Posted by Editoress on 11/1/20
The 2020 Mountain Bike World Cup season concluded on Sunday with the fourth and final round of the Downhill series. Defending World Cup champion Loic Bruni (Specialized Gravity) won the Elite men's race, while Marine Cabirou (Scott DH Factory) took the women's. Cabirou also won the women's overall title, while 21 year old Matt Walker (Madison Saracen) was the unexpected men's overall champion.
Seth Sherlock (Intense Factory) was, once again, the top Canadian of the day, finishing seventh in Junior men, while Finn Iles (Specialized Gravity) was 16th in Elite men. Mark Wallace (Canyon Collective) was one of many late starters who struggled when rain for the final 25 riders made upper sections slippery, finishing 45th.
Unlike in Round 3, on Friday, when track conditions were almost perfect, the later starters faced fog and drizzling rain, which slowed many of the final 25 riders. Organizers made some modifications to the course, but it remained an extremely long track that demanded a lot of the riders. Technical, rough, rooty and rutted at the top, riders then faced a long pedalling section through the middle, with many losing time here.
In the Junior women, Leona Pierrini (France) was beaten for the first time in four races, with Lauryne Chappaz (Dorval AM Pro) taking the win. The Junior men's win went to Danie Silva of the United States. Pierrini still easily won the Junior women's overall title, but Junior men's world champion Oisin O'Callaghan (The YT Mob), winner of the first two rounds, had his second consecutive poor result (20th), enabling Round 3 winner Ethan Craik (GT Factory) to take the overall title. Sherlock improved from 14th after Round 3 to finish 12th overall.
Cabirou was the fastest at all splits to take her second win in four races. Nina Hoffman (Nina Hoffman Racing-Stif), winner of Round 2, took second, 1.7 seconds back, with Tahnee Seagrave (Canyon Collective) third. Cabirou, with two firsts and two seconds, won the overall title with 825 points, 50 ahead of Round 3 winner Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Muc-Off by Riding), followed by Hoffman at 664. The race was also the final one for Australia's Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) before she retires after a long and distinguished career.
The Elite men's race was split by the rain that fell for the final 25 riders. Scotland's Jamie Edmondson was the first sub-3:57 rider and held the Hot Seat for more than an hour, eventually finishing fourth, for his first World Cup podium. His time was expected to be broken repeatedly by the top riders, but the slick conditions at the top saw multiple riders struggle, with 44th for Aaron Gwin (Intense Factory), 19th for Loris Vergier (Santa Cruz Syndicate) and 30th for Danny Hart (Madison Saracen) among those finishing well off the pace.
It wasn't until the final three riders that Edmondson was finally dislodged from the top spot. Walker was the third from last starter and, by taking the lead to guarantee a finish no lower than third, he locked up the overall title. Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who two days earlier had added a 22nd World Cup win to his record number of wins, then smashed Walker's time by over a second, leaving only Bruni to ride. The French rider was fastest in the first split, then slightly slower then Minnaar in the next two, then faster again in the fourth split, before finally taking the win by only 0.170 seconds. Walker beat out Bruni by a slim ten points for the overall title at 687 points, with Minnaar a further 50 points back. Iles finished 12th overall and Wallace 30th. Vergier, winner of the first two rounds, who suffered a flat in the third, dropped to fourth overall.
"It was the toughest day," said Bruni. "At the start there was a little bit of rain, and I though God was testing me or something. But I was like ... you know what, fuck it, I'll just go for it. Everyone like Greg and Matt had the same conditions ... I wanted it so bad and that made the difference, I think. Compared to the races before, which went really bad, I'm so happy to finish with a bang. It wasn't perfect, but I'm happy; I gave it everything I had on the flat and that made the difference."
Walker won the title with his consistency - a second, two thirds and a fourth. "I came into this [final] race having already surpassed all of my expectations for the year. The run was tricky and the conditions were a bit sketchy. I tried to learn as I went along and when I got to the middle sections of the track I just gave it everything I had. To come across the line and get the news that I had won the overall ... it's incredible and so hard to put into words. I've realized a dream today, so thanks to everyone who got me here."
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