Atherton & Gwin Close Out DH World Cup with Wins & Titles
The 2015 Downhill UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano concluded on Saturday in Val di Sole, Italy, with wins for the overall champions - Rachel Atherton (GT Factory) and Aaron Gwin (Specialized). For Atherton, it was her sixth consecutive win in seven races, while Gwin took his second consecutive and third of the season.
Despite forecasts of rain for the late afternoon, it stayed dry, with the track hard and fast. Thousands of fans lined the track from top to bottom, cheering on every rider.
Swiss champion Emilie Siegenthaler (Pivot Factory) set the first sub-4:30 time, with nine riders to go. Her time held up until five riders remained, when Australian champion Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) knocked nearly three seconds off.
From this point on, all but one rider kept setting faster times, first Tahnee Seagrave (FMD Racing), then Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Vallnord), who took the leading time down to 4:10.875 . World champion Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen) slotted in between Nicole and Seagrave, leaving only Atherton to ride. The British champion showed once again that she is in a class of her own this season, beating Nicole by over two seconds to record her sixth straight World Cup win for the season.
"That was pretty much all I had out there," stated Atherton. "There were some pretty horrible moments. You kinda don't think about the race anymore. I just didn't want to crash. I felt pretty sketchy. I really wanted it here [to win]. I knew it was going to be a bit of a struggle, obviously. Manon and PomPom [Myriam Nicole] like these long tracks. I was like, 'I've go the overall, but I don't want it to affect my motivation', it kinda did, but it's a really hard track."
"I'm not that confident [about Worlds]. Everyone else is speeding up. Andorra is a pretty big track . The home of Commencal and it would be really cool for PomPom to win there."
In the final standings, Atherton took the title with a massive 1660 points. Carpenter finished second with 1079 points and Seagrave was third at 986 points. In a touching moment during the ceremony, Atherton carried her long time rival and friend Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker) out to the stage. The French rider crashed at Round 5 in Mont Ste Anne, Canada, breaking her elbow and leg, and ending her season. Ragot finished fifth overall and was the only rider besides Atherton to win a World Cup this season, winning the opening round. On the stage, Ragot announced her retirement from professional racing and received a long ovation.
In the men's final, Amaury Pierron (Lac Blank Scott) was the first to go under 3:40, staying in the Hot Seat through 11 riders before Alexandre Fayolle of France knocked 0.163 seconds off his time. Fayolle watched 12 riders finish before getting bumped by Harry Heath (Norco Factory), by less then three-hundredths of a second. The first big drop in the leading time took place a dozen riders later when Loris Vergier (Lapierre Gravity Republic) took a second off, however, he didn't get much time in the Hot Seat before Brook MacDonald (Trek World Racing) took another two seconds.
MacDonald's time would be good enough for fourth, and when South Africa's Greg Minnaar, second in the overall standings, crashed and finished 54th, it assured Gwin the overall title. MacDonald stayed in the Hot Seat until the final three riders, when Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic) took the lead, followed immediately by Gwin, who finished 1.589 seconds in front. The only rider left was the fastest qualifier - Gwin's team mate Troy Brosnan.
Brosnan was very fast; half a second faster then Gwin at the first time split, and looked to be in good position for the win, until a crash ended his chances. Remarkably, the Australian champion still managed to finish third, showing how fast a run he was on.
"It was mixed emotions all week," said Gwin. "I didn't know he [Minnaar] had crashed, but I knew he had to get first or second. At first I wanted my guys to radio me and tell me how he did so I could play it safe or go for the win. But then I thought about it a bit and thought 'It's not the way I race'."
"Every time I race I wanna win, so to do any less than that would be selling myself and my sponsors and everything we work for a little short. So the game plan was to go for the win. The run was good, but I felt like a passenger the last couple minutes. So rough, my hands are done."
"I'm bummed for Troy [Brosnan]. He's been riding really well all week and he was up on me, it looks like he had a problem, without that he would have got me today."
"I'm just pumped. It was crazy to come down to the last race with the overall and all that. Never been in that position before and I was excited for it. Kind of a new challenge."
"For sure this year was harder than previous ones. Everyone is riding so well right now. Every weekend is a battle. We only have so many races. But I couldn't ask for anymore - Greg [Minnaar] was amazing. He is always so incredibly competitive."
Gwin ends the season with 1329 points to win his third overall World Cup title. Minnaar, who had been in second overall dropped to fourth, with Bruni moving up to second with 1059 points, followed by Brosnan with 1013 and Minnaar at 1006.
In the Junior competition, Marine Caribou of France was awarded the Junior women's title, while Laurie Greenland (Trek World Racing) took the Junior men's title.