Look at the stats!!! Expert number cruncher Mark Shilton goes through the World Champs split times with a fine toothed digital comb!
Words and charts: Mark Shilton
Well, it was a shame that Gwin had a mechanical but Greg Minnaar managed to handle the pressure and put in another winning run nine years after his last Worlds victory. Times were tight with less than 3.5 seconds covering the top 5 but as we’ll see Minnaar managed to find fractions of seconds where it mattered…
Another track where the splits were massively skewed to a single sector. This first sector was over 2:10 out of a total of 3:21 for the winning time so a good first split meant you were well set up for a good overall. Greg laid the foundations for the win up top with a first sector that was over 1.5 seconds faster than everyone bar Mick Hannah and Gee Atherton. With only a minute of racing left the rest of the field had their work cut out to make up this gap.
In his 20th Worlds Peaty was well set for a top 10 finish at this point with 9th at the first split until a crash further down ended his serious involvement.
Into the woods and Minnaar continued his dominance. Maybe it’s his neat, precise style but he never seems to get bracketed with riders like Hill, Hart and Gwin when the going gets steep and rooty but he delivered here. Amazingly both Minnaar and Atherton both had exactly the same time here with Steve Smith only 15 hundredths behind in third – easily the tightest top 3 of any sector so far this year! Mitch Delfs and Bryn Atkinson might have been slightly off the pace in Sectors 1 & 3 but they were 3rd and 4th fastest around 0.36 seconds back.
Surprisingly Sam Hill was a little off the pace here down in 15th place but the biggest loser in Sector 2 was Mick Hannah. Having taken a 1.5 second advantage over Steve Smith in Sector 1 he was 1.7 seconds down in Sector 2 – only 26th fastest. This gap that would only grow slightly in the final run into the finish…
Minnaar had built up a lead of just over half a second over Atherton but they had been neck and neck in Sector 2. Here Minnaar closed it out with the 4th fastest time but crucially 0.1 seconds faster than Atherton and only 0.36 behind Steve Smith who went fastest on the run into the finish.
As always the heatmap shows up the riders for whom one bad sector was the difference between a podium and a top 10. The big light hole in Sector 2 shows where Mick Hannah, and to a lesser extent Sam Hill, lost time in the woods. Conversely Mitch Delfs, Josh Button and Bryn Atkinson all put in a quick second sector but didn’t have the power to go as quick in the first and third sectors.
Greg Minnaar might not have a World Cup title to chase when the circus moves to Hafjell in two weeks time but he will be looking smart in his rainbow jersey and that is one thing Aaron Gwin can’t beat him on. Yet….
If you thought Danny Hart’s win at the Worlds last year was a fairy tale then this one is even more of a surprise. Only one World Cup podium before this weekend gone and Morgane Charre goes and wins the rainbow jersey at her first attempt! There was only 0.4 seconds between 2nd and 4th but Charre won by over a second so how did she steal the prize from under the noses of the more established women on the circuit?
About two thirds of the track was in Sector 1 so a good first split set you up well for the overall. Charre was only 3rd after the first sector but crucially she was only 0.37 seconds behind Manon Carpenter and less than one tenth behind Emmeline Ragot. The top 5 were virtually guaranteed a top 5 overall with over 4 seconds separating Rachel Atherton in 5th and Micayla Gatto in 6th at the first split.
This was where the World Championship was won. Whilst 2nd to 5th were split by barely a third of a second, Charre went 1.2 seconds faster than anyone else. Crucially for Charre she took 1.4 secs out of Carpenter and 1.5 seconds from Ragot in the woods. This was also where Rachel Atherton’s back injury really started to tell – only 10th in a section where she would expect to be top 3 at the very least. This was also where Casey Berown began her charge from 10th at the first split to make 7th overall with the 2nd fastest time in the woods; her recent victories at Crankworx obviously giving her the confidence to go all out here.
Just like Sector 1, Charre wasn’t fastest but was fast enough to limit any losses, only giving back a quarter of a second to Ragot to hold on to surely one of the most unexpected World Championship victories in the history of downhill.
Looking through the heatmap, there are no massive light coloured areas near the top showing that the top places were close all the way down. The big move that won the Worlds though was Charre’s performance in the woods – the only area where any of the top riders managed to get more than a second’s advantage on any part of the course. What makes this even more impressive was that this sector was only 46-47 seconds of a 3 minute 50 second course.
Is this the breakthrough ride that will boost Morgane Charre into the very top ranks of Women’s DH in the longer term? Only time will tell, starting with Hafjell in two weeks time…