Loose at the top. Tight in the trenches
All the action from a compelling round 3
Images by Seb Schiek
And so Aaron Gwin puts a king size dent into the rim of 29" downhill bike sales and, after messing up whilst ahead on the clock in Fort William kicks the World Cup series wide open after the mountain gods stormed the opener in Lourdes.
It was never going to be the super close race that the commentary predicted, with the podium being separated by the same margin on this three minute track as it was on Fort Williams four minute thirty affair. The men's final here in Austria saw margins of four, seven and eight seconds between podium, top ten and top twenty respectively. Yes this was a way tighter race than last year (8/10/14secs) but nowhere near what was being predicted. Indeed this was something echoed in Fort William which saw the widest margins in thirteen years between first and twentieth.
But whilst there appears to be a widening gap between the top and the rest of the field world cup has always had rising and falling margins between the top and the rest of the field so this might simply be short term. However whilst the margins are loose at the top Leogang was a real dogfight between 10th and 70th.
The day was laced with drama. Not quite as heavy as Remi Thirion’s horrific crash in qualifiers but enough to make it edge of seat viewing. The ironic part about Leogang was that even though there was grumblings about the less than technical nature of the track, it made for compelling viewing with solid and diverse camera work in comparison with what was quite a dull british affair on live tv in comparison.
Tahnee Seagrave set everything alight with a win in the women's finals, her first ever after coming mightily close on so many occasions. The guys at Transition out in the Pacific North West will be celabrating this one for sure. The season ahead looks set to be a battle royale between Tahnee, Manon Carpenter, Myriam Nicole and Tracy Hannah the Fort William winner.
Leogang on screen certainly had more engagement than Danny Hart and Mark Wallace were having on the hill with the Mondraker and Canyon riders shedding chains near the top yet still putting in super fast times to the split. But the drama was unfolding nicely to this point – Jack Moir sliding out but getting ahead on time, Mick Hannah sweetly hitting the downslopes to put in a fast time marred by a puncture whilst Slovenian Jure Zabjek was still holding the hot seat.
Brits Bernard Kerr and Laurie Greenland were still in contention until the first of the Syndicate came swooping into the arena. Greg Minnaar’s run was less than clean but it was three seconds quicker than his qualifier and the first to beat Gwin’s qualifying stormer but when team mate Loris Vergier pulled six seconds on his Saturday result it seemed Gwin would have a major task on his hands. The American responded in the manner of which you’d expect a man who has won four world cup titles to do. Attack.
Walker, Edwards, Seagrave and Breeden made sure it was a top six stacked full of Brits in junior men but this was a major win for Finn Isles over two seconds up on Fort William victor Matt Walker. Trek proved Kade Edwards was a good signing with a solid third and Kaos Seagrave showing its not just the Atherton’s who are a family force. Must be the mid wales water.