Expert statistician Mark Shilton casts an analytical eye on the split times from the Mont Sainte Anne World Cup. Interesting stuff!
Words and charts: Mark Shilton.
Last week it was 0.8 seconds, this week 1.3 but Aaron Gwin keeps finding that decisive turn of speed somewhere on the course to stay on the top step of the podium and lengthen his lead at the top of the overall. Where did he do the damage this time?
As in Fort William, the splits were slightly uneven with almost two thirds of the course in the top section with times in the 2min 40s and then two shorter sections of roughly 50 and 40 seconds. Gwin laid a solid foundation for the win in the top section, establishing a 2.5 second gap over second placed Greg Minnaar and 2.2 seconds faster than anyone else. Given the length of this section it is unsurprising that the top 6 in Sector 1 were also the top 6 overall. Put in a fast top section and keep it tidy in Sectors 2 & 3 and you were always in with a shout.
If you had a bad first Sector then it was hard to pull it back further down the hill. Steve Smith did a valiant job but only 15th fastest in Sector 1 meant he was always going to struggle to recover.
Out of the super-fast top sections and into the slick slippery woods… Steve Smith was up against it but he put in some serious effort on the bottom sections to make up the time lost up top with second fastest in Sector 2, only 0.013 seconds off Greg Minnaar. Aaron Gwin was only 6th in the woods and gave up almost a second to Minnaar and Gee Atherton. Danny Hart couldn’t make any headway on Gwin in this section – only 0.06 seconds faster.
This was also the section where Brook Macdonald threw away a podium place – nearly 2.5 seconds back on Minnaar’s time in 13th place. Sam Hill also betrayed the signs that he is still getting up to his very top speed with 7th place, 1.3 seconds back in a section that he would surely have dominated in his 2007/08 pomp.
If you saw the live coverage you’ll have seen the moment Gwin had on a sharp left into a rock slab where he slid out and his rear wheel got caught at the very last moment by an indent in the rock. Time lost, but not too much. Deliberate or lucky? I’m guessing lucky. Moments such as these are what World Cup races rest on when the margins are this tight.
If and Hill and Macdonald were off the pace in Sector 2 they both made up for it in Sector 3. Unfortunately Macdonald didn’t make up enough ground to get onto the podium but Sam Hill had almost half a second over everyone but the New Zealander – enough to haul himself back onto the box for the second successive race. Aaron Gwin was 0.7 seconds slower than Hill in 8th place for the sector but crucially only gave away just under 0.3 seconds to Greg Minnaar.
All about the top section…
In short, Gwin grabbed an unassailable 2.5 second lead at the top and did enough to hold on for the rest of the race. If you compare the positions gained/lost after Split 1 it shows how hard it was to make up many places in the second two sectors. Steve Smith and Andrew Neethling were the main winners in the bottom sections and Mick Hannah was unlucky with a snapped chain. On the podium Minnaar and Hart swapped places and Brook Macdonald lost out to Hill and Atherton.
Special mention has to go to the Colombian Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas who qualified 36th and was 31st at the first split but made up an amazing 11 places after split 1 to take his first ever top 20 at a World Cup. Hopefully that gave his team boss at CG Racing Brigade something to smile about if he was watching on from his hospital bed (heal up well CG!).
Is Gwin unbeatable? If the last two races show anything it’s that in small chunks he is. He was only fastest in a single sector in Mt Ste Anne and Fort William but he did enough to hold on in the others. Can someone put time into Gwin where it matters at his home race in Windham with a few thousand Americans screaming for him? If I was a betting man I wouldn’t put money on it…
For more of Mark’s expert race analysis check out his blog here.