World Cup Geek Stats: Vallnord 2016
How the hat trick happened
Momentum is a funny thing huh? As soon as you know you genuinely can achieve something, it somehow becomes easier to do it again. It certainly seems Danny Hart's got in the practice of winning now! So how did he take his third win of the season (one more than Aaron Gwin this season)? Let's take a look at the stats for the final time this World Cup season....
The lie of the land
The Vallnord track was brutal and quite varied with some roots up top, smooth berms in the middle and then steep, steep, steep to the finish. The splits were quite front loaded with the first sector the longest at over 1m30s and then a couple of short sections of 23 and 40 seconds to finish.
Set yourself up for a good run in the first couple of sectors and you'd think that you should be well set for a good overall time. This is what Danny Hart's third win in a row looked like in sector times for illustration:
Sectors 1 & 2
Just like Mont Sainte Anne, Danny Hart started fast and stayed there, going fastest at Sector 1 by just over a tenth of a second. There were a few surprising contenders at the first split thought. Eddie Masters was in second place, Bernard Kerr third and Alexandre Fayolle in sixth place. To balance out these surprises, Mr Consistency himself Greg Minnaar was sitting in fourth place less than a second back. Well in touch at this early stage.
Further down the top 20, Harry Heath may have been in his final World Cup before retirement but he showed he still has world class place with the 14th fastest time at split 1.
In to sector 2 and Hart just carried on in the same way that he dominated the field in Mont Sainte Anne, going fastest again and most importantly putting some serious time into all of his rivals. Although the positions from 2 to 20 were covered by about 1.4 seconds, Hart pulled out nearly a second over second placed Minnaar to go 1.8 seconds up overall at split 2. Eddie Masters was still on a great run at split 2. He went 14th fastest on the sector but didn't lose too much time to his rivals and held on to 3rd place.
Sectors 3 & 4
By sector 3 Danny Hart had surpassed his domination of the previous race in Mont Sainte Anne. There he went fastest on two of the five sectors. Here he was fastest on all of the first three! We were into the steep wooded sections by now and this seemed to really jumble up the field for individual sector times. Adam Brayton was running at around 16th place until going 2nd fastest in sector 3 pushed him in to touching distance of the top 10 overall. David Trummer went third fastest despite only taking 39th and 26th on the first two sectors.
In contrast, Greg Minnaar and Loic Bruni both gave up another 1.4 seconds to Hart in this sector, putting Danny a full 3.2 seconds up at split 3.
Although it was only about 25 seconds long, the weirdness continued into Sector 4 with some high profile crashes and movement in the overall. Loris Vergier, who'd had a pretty poor run by his now high standards, still managed to put in a blistering sector to take some consolation from an eventual 25th place at the finish. Amaury Pierron showed what might have been after suffering in the top sectors due to the rain that hampered the top qualifiers (Pierron qualified 4th) but still showing his raw speed in the lower woods where the rain hadn't quite made it's mark.
In the overall at split 4, Hart maintained his lead - only giving up 0.2 seconds to Vergier and keeping over 3 seconds between him and Greg Minnaar. This was also where Alexandre Fayolle made up the places that gave him a first ever World Cup podium. Eddie Masters crashed out of contention here and Connor Fearon could only go 19th fastest, meaning Fayolle jumped up to fourth place.
Into the final run in, and Danny Hart wasn't going to give it up from here. He actually gave up almost a second to Loic Bruni but he had such a buffer by this point that it didn't matter. Almost Gwinesque domination!
Another marker of what might have been was Troy Brosnan taking the fastest sector - another of the top qualifiers hobbled by rain at the top of the course but still able to put in some decent speed at the bottom.
Another marker for the future - Charlie Harrison from the USA had a great 11th place qualifier and finished 14th overall. He took 9th in sector 5 - faster than the winner Hart! One to watch for next season for sure...
Putting it all together
It's clearly a shame that the top qualifiers didn't get the weather that the rest of the field enjoyed as it ruined what was already a great race but that's not to do down Danny Hart's incredible achievement of three wins on the bounce. He still consistently beat the likes of Greg Minnaar and Loic Bruni which is no mean feat once, let alone three times!
We can see from the sector heatmap that his dominance was complete over the firest three sectors and that there's an awful lot of light boxes (meaning a low sector placing) across the board. Very few riders managed a consistent and clean run. Alexandre Fayolle managed a 4th place overall with 13th on sector 2 and 17th on sector 5 for example.
Sector position heatmap
With people crashing all over the place, the overall position tracker shows how quite a few riders were able to recover from relatively poor starts to eventually grab a place in the top 20. Mike Jones went from 38th a split 1 to 11th at the finish for example.
Overall position tracker
So, World Cup done and dusted with Gwin able to take the overall with the luxury of a 55th pace saunter down the track but it's Danny Hart that again takes the momentum going to the Worlds this weekend. It's surely a tough ask to take four wins in a row, but you remember what I said at the start about things being easier when you know you can do them?
Well Danny Hart's most definitely got form at the World Champs. Then again - Aaron Gwin most defintely has form at Val di Sole. I'd have to back one of those two for the win but in downhill right now it's so close that it could be any one of the top 10 of even 20 riders. I can hardly wait for the weekend!