USA! USA! Gwin does it again in Windham with his third win in four years. Not only that but it was a demolition of the field of the type that Aaron Gwin does best. In the season so far, there’s only been two winning margins of greater than 1.5 seconds and Gwin has been the winner in both cases, at Lourdes in round 1 and here in Windham. Amazingly they are also the two shortest course on the circuit.
The best way to compare across tracks of different length though is to look at the percentage difference between first and second place. This controls for the course length and really makes Gwin’s domination at Lourdes and Windham clear. Apart from these two courses, the biggest winning margin was only just over 0.5% between first and second place. In Lourdes and Windham though, Gwin won by 2.22% and 2.21% respectively – an enormous margin in this sport of tiny fractions!
Winning margins for the season so far
|Round||Venue||Winner||2nd||Winning time||Gap to 2nd place||% gap to 2nd place|
|1||Lourdes||Aaron Gwin||Loic Bruni||02:58.691||+3.955||2.21%|
|2||Fort William||Greg Minnaar||Aaron Gwin||04:47.693||+1.119||0.39%|
|3||Leogang||Aaron Gwin||Connor Fearon||03:34.354||+0.045||0.02%|
|4||Lenzerheide||Greg Minnaar||Loic Bruni||03:00.535||+0.960||0.53%|
|5||Mont Sainte-Anne||Josh Bryceland||Loic Bruni||04:22.156||+0.200||0.08%|
|6||Windham||Aaron Gwin||Greg Minnaar||02:38.108||+3.505||2.22%|
So did Gwin take all that time on a single sector, or was he just simply dominant down the whole of the course? Let’s take a look…
Straight out of the gate, Gwin was on one. He pulled out 1.4 seconds over Loic Bruni in 2nd place while there was only 1.7 seconds separating the rest of the top 10! At this point it was Greg Minnaar who was a little off where he needed to be for the overall behind Gee Atherton and the surprise package of the weekend, Loris Vergier.
It was also good to see Steve Smith pushing back up in the top 10 after 8th place in qualifying and Harry Heath was also a new face in the top 10 in the final after qualifying 26th.
Into Sector 2 and Gwin continued to tear up the field. Troy Brosnan was only a third of a second back but Greg Minnaar gave away another 1.1 seconds in third. Again, the most amazing thing is that while Gwin took a second out of the rest of the field, the same gap covered positions 3 to 9. The Unfortunate Frenchman (copyright James McKnight 2015) Loic Bruni hit more bad luck in the second sector with a puncture that has pretty much put paid to his overall hopes for the year but Greg Minnaar took full advantage to move into 2nd place overall at split 2. Loris Vergier also moved up a spot as he went 6th fastest on the sector and took 0.3 seconds out of Gee Atherton. Josh Bryceland also recovered from a slow start (20th at split 1) to go 4th fastest on the sector and move up to 6th overall.
Big shout out has to go to Phil Kmetz though. His first ever World Cup qualification in 24th and then he went 8th fastest in sector 2, keeping company with some serious talent! Sadly he could only make 72nd at the finish but it’s still quite something to hit the top 20 even just for a sector at this level.
Into the final sector and at only 25 seconds long and with a 3.1 second advantage Gwin just had to stay upright to take the win. He wasn’t easing back to the finish though. Although he missed out on a clean sweep of sectors he was only 0.117 back from Luca Shaw who went quickest. Importantly though he still took more time out of his nearest rivals. Greg Minnaar slipped back another 0.4 seconds to finish 3.5 seconds behind in 2nd.Loris Vergier held on to a career best 3rd place after he only went 36th fastest in sector 3, but luckily Gee Atherton wasn’t able to make up the time, actually going slightly slower than Vergier in 37th. Steve Smith also had enough in hand to hold off Troy Brosnan and take his first podium since winning the World Cup overall in 2013. Welcome back Steve!
The form for the final round
After such a comprehensive win Aaron Gwin is sitting pretty to take the overall in Val di Sole barring any massive mishap. He has a 135 point lead over Minnaar going into the final round which means that Greg needs to take maximum 250 points and hope that Gwin finishes 6th or lower. Not an unheard of scenario but Aaron Gwin is most definitely in charge of his own destiny at a track where he’s carried out another famous demolition job in the past.
Overall top 5 after round 6
After Mont Sainte Anne I wrote that it would be all about who could handle the pressure as we get into the sharp end of the season. I think Aaron Gwin has well and truly shown that he can handle the pressure but also remember that none of the contenders actually cracked this weekend. Greg Minaar slotted into second place and Loic Bruni was second at split 1 and denied only by a flat tyre. It just goes to show that at the head of the World Cup field there’s barely a cigarette paper to choose between the form riders, which makes Gwin’s two demolition jobs in the World Cup so far this year all the more impressive.