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The greatest moments of Manon Carpenter’s downhill career

A look back on Manon's stunning career

With today’s shock announcement that Manon Carpenter was turning her back on World Cup downhill racing, we look back at the career of one of Britain’s most successful racers.

Manon seemed destined for success from a young age when she took to her father’s Dragon Downhill courses. On the sloppy, steep tech of South Wales she was demolishing the competition from the very first one she entered.

A successful Crankworx trip in 2009 had Jason posing the question: “should we try a World Cup?” and the rest is history. Let’s look back at her highlights:

Maribor 2010

Manon’s first World Cup was 2010 in Maribor. On a notoriously rooty and techy course, storms swept in and left the course a quagmire. Manon finished 14th as the top junior, just behind World Cup stalwarts like Fionn Griffiths and Emmeline Ragot.

It was clear this Valleys’ girl was something special. Later that year she would finish one place off the podium in Champery.

Read Manon’s blog about the race here.

Champery 2011

Photos – Jacob Gibbins/British Cycling

Everyone remembers Danny Hart’s win in Champery in 2011 but there was further Brit success as Carpenter took top spot in the Juniors. She too dominated her race as she put 15 seconds into second placed Agnes Delest with a time good enough for third in the senior event.

Manon had unequivocally proven she was the best young rider around and was ready to pounce on the senior podium.

Pietermaritzburg 2012

It would take her just one race to achieve that as she claimed second place in Pietermaritzberg in the first race of the 2012 season. The track and conditions couldn’t be more different to Champery but that didn’t phase her as she fell just short of Tracey Hannah after a long stay in the hot seat.

Pietermaritzberg 2014

It would take Manon another two years to finally crack the winning nut as Atherton and Ragot juked it out for domination. It would be Pietermaritzberg where she picked up her first ever victory under the hot African sun.

She put four seconds into Atherton and more than ten into the rest of the field. It was clear Manon was coming into 2014 on a hot streak.

2014 World Cup Series

As is so often the case, when Manon had worked out how to win a World Cup she couldn’t stop doing it. Two more swiftly followed in Leogang and Mont Sainte Anne. For the whole season Manon was simply untouchable so it was little surprise when she was crowned as the World Cup overall champion at the end of the season.

Hafjell 2014

Just a fortnight after her winning World Cup season, Manon took to the World Championships in Hafjell as the hot favourite. She would deliver on her billing as she squeezed out Rachel Atherton by less than a tenth of a second for a Brit 1-2-3.

With a Brit 1 and 2 in the men’s field this truly was the dominant peak of British downhill and Manon was right at its forefront.

Fort William 2015

Manon probably won’t remember this as one of the greatest moments of her career, but it’s certainly one of the most revealing.

Fort William 2015 was a total washout – cold, wet, windy. The track was running slow and the motorway was a crosswind nightmare for the riders. Against all advice, Manon was the only woman sending the finish line archway jump. She qualified first and, despite being in touch at the splits, she still sent it as opposed to playing it safe.

She took a huge yard sale, had to run back up the hill for her bike and still finished fourth. In one ten second disaster, Manon proved she was more committed, more skilful and probably faster than pretty much all the other women out there.

Leogang 2017

The winter of 2017 saw Carpenter split from her long-term sponsor Saracen and strike out for new opportunities on Radon. She hit the ground running and smashed out three World Cup podiums in a row (with Leogang being the last of them) alongside a BDS win. No matter what her reasons for retiring, you can’t doubt that she was still fast enough to compete with the best.

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