Mont Sainte Anne Finals: The Unfortunate Frenchman - Dirt

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Mont Sainte Anne Finals: The Unfortunate Frenchman

A sport of fractions. Of tiny margins. Of what ifs. When times at the top are as tight as Mont Sainte Anne's 25th anniversary downhill finals, there is no room for mistake, and no place to be questioning what could have been. Loic Bruni knows well what we're talking about.

Juniors

With a qualifying run that saw him take the Junior category by the throat, Jacob Dickson of our own Orange Dirt World Team held great hope for his biggest result yet, but unfortunately a mistake in the rocks would prove costly for the Irish lad, putting him into fifth place. Hopes dashed in one wrong move, but a lesson learnt at the same time and Jacob has plenty of time ahead of him. Charlie Harrison of the USA put in a storming run, moving him up the results sheet and into fourth. Hopefully we will see more riding like this from him next week in Windham.

Andrew Crimmins clearly has immense talent on his bike and a great mentor in the form of him teammate Connor Fearon, the Australian has moments of wild that have proved costly on a couple of occasions this season, but here in Mont Sainte Anne he was perfectly happy with his run and third place finish.

Alex Marin Trillo is one of the consistent four (incl. Dickson, Crimmins and Greenland) who have been mixing it up at the top of the Junior results this season, and he edged close to the top step this time around. Second place for the Giant Factory Racing athlete.

Which leaves just one: Trek World Racing’s Laurie Greenland. With somewhat of a nightmare in practice – lost team bikes causing him to miss most of it – and a crash in qualifying the young Brit was against it. But adversity played into Greenland’s hands at Round 4 in Switzerland and it certainly did here too. A huge win of over six seconds and the second time Laurie took to the top step of the podium in 2015. Bravo.

Women

The top end of the women’s results sheets has pretty much been a two-rider battle in 2015, with Rachel Atherton and Emmeline Ragot heads and shoulders above the rest in terms of speed on track. Alas, while Ragot was within touch of Atherton in qualifying, she took a horrendous crash off the final big container drop in morning practice, landing to the flat and breaking her ankle and elbow in the process. Healing vibes to her.

That left the rest of the field to step up to the mark, and that is exactly what they did.

Myriam Nicole has been absent from the World Cup scene for most of the year with a shoulder injury sustained in Scotland, but this was to be her return to racing and also the form we expect of her. Third place and she was motoring through the rough up top – not a hint of apprehension from the Commencal rider.

While Manon Carpenter has been there or thereabouts all season, she hasn’t quite been on the form we saw of her in 2014, but judging by the way she attacked the MSA course in finals we can expect to see her right up to speed as the season draws near its end. Second place for the Madison Saracen rider.

There was a poignant pause in proceedings before Atherton’s run, a space left in the category by the absence of Ragot. And also just enough time for the thunder storm that had been threatening all morning to begin to unleash its load. It wasn’t anything monumental but enough to wet the goggles (Carpenter had a brief shower during her run too). But there’s little stopping Atherton and she rode fast and composed to yet another victory in a season of racing that has her name all over it.

Men

It’s always astounding to see racing come down to the line, especially on a long and brutal course like Mont Sainte Anne’s. With all the many variables – the differing line choices, the bike setups, rider size and fitness to name a few – it is difficult to imagine how the top three can be separated by such a small margin. Two tenths of a second from Josh Bryceland in first place to Troy Brosnan in third. Lest not forget the rider sandwiched between the two, the one with the knowing grin of a man who has been here before, Loic Bruni.

But we’ll get back to that. First the could-have-beens. Aaron Gwin has such a history of mechanical issues racking up now, and his broken crank in qualifying adds to that list. Undeterred, the American rode fast and creatively in finals, but simply not on the pace of the top finishers. Grimy weather making the course slick in places and not playing to Gwin’s strengths, finishing seventh and just in front of Danny Hart, the Brit having a bit of trouble in the last seconds of the course forcing him into the biggest flat landing probably ever witnessed on the final jump. The standout performance of the category came from Canadian Mark Wallace who did his home nation and brand (Devinci) proud with an inspired ride into sixth. And Marcelo Gutierrez stepped onto the podium once again (following his first appearance in Fort William) with a fifth.

That left the heavyweights of the weekend. Greg Minnaar was looking stupendously fast from the very get-go in practice, and the South African’s race craft played off yet again. He racked another podium to the dozens he has accumulated during his prodigious career.

Troy Brosnan positively owned qualifying with his weather-defiant ride to first place, but even with his confidence at an all time high he didn’t quite have enough in the tank to take on the talent of an unfortunate Frenchman. Loic Bruni rode a perfect finals run – contrary to his big crash in qualifying – but luck just wasn’t on his side. Is it ever? The Lapierre rider’s chain derailed and he was left to coast the last minute or so of track, putting him in the hotseat at the time but only to be ousted by a certain Rat.

Josh Bryceland well and truly back to his best rolled out of the start gate and put in a single pedal stroke – a game of energy conservation and a very difficult one to play. It takes great confidence to know that coasting where others are putting in furious strokes is going to pay off later in your run, but then again that is something that Bryce doesn’t exactly struggle with. He rode a clever game and a perfect run to knock Bruni off the hotseat and eventually take the big win everyone has been waiting to see all season. The crowd erupted, the Rat’s fanbase chanted his name and the celebrations kicked off immediately.

Bruni was left with all but a wry smile, the Frenchman knowing that the tenths of a second that separated him from his first ever World Cup win could have easily been made up with a single pedal stroke to the finish line. Gutting, but Bruni is a true gentleman and when most people would have cried he jumped up to wholeheartedly congratulate Bryceland. That is sportsmanship at its very best.

FULL RESULTS

 

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