple rough weekends so, man, it feels good."
While not assured of the overall title, Gwin added enough to his World Cup lead to give him a cushion going into the final round. Gwin now has 1089 points, with Minnaar moving ahead of Bruni into second with 954 points and Bruni back at 869 points. Mark Wallace, Smith's team mate, managed to hold onto his top-20 protected ranking, but fell from 19th to 20th after finishing 28th on the day. Smith moved up from 27th to 23rd.
In the Junior men's competition, World Cup leader Laurie Greenland (Trek World Racing) guaranteed the overall title by taking his third consecutive win. Greenland now has 290 points to Andrew Crimmins' (Kona Factory) 220, making him uncatchable. Top Canadian for the day was national champion Magnus Manson (Norco Factory) in 17th.