Look at the stats! Mark Shilton comes up with the expert analysis from the super exciting Val d’Isère World Cup.
Words and charts: Mark Shilton
Finally the Gwin/Minnaar World Cup monopoly is broken! What a crazy race. Crashes all over the place in qualifying and practice, some decent TV coverage thanks to the open and short nature of the course and even Rob Warner was back on form!
Brook MacDonald hadn’t had the greatest of seasons up to this point. Apart from 6th in Mont Sainte Anne he’d only managed two other top 20 finishes at Val Di Sole and PMB whilst crashes at Fort William and Windham put him well down the order there. This time though, he managed to stay on the right side of that fine line and stay on to take the win by just under half a second from Gee Atherton.
Gee Atherton must be wondering what he has to do to get another win. Since his last one in Windham 2010 he has been on the podium in 11 out of 13 World Cups without getting back on that top step. The top three did Gwin a favour too. If my maths is correct, a Minnaar win with Gwin second would have taken the overall to the final round but Minnaar 4th and Gwin 5th meant Gwin took the title with a round to spare for the second year running.
A tight race…
This was the tightest race of the year in terms of absolute seconds and also the percentage gap between 1st and 5th. Only 1.366 seconds and less than 1% separated MacDonald from Aaron Gwin on the unfamiliar 5th step of the podium. The only time there has been less than three seconds gap all year.
Slow and steady wins the race?!
Well, a steady start at least…MacDonald started off relatively slowly with only the 6th fastest time at the first split. It was looking ominous for another Gwin victory at this point with only 0.1 seconds covering Atherton, Gwin and Bryceland and we all know how consistent Gwin has been compared to the rest. Crucially for MacDonald the gap to Atherton was only 0.590 seconds and both Steve Smith and Andrew Neethling couldn’t match this pace in the middle and lower sections.
The second sector was where MacDonald lit the afterburners and went 1st both in this sector and overall. He made up about 0.8 seconds on Atherton, Bryceland and Gwin and although Minnaar was closer he was also playing catch up after only the 10th fastest first split. At this point Loic Bruni was also on a flyer. 8th in the first sector and 4th fastest in the second sector, he looked like he might challenge for a second consecutive podium spot until his front wheel washed out on the run in to the finish. Marc Beaumont is having an inconsistent season so far and it continued in this race. His sector times were a spotty 13th, 2nd and 17th for 7th overall.
Into the final run-in and MacDonald extended his lead. The times were tight but none of Hannah, Hill or Cole were going to bother MacDonald overall. Hannah’s second fastest time on the final sector pulled him up from 11th at split 2 to 6th at the finish.
The heatmap of truth…
The heatmap tells an interesting story. Whilst MacDonald started slowly and then took the race in sectors 2 & 3 both Atherton and Bryceland faded from 1st and 3rd at split 1 with 5th/6th and 6th/7th respectively in the final two sectors. Minnaar did well to recover from 10th at split 1 with a 3rd and 5th in sectors 2/3 for 4th overall. Gwin’s positions and splits are really interesting and suggest that the gash in his hand from qualification was bothering him as he slowed up as the race went on with 2nd, 7th and 11th fastest in the three sectors. The last sector was the first time he’s been outside the top 10 on any sector all year. His struggle to brake after the finish line might also have been a tell tale sign?!
The short course and tight times meant this was a super exciting race to watch and analyse. Riders on the limit made for some crazy crashes (Nick Beer front flip wins that contest!) and exciting unpredictable racing. More like this please!
Thanks to Mark Shilton for the amazing indepth stats! Hit up his blog here: lookatthestats.blogspot.co.uk