Let’s face it, racing downhill isn’t simple. It can take the smallest thing to throw you off a race run and riders only get a small chance to make it all work together. Lady luck may smile down and occasionally you are able to smash out the winning run. The feeling that comes with being fully in the flow, when the bike works in harmony with you, when you nail every line and pass through the finish elated, body coursing with adrenaline. But more often than not it’s a mechanical or an unexpected crash that catches you off guard. The simplest thing can ruin a run. That’s the reality between first place and something else, but it’s also part of what makes the sport so exciting. Anything can happen.
Racing has well and truly returned, the track proved a great start to the season and we saw new additions being added to make it more challenging than previous years. Race day was on a Saturday for this round due to the XCO/XCE taking place over the same weekend (this will be the case for other rounds with other disciplines racing during the weekend.)
Downhill final days this season:
Leogang, Austria – Sunday
Windham, US – Saturday
Meribel, France – Saturday
World Championships, Hafjell – Sunday
The season saw a few people competing with injury, after surgery and some not racing at all. Steve Smith is out for the first two rounds following his ankle injury, we’ll hopefully see him return to racing at Fort William in June for round 3.
The addition of the new rock garden saw a few riders go down over the weekend. Gee Atherton crashed near the top in qualifying seeing him go into 15th. Brook Macdonald also went down hard in practice on Thursday qualifying in 66th. Andrew Neethling and Emilie Siegenthaler also crashed in qualifying. A few riders were competing following surgery too, with Greg Minnaar still recovering from his knee surgery following his crash in Leogang last year. Cam Cole also returned to the race scene after breaking his back, placing a solid result of 12th place. As well as young rider, Taylor Vernon who returned following his back injury last year, placing 7th in Juniors.
Rachel Atherton most definitely deserves some props after coming second with a bacterial infection, her illness meant she wasn’t able to get as much practice, so kudos to her for getting an amazing result. The young gun, Manon Carpenter took her first ever World Cup win today in Pietermaritzburg, with an amazing time of 4:34.923, nearly four seconds up on Rachel!
Following his solid result in qualifying, Josh Bryceland ended up suffering a mechanical near the bottom section of the course, meaning it was game over when he couldn’t pedal, he ended up in 43rd place, no doubt revving him up to go into the next round wanting to take the win. Amidst the wheel size debate, a few riders opted for smaller travel and AM set-ups amongst the downhill bikes, including, Brendan Fairclough on his Scott Genius LT and winner, Aaron Gwin on his prototype 27.5 enduro bike.
There were a lot of riders eager to take the win here today, and Mick Hannah sat on the hot seat right until Gwin came down to knock him off top spot. The junior category is stacked full of talent, SRAM/TLD rider, Luca Shaw took the win here today by two seconds, he now leads the current standings with 60 points, followed by Loris Vergier with 40 points and Amaury Pierron with 30, a good lead and great start to the season for these riders. Overall, an exciting start to the season, disappointing for some following crashes and mechanicals, but some intense racing, and a great starting point for the World Cup. Despite what people think of PMB, it’s challenging in it’s own way and the new additions certainly helped to make things a bit more interesting.
Catch up with all the action over the past few days with galleries from, Laurence Crossman-Emms:
Men’s Top 5:
1. Aaron Gwin – Specialized Racing DH
2. Mick Hannah – Hutchinson UR
3. Greg Minnaar – Santa Cruz Syndicate
4. Loic Bruni – Lapierre Gravity Republic
5. Troy Brosnan – Specialized Racing DH
Full results here
Women’s Top 5:
1. Manon Carpenter – Madison Saracen
2. Rachel Atherton – GT Factory Racing
3. Jill Kintner – Norco
4. Myriam Nicole – Commencal/Riding Addiction
5. Emmeline Ragot – Lapierre Gravity Republic
Full results here
Juniors Top 5:
1. Luca Shaw – SRAM/TLD Racing
2. Loris Vergier – Lapierre Gravity Republic
3. Amaury Pierron -
4. Aiden Varley -
5. Benjamin Boutie – LAblanc/Scott
Full results here