So there we were; eight bike bags, three wheel bags, seven kit bags, not forgetting the usual helmet bags and backpacks thrown in for good measure and we had ourselves a trip to Mt St Anne, Quebec for the fourth World Cup of the season… Not to mention a pretty impressive display of everything OGIO have to offer!
It was only the second or third visit to the infamous Mt St Anne hill for most of the team, but as it turns out the World Cup (or a World Championship) has been there every year for 23 years. Luckily for the Madison Saracen team, manager Will Longden has been there for 18 of those years so he knows a thing or two about the place and soon had the everyone settled in. You’ll be hard pushed to find a DH racer that doesn’t love the Mt St Anne hill, fast, rough, rocks, roots, berms, trees, wide open, jumps, loose, loamy, it’s basically a list of everything you’d love to see on your perfect track, all on one hillside for 4-5 minutes of your riding pleasure.
After a day of settling in and track walk, practice soon came knocking and unfortunately for Harry, it came knocking very, very hard! Towards the end of the day as he started to push for extra seconds, he made a mistake mid-way down the hill at about 30mph and was high sided straight to his head and shoulder. Several worrying hours later and he started to remember who we all were, where he was and sadly for him; the reality that his race weekend was over. The hospital in Quebec was great and Harry was given the OK to check out once they’d run him through every machine in the place to make sure there were no more serious injuries other than the bad concussion. Strong and determined, Harry will be back to full speed for the next Saracen BDS race in a weeks time…
Harry – “Who are you anyway mate? Is my bike OK? Damn the nurses are hot… Is my bike OK? Where did I crash? We came in an ambulance? Where did I crash? Is my bike OK?”
It was up to Manon and Sam to fly the flag for the team then and with a solid qualifying run from both of them, intentions were set for race day. Even with a spill in the rocks mid run, Manon was sitting in 4th place and ready to fight for the win on Sunday.
Girls up first and the top five was wide open. Close times from qualifying gave nothing away and all were pushing hard in the upper sections of the track. On this long and demanding track it’s speed at the bottom of the hill that counts for a lot. As the steepness mellows with just the technical rock sections to go, it is vital to carry your speed and your strength all the way to the line. Manon crossed finished and went 3 seconds up on Florian Pugin. With three left to go she crossed her fingers, would it be enough for the win today? Emmeline Ragot is a veteran of the Mt St Anne hill and was on a storming ride, strong and aggressive she crossed the line taking the hot seat. Eyes back to the hill then with Atherton to come, she too was pushing hard and paid the price with two mistakes costing her dear. So a great second place for Manon despite a look in her eyes that suggested, “damn, second again”. She will push harder than ever to go one better at the World Championships which is next up on the schedule! She also strengthened her position in 3rd overall in the World Cup series.
Manon – “Happy with my result today which admittedly was a “steady run”. I pushed hard in training and had so many sketchy moments that I realised I needed to put a solid full run together on this tough track, rather than attacking it and getting out of shape. I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed with 2nd but it’s gone that way a few times now so I’m excited about getting to South Africa and trying to go one better for the World Champs“.
Sam up next for the team and looking strong. To say the men’s World Cup this year is tough is an understatement. 30 riders slotting into 7 seconds, leaves no room for nothing less than perfect in all departments. Add into that the weather changing from sun, to rain and sun again and you have an exciting afternoons racing on your hands. Sam’s time gave him 28th place and wasn’t far at all off the pace of the last man on the hill, Canada’s Steve Smith who took the win on home soil.
Sam – “I’ve been working hard on bike set up and I’m really happy with where we are now, the track went through a lot of changes this week and with the real close times, it’s important to roll with the changes and get straight up to speed. Times are tighter than ever this year, just 7 seconds from 1st to 30th, so there’s no margin for mistakes. It was a decent run today, just a few seconds from the top 10 result I’m aiming for every race”
So a roller coaster of emotion from the Canadian World Cup and it doesn’t look like calming down any time soon! Next stop for Sam and Harry is Bringewood in the midlands for the final round of the Saracen BDS, whilst Manon and Phil head to South Africa to compete for the Rainbow Stripes and a place in MTB history…
Photography and words : Laurence Crossman-Emms