Four years and 316 days since he last climbed the top step of the podium at a World Cup race, Sam Hill added a 12th World Cup win to his impressive list of achievements. He’d been threatening to take the win for most of this season and he;s finally got that winning feeling again. So where did he find that extra pace to take that elusive win?
The first split was in fact almost three minutes into the course – nearly 70% of the course distance. Get a lead here and you’ve got a good foundation to go on to a good result at the finish. The fastest qualifier, Josh Bryceland, continued his strong run of form by going fastest at split 1 but Hill was a mere 0.012 seconds behind. Only Troy Brosnan and Danny Hart could get within a second of these two. At this point the top 10 were covered by three seconds, Gee Atherton just outside that group in 11th. The rest of the top 20 were over 4 seconds back.
Into Sector 2, and although this was a short sector of 50 seconds or so, there were a few movements in positions. Sam Blenkinsop went fastest and found almost 0.7 seconds over Troy Brosnan. This was a pretty big gap when you see the next seven riders were covered by only 0.45 seconds. Sector 2 was where Josh Bryceland slipped back slightly. He looked a little untidy through the middle woods and ended up only 10th on the sector, giving up over a second to Sam Hill and Troy Brosnan who kept up the pressure with the second and third fastest sector 2 times.
Overall then, Josh Bryceland’s slip up was Sam Hill’s gain and he moved into the lead overall at Split 2. Still only a second spearated the top 3 of Hill, Brosnan and Bryceland though. Blenkinsop managed to move up ahead of Greg Minnaar to 6th place at split 2 with the fastest sector time.
The final sector was a mere 25 seconds long but that short section was still enough to have a bearing on the outcome. Whilst Bryceland lost some time in Sector 2, it was Troy Brosnan’s turn to get hung up a little in the final rock section. He gave away 1.2 seconds to Hill and more importantly, a second to Bryceland – enough to surrender second place and in fact drop down to fourth, below Danny Hart.
Looking at the heatmap, Hill was the only rider to make the top 3 in all three sectors. In contrast, the rest of the podium had at least one slip up – Bryceland 10th on Sector 2, Brosnan 15th on Sector 3. Hart was consistent but always just slightly off winning pace with 4th, 6th and 5th place on the three sectors. For Blenkinsop it was his fast middle sector that lifted him up onto the final step of the podium.
The points race after five rounds
Two rounds left to race and if anything it’s got even tighter at the top. Brosnan keeps his overall lead but Bryceland has made up ground by taking second to Brosnan’s fourth at Mt Ste Anne. Only 42 points is now the difference. with a potential 500 points to play for in the final two rounds. When it’s this tight, even qualifying points become all important as Steve Smith’s win last year at Leogang showed. Further down Sam Hill has moved up from fifth to fourth and the gap between the top 4 and the rest has widened. Gwin is still handily placed too with a home race at Windham to come. It really is the most open finish to the season for years.
So, the World Cup continues to be super tight and super exciting. The circus moves on to Windham and even though I’ve had my head in these stats all year, I’m not willing to make any predictions when it’s this close!