World Cup Geek Stats: Leogang 2016

In the circumstances it wasn’t surprising. Given his relatively good record at Leogang without a fully working bike, it seemed inevitable that Aaron Gwin having a clean run with no mechanicals meant he’d take his second win of the season.

Words: Mark Shilton Photos: Seb Schiek

He lengthened his lead in the overall but Troy Brosnan and Danny Hart kept the pressure on Gwin to keep him in check for the rest of the season with a 3rd and 4th place respectively. Loris Vergier filled the boots of his injured team mate Loic Bruni admirably, taking a career best 2nd place. So where did Gwin find the speed to deny the young Frenchman a maiden World Cup win?

The track roughly broke down into three main sections in terms of splits – the top two sectors were wooded, rooty and wet through practice, Sector 3 was the big motorway section that rewarded the more powerful riders, then back into the woods and a final sprint to the finish. Let’s break it down into those three and take a look.

Sector 1 and 2

Out of the gate it was Vergier who made the early running. He took a third of a second from Gwin in Sector 1 and then almost another second in Sector 2 to take a 1.255 second lead at Split 2. Matt Simmonds was on pace in Sector 1, going 5th fastest but dropped back on to 17th fastest in sector 2. Surprise top 10 qualifier and former World Cup 4X rider Johannes Fischbach showed that his qualifying time was no fluke, going 8th in Sector 1 but a puncture sadly ruined the rest of his run.

At Split 2, Vergier had a solid lead of over a second, and only Troy Brosnan and Aaron Gwin were within two seconds of him. As we’ll see, by Split 2 the podium places had been decided. No one dropped in or out, but it was still all to play for to decide who took which spot in the top 5…

Sector 3

Out of the woods and roots and into the wide open mid-section. This was ultimately where Vergier lost ground and Gwin took the race by the scruff of the neck. Gwin went fastest and took over a second out of the rest of the field which is some effort considering this was only a 40 second section of the track. In contrast, Vergier still went 5th fastest but lost nearly 1.8 seconds on the sector to Gwin.

Four races in and there’s a few usual suspects that are showing up in every wide open section of the races so far. Mick Hannah went 3rd fastest which pushed him up from 22nd at Split 2 to 9th place at Split 3. Brook Macdonald recovered from a crash up top to go 9th fastest on the sector, and former Australian 4X champion Graeme Mudd again popped up into 9th place compared to positions in the 60s and 70s for Sectors 1, 2 and 4. A 19th place in the final sector also emphasised his pedalling prowess. Definitely one to watch if he can add a little more speed in the tighter sections…

Looking at the overall placings at Split 3, Gwin wiped out Vergiers 1.2 second advantage and edged into a half second lead. Greg Minnaar went second fastest on the sector and hopped above Danny Hart into third place as the riders went back into the woods with two sectors to race…

Sectors 4 & 5

Into the final minute and 15 seconds of the race and Gwin capitalised on a good third sector and went fastest again in sector 4. Of his top 5 rivals Danny Hart was closest but 1.3 seconds back. Brosnan and Vergier were within two seconds but Greg Minnaar had a bit of a wobble and lost 2.8 seconds in this sector.

Of the rest – Luca Shaw was having fun after a disappointing top section. 4th place in sector 3 was followed up with second fastest in sector 4 but still a full second off Gwin. His efforts moved him up to 7th overall at split 4. Bernard Kerr was also putting a relatively slow start behind him, going 7th fastest, hauling himself up to 9th at Split 4.

All of this meant that Gwin had built up a solid 2.4 second advantage over Vergier going into the final 30 second dash for the finish and he held on handsomely. Troy Brosnan took the sector honours but only pulled back 4 hundredths of a second. It was enough however for Brosnan to overtake Danny Hart and snatch third place, and some more valuable points in the overall. Hart was only 16th fastest in the last sector but had enough of a buffer to hold off Greg Minnaar for fourth.

The big picture

So, putting it all together in the heatmap and position tracker, we can see that Gwin again won it with crushing speed and consistency – fastest or second fastest in all five sectors. While Vergier held the lead for the first two sectors he couldn’t match Gwin for the whole run.

Sector heatmap

It’s really interesting to note in the position tracker that the top 5 were consistently fast, with no one crashing out. The eventual top 5 held the podium places at every sector with the exception of Danny Hart in 7th at split 1. The other interesting riders are Bernard Kerr who started relatively slowly but made up positions consistently from split 2, and Mick Hannah who smashed the middle jump section but then fell back again – see the big spike in his position at split 3. He can’t be too unhappy with 11th place though, especially with a sweet no hander on the finish jump!

Splits position tracker

What’s next?

So, going into round 5 what have we learned? We already knew that Gwin was the man to beat and he’s solidified his position at the top of the tree, but podiums for Troy Brosnan and Danny Hart are keeping the pressure on. Gwin’s not known for cracking under pressure but one mistake in the next round and the overall could be thrown wide open…

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