There was an interesting sub–plot to the junior world title chase in that the main contender, Yeti’s Richie Rude, decided instead to concentrate his effort on the senior class rather than attempt to win the junior title (his choice). The reality is that he’d have won Fort William finals and VDS quali’s, but not before being smoked by the younger Taylor Vernon at the quali’s at FW. Nevertheless Richie’s 28th at FW is the strongest overall time by a junior aged rider so far this season.
The Brits are flying too. GT Factory rider Vernon has had a troubled few races but the experience will have been priceless and he will no doubt straighten himself out over the next few months. Phil Atwill and Mike Jones were strong at FW, so to Aussie Dean Lucas and France’s Loris Vergier, the FW podium decided over five seconds. Atwill again stormed hard to win the VDS quali’s losing out by a tenth in the finals yet both pretty good for top twenty overall or thereabouts. American Luca Shaw forced his way back in and so to the almost local Gianluca Vernassa, our host for our recent carbon DH test in San Romolo – team mate to none other than Steve Smith.
More than anything VDS featured a truly international field of riders with eight countries represented in the top ten alone including Australia, GB, Spain, France, Italy, Canada, USA and Ireland. Add that list of countries to FW winner Niederberger from Switzerland and you have a big pile of international talent.
REASONS TO REGROUP
All roads and dirty tracks lead to Andorra then, scene of Peaty’s latest (and last?) World Cup win in 2009, where he beat Gee Atherton by two hundredths. Following that Mt St Anne is good for many riders including, dare we say it, Sam Hill; and the pretenders too, but as many times as Minnaar has tried only once has he mastered the event in thirteen attempts. This leaves Leogang, strong for Minnaar and Gwin, and then the showdown in Hafjell where Smith dominated last season.
Many scored to settle. Minnaar and Rachel Atherton will be looking to equal Steve Peat’s World Cup record, Gwin to get back in the mix, yet with a couple of big names somewhat struggling to find composure the time has never been right for Smith, MacDonald, Hart, Bruni, Brosnan, Brycleand, Blenki, Charre, Ragot, Pugin and Nicole to stick in some performances. Maybe what will happen is a ruck of action from these names over the summer months with riders taking risk, throwing down some wild ones to get in and amongst the action. This alone might not be enough to overhaul the GT juggernaut.