Posted by Editoress on 08/27/17
The Downhill World Cup concluded on Saturday with Round 7 in Val di Sole, Italy. Neither the Elite men's and women's categories had clear winners going into the Final, with Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Vallnord) holding onto her lead to win the women's title, while Aaron Gwin (The YT Mob) upset former leader Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) to take the men's title. The Junior men's title had already decided with Canada's world champion Finn Iles (Specialized having an insurmountable lead, however, Iles still took his sixth win of the season.
At 2.2 kilometres and an average 25% grade, Val di Sole is not the longest track on the World Cup circuit, but it is one of the most technically demanding, with dry, loose dust, rocks and roots for much of its length.
Going into the Final, Nicole had an 85 point lead on Australian champion Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) and 131 points on Tahnee Seagrave (Transition/FMD). Hannah qualified first, Seagrave second and Nicole third, cutting the gap even further Nicole had to finish no lower than fourth to guarantee the title, and she did just that when she set the fastest time with only three riders to follow her. At this point, the title was settled, but the win for the day was still to be decided, and Seagrave, two riders after Nicole, blazed through three seconds faster to take the lead with only Hannah to ride. Hannah struggled in the top technical sections and could only manage third, which dropped her to third in the final standings behind Seagrave.
"The pressure was pretty high," admitted Nicole. "I was worried about mechanicals and crashes. But I made it, and it was the best run of my life! I did not realize straight away [that she had won the title], but seeing all my family, my boyfriend and my friends crying, I knew that I had won the overall. I've been waiting for a long time to do this, and I'm so stoked."
Canadian champion Miranda Miller (Specialized) finished seventh, while Vaea Verbeeck did not start after injuring her back in qualifying.
Nicole won her first World Cup overall title with 1375 points, 91 ahead of Seagrave and 105 in front of Hannah. Miller finished ninth overall, while Verbeeck dropped one spot to 11th from 10th.
The men's competition going into Val di Sole was even tighter than the women's, with Gwin only 23 points behind Minnaar and Australian champion Troy Brosnan (Canyon) just 92 points back after their qualifying runs. Gwin won qualifying ahead of Minnaar, with Brosnan fourth.
Laurie Greenland (MS Mondraker) set the first sub 3:40 time shortly before the final ten riders started. He stayed in the Hot Seat until Amaury Pierron (Commencal - Lac Blanc), at six to go knocked nearly three seconds off. Brosnan couldn't match the time and neither could Loic Bruni (Specialized), the third fastest starter, leaving only Minnaar and Gwin. Minnaar started very strongly with the fastest splits, however, a rear flat ended his hopes of victory and the World Cup title, and he slid his way down to a distant and disappointing 79th. All Gwin had to do was finish close to Brosnan, but he blasted down the course to set a time 1.407 seconds faster than Pierron and definitively take the title. For Gwin this is his fifth overall title - matching Nico Vouilloz - and the 19th World Cup win of his career, only two behind Minnaar.
"I'm so happy it is hard to put into words," said Gwin. "It was a gnarly weekend. The track is so challenging, and your body knows that it is championship weekend. I felt in my mind that the run could have gone either way; I was riding good but a little sloppy with a few mistakes. I expected everyone else was the same on this course. I didn't know about Greg's mechanical, and it is unfortunate. I was hoping we would both have mechanical-free runs. I had my mechanical in Switzerland, so it's a bummer to hear he had one here. It's been an amazing season battling with Greg at every race; he is such a tough competitor that I have nothing but respect for him."
Canada's Mark Wallace (Canyon) finished seventh, his fourth top-10 result for the season. In other Canadian results, Henry Fitzgerald (Norco Factory) was 60th and Forrest Riesco was 69th.
Gwin won with 1149 points, followed by Brosnan at 990 and Minnaar at 974. Wallace finished the season in eighth place.
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