World Cup Geek Stats: Fort William 2016
Find out where Minnaar won his record breaking 19th World Cup
Fort William done and dusted for yet another year and yet again it doesn't disappoint for brutality, drama and history making racing. More crashes in the top 20 than I can remember at any World Cup and a record 19th World Cup win and 6th win at Fort William for the legend that is Greg Minnaar.
Let's take a look at his splits to understand the course a little better. As you can see the top two sectors made up nearly three-quarters of the track: 03:04.735 of Minnaar's winning time of 04:35.601. The final three sectors all clocked in around the 30 seconds mark but although it was clearly going to be won in those top two sectors, the physicality of the track meant that the last sectors were defintely a place where it could be lost.
Sector 1 was a full minute long but, other than Ed Masters' early exit from proceedings, there was little to separate anyone on the open top section - only 2.5 seconds split the top 30 with a minute of racing gone. Having said that, Danny Hart set the early pace. Only he and Loris Vergier went sub 1 minute. Hart even managed to pull out a precious 1.2-1.4 seconds over contenders like Minnaar, Gwin and Brosnan. Gee Atherton was still in the hunt here, only 0.8 seconds back in third. Although his run didn't finish so well, Martin Maes was enjoying his switch to downhill for a weekend to go 5th fastest at the first split.
At nearly half the race time, a fast second sector was required to be in with a chance at the finish, and this was where Greg Minnaar got his skates on. He went fastest in this section with only Adam Brayton and Danny Hart and Aaron Gwin within three seconds of him. Overall, Minnaar went into the lead with Hart dropping back to second and Brayton's fast sector 2 pulled him up from 21st at split 1 to third at split 2. Gwin was still just about in touch in fourth place and first year senior Laurie Greenland was running well on the final podium spot.
Sectors 3 & 4
Out of the woods and onto the open pedalling and jump sections. The beating the track handed out to the riders was starting to tell on some. Not Adam Brayton though, at least to start with. He proved his qualifying and wild top section was no fluke by going fastest in sector 3. However, moving into the start of the motorway he gave away that time, going only 20th fastest time in Sector 4 but he was still holding onto third spot, albeit just a quarter of a second from Aaron Gwin.
Troy Brosnan showed that although not the biggest racer on the circuit, he puts out some serious power by going fastest in Sector 4, and also easily going fastest through the speed trap - the only rider over 60kph with 61.989kph (38.5mph). Sector 4 was also where Danny Hart started to fade slightly. He was only 13th fastest and gave away 1.5 seconds in the sector. Still, with only 30 seconds to go, and a gap of nearly a second to 3rd place, he looked fairly safe in second at this point at least...
Overall, the top five remained unchanged, with the only movement being Aaron Gwin hopping over Laurie Greenland into fourth place. Greg Minnaar was just incredibly consistent, going second fastest on both sectors and pulling out another two seconds over Danny Hart in the process.
The final push. Seemingly just a few smooth jumps into the finish but after such a punishing track, it is far from the truth. This was where the pedalling specialists came out. Mick Hannah went fastest and managed to move himself up from 31st at split 4 to 23rd and, after his power packed debut in Geek Stats in the final pedal section at Cairns, Graeme Mudd made it two pedal efforts in a row, going third fastest on the final sector, moving him up from 32nd at split 4 to 24th overall. Splitting these two was another Antipodean powerhouse - Brook Macdonald. As we'll see, we recovered from a relatively slow start to finish very strongly indeed.
For those in the hunt for the win, Gwin went fastest but less than half a second faster than Minnaar who had more than enough to take home the win with the sixth fastest final pedal. The most surprising result was Danny Hart who gave up nearly 2 seconds in sector 5 - only 47th fastest. With Adam Brayton only going 19th fastest in the final motorway section, Aaron Gwin was able to sneak into second place in the final 30 seconds of the race, and add a few more points to his domination of the overall after three rounds.
Putting it all together
So lets's take a look at the heatmap of sector positions and overall position graphs. The heatmap tells an interesting story. Both Greg Minnaar and Aaron Gwin were superbly consistent, never out of the top 10 in any sector. Danny Hart started well but faded in the final two sectors - 13th and 47th respectively. Adam Brayton made it onto the podium with a blistering mid-section of the course - second and first in sectors 2 and 3. This gave him the buffer to be around 20th in the other three sectors and still step onto the podium with his best ever World Cup result.
Looking at how this panned out in the overall positions at each split, it's interesting how some of the top 20 riders made up lots of positions after sector 1 as it was so close at the top. After than the only big movement in the top 5 was Gwin's move into second in sector 5, and Laurie Greenland fading from 5th at split 3 to 8th at the finish.
Perhaps the most obvious drop was Loris Vergier who dropped from 9th at split 4 to 19th at the finish due to a puncture. A loss of pressure in his rear tyre higher up the course may have put paid to any hard pedalling in the final sector. On the flip side, Brook Macdonald made up for a relatively poor top sections with a storming finish that moved him up from 20th at split 3 to 11th by the finish and only 0.2 seconds off the top 10.
So, three rounds gone, four to go. Gwin's looking good on top of the overall at the moment, but Hart and Brosnan are still there and ready to pounce if he ever does make a mistake. Let's see what Gwin can do with a fully functional drivetrain next week in Leogang!