So finally we have a repeat winner in the Men’s category this year. And what a win it was. On a track where the received wisdom said it was going to be super tight, split by fractions of seconds, Josh Bryceland blew the field apart with a bigger winning margin than his debut win in Leogang. This is even more impressive when you see that the track at Leogang was 50% longer in length and 40% longer in time so he had far less track to pull out such a gap. Looking in terms of the distance gap if riders were racing head to head, and the % difference in times, Bryceland’s second win was far more impressive than his first:
Comparing the wins – Bryceland at Leogang…
|Time||Average speed||Gap (metres)||Gap (%)|
|1st – Bryceland||03:18.749||45.102|
|2nd – Minnaar||03:20.024||44.815||15.87||0.6%|
|Time||Average speed||Gap (metres)||Gap (%)|
|1st – Bryceland||02:24.332||40.606|
|2nd – Gwin||02:25.913||40.166||17.64||1.1%|
So where did Josh find the speed to destroy the field in such a commanding fashion? Lets take a look shall we?
Bryceland opened up a gap right from the start, going fastest at split one, but his rivals for the overall weren’t going down with a fight. Troy Brosnan was less than half a second back and well in touch at this point. Gwin had some work to do by this point with a 1.2 second gap already opened, but if there’s one rider who could lay it down in front of his home crowd (and his gran!) then it has to be Aaron Gwin.
In amongst the title contenders were a couple of young upstarts too. Neko Mullaly backed up his 3rd place qualifier with 3rd place at Split 1 but the biggest surprise was young Mike Jones from Wales. First year senior and qualified 20th but his practice sessions following team mate Sam Hill must have paid off as he went a blistering 4th at Split 1.
Sector 2 – the selector…
Bryceland and Gwin looked quick on the live feed, but it wasn’t until I plotted this chart that I really saw exactly how much quicker they were than the rest. This was where Bryceland tore the field apart. In hte middle wooded sections he took 1.5 seconds out of the whole of the field bar Gwin, Joe Smith and George Brannigan. What’s inccredible here is that Joe Smith was just under 1.3 seconds back in 3rd place on the sector but then only 1.5 seconds covered the places from Joe Smith in 3rd back to Jack Moir in 20th!
Crucially, whilst Bryceland tore on, Brosnan gave away 1.6 seconds on the sector to be over 2 seconds back at Split 2. With only a short 25 seconds sprint to the line in Sector 3, there was too much to do for the young Australian. Overall, Gwin jumped into the third spot vacated by Mullaly as he crashed out and Mike Jones continued his storming run. 8th on the sector but good enough to remain in 4th place overall at Split 2. Joe Smith also moved up to make it two CRC riders in the podium positions, but without the name Sam Hill on that list!
Sector 3 – bringing it home
While the last sector was less than 25 seconds long for the top riders, it produced quite a few changes in the overall placings. By this point, Josh Bryceland just had to stay upright to take the win, which he duly did. 6th place on the sector but only 0.35 seconds back and only giving away 0.15 seconds to Aaron Gwin, he roared home to take a famous victory.
Further back was where the action was though. Brrok Macdonald went fastest, with Sam Blenkinsop 3rd quickest. On the flip side, Joe Smith and Mike Jones could only manage 30th and 23rd fastest respectively. This was enough for Macdonald and Blenkinsop to sneak onto the podium in the last 25 seconds of the race. Although the gap was unexpectedly big right at the top, the racing was still super tight down the results sheet.
The heatmap shows how Josh Bryceland tok the win with the fastest times on the two main sectors of the race. What the heatmap doesn’t have a symbol for is the absolute destruction of the field that he carried out in Sector 2. Further down the list we can see how Mike Jones nearly, so nearly took an incredible podium in his rookie Senior season but just lost out in the final sector. Also worth an honorable mention is the 20 year old Manuel Gruber who took his first ever top 10 placing. Having been on the edges of qualification for finals in his first couple of years of senior racing, he’s come on this year with 36th at Fort William, 24th at Leogang and now his first top 10. Look out for more from this young Austrian.
So, onwards to the final in Meribel. Bryceland now holds the coveted leaders jersey. Can he emulate Steve Smith last year and give us a masterclass in how to handle the pressure or will Troy Brosnan have something up his sleeve? I know I say this every time, but I really cannot wait to find out!