If you’re still wondering who to run in your Fantasy League team this weekend then maybe this analysis of last year’s race will help you out…
Mark Shilton is out stat man extraordinaire, so over to him:
It seems like an age since the last World Cup in Pietermaritzburg and I for one cannot wait for the World Cup season to finally get into its stride. To whet your appetite for this weekend I thought I’d take a look at what happened at the World Cup Final in Val Di Sole last year. Aaron Gwin continued his season long dominance and Danny Hart got up the head of steam that would take him all the way to the rainbow jersey two weeks later, but who put in a performance and what are the signs for this weekend?
Like most of last season Gwin took the win pretty comfortably with only Danny Hart getting anywhere close. The Trek rider showed his mastery of the steep and technical to go with his power on the more open tracks. Just over 10 seconds separated 3rd from 20th and the gap between Matti Lehikoinen in 8th and Mickael Pascal in 20th was only 5 seconds. In this context, Gwin’s more than four second cushion to Gee Atherton was a massive gap.
Put simply, Gwin destroyed the field in the first and second sectors. At split 1, the average gap between 2nd and 20th place was 0.15 seconds and the biggest gap between two adjacent places was 0.41 seconds (Danny Hart and Markus Pekoll). But while the rest of the field were dealing in tenths of seconds Gwin put over a second into everyone.
One interesting note here was Markus Pekoll. He got his best ever World Cup result at Val Di Sole in 2010 with a 10th place but had a pretty average 2011 season, placing mainly in the 20s and 30s. He managed to hit some form again last year at Val Di Sole though, qualifying 6th and putting in the 4th fastest top section. He faded after that with a 24th 2nd split and a 70th place final sector but he could he be a dark horse?
Sector 2 was the same story but with Gwin even more dominant over everyone but Danny Hart. The average gap between Minnaar in 3rd and Leov in 20th was 0.277 and the biggest indivdual gap 0.557 but Gwinn stuck over 2 1/2 seconds into the lot of them! Hart burst out of the pack in this sector on a run of speed that would eventually take him all the way to the top step of the World Championship podium. Although he was still over a second behind Gwin he was also a full second faster than anyone else in the field.
Did Gwin ease up knowing that he had it in the bag? Did he know the rest of his run was so much faster than the rest he could just make sure he got down in once piece? Who knows, but this was the only part of the race where he seems to have backed off a little. He gave back over half the advantage he had over Danny Hart in the final section but it was still enough to take the win comfortably. By this time though, Hart was flying. The one image I remember from race videos is the one of Danny Hart absolutely motoring through the treacherous off camber corner that famously did for Sam Hill at the 2008 World Champs looking for all the world like he was going to lose it into the crowd on the exit, only to throw up an insane amount of roost into the face of some poor guy, who’s life probably flashed before his eyes, and somehow pop out of the corner at full speed! Little did we know that this was just a warm up for what was to come two weeks later….
A couple of other young guns came to the fore here too. Brook MacDonald and Troy Brosnan were the only other two riders to go faster than Gwin in any part of the race and their times on Sector 3 were enough to haul both riders up the leaderboard. Brosnan managed to sneak onto the podium after a 7th and 6th fastest Sector 1 and 2 whilst MacDonald moved up to 7th overall after a 9th and 13th in previous sectors. Loic Bruni, still a junior for 2012, also put in a quick bottom section to sneak into the top 20 overall – will we see him build on his solid 26th and top junior in South Africa?
Putting it all together…
The top 20 heatmap for Val Di Sole shows a very consistent top 5 (The darker the colour the higher the position for that sector) The lowest position any of the top 5 had on a single sector was Troy Brosnan’s 7th in Sector 1. What the heatmap shows well is where some of the others threw it away. Minnaar had a poor top section (did he crash? I vaguely recollect it but it might have been another race…), Brook Macdonald hauled himself up the leadberbaord with a fast bottom section whilst Matti Leheikoinen and Andrew Neethling both had poor final splits.
So, that was last year. Personally I still can’t see past Gwin for the win although I’d love Danny Hart to banish the curse of the rainbow stripes and take his first World Cup victory. The one thing that last year showed was that you’ve got to go full on to win but at the same time, you can’t afford a single mistake if you want to get on the podium. It’s that combination makes the World Cup so exciting. I can’t wait!
For more of Mark’s race analysis check out his blog here