Amaury Pierron now has a lead of 280 points in the World Cup overall standings with just Mont Sainte Anne and La Bresse to go.
Mathematically, anyone down to Aaron Gwin in 8th could still wrestle it from him but, in reality, that’s going to take a series of events more unfortunate than even Greg Minnaar suffered last year for that too happen. As we see it, it’s looking like a three horse race between the youngsters - Pierron, Vergier and Greenland.
The state of play
Pierron - 933 points
Vergier - 653 points
Greenland - 646 points
Pierron has been in the leader’s jersey since Leogang and his lead grew 18 points in Vallnord so he is now further in front than he has been all year. Loris came from seventh up to second following his heroics in Vallnord and has a slim 7 point advantage on Greenland.
What does history tell us?
2017 - Aaron Gwin - 1,149
2016 - Aaron Gwin - 1,252
2015 - Aaron Gwin - 1,329
2014 - Josh Bryceland - 1,187
2013 - Steve Smith - 1,199
2012 - Aaron Gwin - 1,260
2011 - Aaron Gwin - 1,558
2010 - Gee Atherton - 1,229
The average winning points tally since 2010 has been 1,270 while the average second place rider has scored 1,109. A score of 1,200 seems a pretty good place to aim for most years but with Vergier and Greenland both unable to get there even with two perfect performances, Pierron may not be as hard pushed as previous champions to claim his crown.
What does Pierron need to do to win?
The simplest way for Pierron to win is to score 221 points over the next two rounds - that way, no matter what else happens, he is guaranteed the top spot. Pierron will also win if he finishes within 31 points of Vergier and 38 of Greenland in Mont Sainte Anne. There are plenty of other permutations, but these are the two most likely we reckon.
Throwing in a curve ball though, there’s a rule change this year that means there are no qualifying points for the final round, they are all pooled into one pot for a grandstand, race finish - the winner will score 250 points outright, second place 200, third place 170 etc. This means there will be added pressure on that final race run in France and it could swing the final results wildly if the race is still alive by then.
Most years, we’d say Pierron has it in the bag but Minnaar’s wretched luck from last year is still very fresh in the memory. Punctures, crashes, broken bikes and torrential rain all conspired against Minnaar and he conceded a lead of 253 points over Aaron Gwin and ended up third.
In Pierron’s favour, he has more points in the bag and a greater lead over second place than Minnaar did last year. But Minnaar scored just 62 points and conceded 458 to Aaron Gwin who was simply on another level - walking on water in Canada then his usual dominant self in Val di Sole - and scored the maximum 500.
It seems infeasible that Pierron will suffer the same fate but this is downhill and the scripts in this sport only ever seem to end up in the shredder.
What do Greenland and Vergier need to do to win?
A win is worth 40 points more than a second but then it's only a drop of 20 points to third, a further 15 to third and then increments of 10 from there. In essence, if you aren't on the top three steps you start to loose ground fast - probably a good reason why Pierron is way out ahead as the rider with the most wins this year.
Vergier and Greenland are going to have to hope for perfect finishes to the season from here on to realistically have a chance of beating Pierron. This will at least force Pierron to have to ride for podiums.
Any dip of form for Pieron will see his lead dissolve quickly but equally if the chasers don’t make some serious inroads on his lead in Mont Sainte Anne it’s going to be near impossible for them to catch him.
Pierron so far has been an underdog on the World Cup circuit. This is the first chance we’ll get to see him on top, under pressure and defending. It’s a totally different mental ballgame and it will be interesting to see how he copes if Greenland and Vergier start to chip away at his lead. The final round in La Bresse will also be a home race for Pierron, is this more pressure or something that will lift his game? We'll find out in August.
Whatever happens, it's very likely that three riders aged 22 or younger will top the World Cup standings this year. The new school has arrived and watching them juke it out will be an absolute pleasure.
Overall points calculator
Click on the link below to download our World Cup points calculator and try out a few scenarios for yourself:
How it works:
- Make sure you have Excel installed on your computer (or you can use Google Sheets)
- Open the downloaded file
- Fill in the bold 'position' columns and the spreadsheet will fill out the rest. Note, the calculator only works up to 40th position.