Bruni – No need to panic?

Frenchman in search of his first World Cup win

You have to wonder whether the emotion will be more relief than ecstasy that greets Loic Bruni if or when he wins a world cup downhill race, but let’s hope its sooner rather than later as so many transitioning junior racers have been hurt chasing too hard for gold and beyond over the past decade.

Words: S.Jones Images: S.Schiek Diagrams:

There’s a pressure that now builds on Bruni with every passing race that he fails to nail a final. Its partly of his own making, and an element of many people’s desire to see a rider put a dent into the utter dominance, and quite different character, of Aaron Gwin, the man who has won 42 percent of world cup races in the last five years – the complete racer in nearly every respect bar the rainbow jersey.

Gwin on his way to the top step.

Bruni, the likeable Frenchman who grabbed a world cup podium whilst still in juniors, a feat only matched by the likes of Vouilloz, Hill, Fairclough, Brosnan, totally commanded his race wins in qualifying last season at world cups in Lenzerheide, Fort William and Lourdes before gaining second place finishes at four world cup final runs by close margins. Expectation is hardly surprising.

Searching for that top step – Lenzerheide 2015. L-R: Brosnan, Bruni, Minnaar, Lucas, Atherton.

More than this he’s won a junior and senior World’s, he’s on a quicker bike than previous, he’s proven that he’s got the pace to within one turn of a final and more than anything seems to be having a grand old time, the most important factor of all. At the same time however he does have the partisan French two wheel fans chasing him and a senior world cup win to match other French men’s world cup winners – Francois Gachet, Cedric Gracia, Christian Taillefer, Mickael Pascal, Franc Roman, Remi Thirion and then the great’s Fabien Barel, Nico Vouilloz.

And whilst he seems to have been given the weight of expectation to chuck a big spanner into the Gwin dominance, along with contemporaries Troy Brosnan, Steve Smith and Josh Bryceland, has mates to take over the apparent passing of the Minnaar, Hill, Atherton roaring days.

The good news for Bruni is that history appears to be on his side, and that most of the former junior world champions have succeeded at senior level – Bryceland, Brosnan, and Richie Rude now world enduro champion – and that of those some have often taken some time to achieve senior level success.

There’s no need to panic. Stevie Smith moved up into seniors with no junior rainbow jersey in 2008 and it was not five years until he won a world cup, and six before he took the series. Josh Bryceland became world junior champion in 2009 and took six years to win one (also taking the series at the same time). Similar to Bruni, Australian Troy Brosnan took a senior podium in Val Di Sole in 2011 as a junior and even though he struggled with injury, won Fort William in his third senior year.

Photo: Redbull Media Pool

That said, the greatest racers of all time got their wins done quickly. Nico Vouilloz was winning world cups at sixteen and went onto win the world cup series in both his first two senior seasons. These were based on consistency rather than winning, although he won one race in each of them.

Sam Hill podiumed Fort William as a junior, and although his rival from junior days Gee Atherton snuck the first senior win (Schladming 04) the Australian went onto eleven world cup wins in his first six senior years – Nico took fourteen in his first six years.


Maybe Bruni will take a path similar Minnaar who only won a couple races in his first five years. Bruni has actually matched Minnaar in terms of podium positions in his first three senior years of racing too.

Loic Bruni is still only 22 with the average age of race winners in the past decade standing at 26, which also happens to be the the average age of the series winners over a similar period. However, whilst individual race wins is skewed by the likes of Minnaar and Peaty the fact is that a big percentage of riders under 24 win world cup races races and are quite young when they take their first. For the series however, on only one occasion in the past decade has a rider under 24 won the title – Hill in 2007.

Age of first world cup race win:-

Vouilloz 16, Atherton 19, Barel 20, Minnaar 20, Hill 20, Blenkinsop 20, MacDonald 21, Brosnan 22, Beaumont 22, Lehikoinen 22, Smith 23, Thirion 23, Bryceland 24, Gwin 24,

It could be easy to over-dramatise Bruni’s last corner skirmish with time in hand on the clock. But then many racers have done it over the years – Peaty in Le Gets, Hill in Val Di Sole, Bryceland and Atherton Hafjell, Carpenter Leogang, Palmer Are Worlds.

In the past twenty years Corrado Herin ’97, Greg Minnaar ’01, Peaty ’02 and Brycleand ’14 all went on to win the World Cup series title after relatively miserable first race performances out of the top five. Bruni will recover.

There will be many sub-plots being worked out in Cairns. Will the winningest world cup racer ever Greg Minnaar recover from a slow French start, can Gee Atherton halt what appears to be a declining podium trend over the past few years, can Sam Hill regain his 2014 form and will Danny Hart finally make the final push to the elusive world cup win? Has Stevie Smith truly regained the form and fitness that saw him win the 2013 series? Was Amaury Pierron a Lourdes flash in the pan or is it a classic case of step by step progression just like Smith did? Is Gwin inexorably marching towards a fourth title?

But more importantly has Brendan Fairclough really been mercilessly pushing 200kg deadlifts?

World Cup Downhill power gets switched back on for Round 2, Cairns, this weekend…. follow it here on Dirt

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