Thank goodness for Troy Brosnan! The only man between me and looking a bit silly having played down Sam Hill’s chances in my preview post last Saturday… One thing I can claim I was right on was that there’s a pack of young riders all capable of taking the win these days. Brosnan proved me correct in that regard at least! Whilst much of the top 10 was still the usual suspects – Atherton, Gwin, Minnaar, Smith and Hill – Sam Dale continued his good season along with 9th for local boy Greg Williamson. Enough of the overall, let’s get stuck into the detail shall we?
Fort William is a great track but it’s an annoying one to analyse. Of a four and a half minute course, the top split is only a minute in, with the final sector only just over thirty seconds. This does mean that even if you’re down a little at the first split, you’ve got time to make it up again in the long middle section. At the first split it was Danny Hart in first place with Brosnan back in 6th, three quarters of a second behind. Connor Fearon was also making the early running, only 0.2 seconds behind Hart. Most of the big hitters were still there or thereabouts here with Hill, Atherton and Gwin all within a second of Hart. Steve Smith and Greg Minnaar had some ground to make up here however, 1.4-1.6 seconds back on Hart.
The long drag. Over three minutes, or about two thirds of the course, in a single sector. Do well here and you are well set for a good position overall, as long as you’ve still got the lungs for the motorway in sector 3 that is. This was where Brosnan did the damage to the rest of the field. Over a second faster than Sam HIll in second and nealry 2.7 seconds back to Hart in third, Brosnan demolished the experienced pack to storm into the lead here. On the flip side, Connor Fearon dropped back into the pack, losing 6 seconds to Brosnan on the sector and dropping to 10th overall. Josh Bryceland also put in a decent time here to haul himself up to 7th overall. Keep that in mind as we head into the final sector…
The motorway and the drop into the finish arena – one of the most iconic images in World Cup racing. Short and sharp but after the physicality of the rest of the track, you can easily see the riders with something left in the tank for the final sprint compared to those that are already spent and losing time over the jumps.
This year there were no last gasp changes in the top placings on the motorway. The top 6 stayed the same from split 2 with Brosnan showing that he can put out some power despite his relatively small build. Hill dropped back a little here with only the 15th fastest sector time but he had enough in the bank to hold on to 2nd place overall. There were a few movements further down the field however. Sam Dale yet again showed that he’s in supreme shape this season, after the 4th fastest pedal at PMB he took the fastest time of the day on sector 3. This shot him up from 14th at split 2 to 8th at the finish line.
On the other hand, the biggest loser of the day on the final stretch was Josh Bryceland. He mentioned in a post race interview that a big headwind whipped up as he hit the motorway and the times certainly suggest that something was up. He was 55th fastest in sector 3, over 3.2 seconds behind Sam Dale. On a sector that is only just over 30 seconds long that is a lifetime, and it dropped him from 8th down to 13th overall.
Taking a look at the heatmap, you can see how a good second sector contributed to a good overall result. The order of the sector 2 placings is very similar to the overall. Greg Williamson was 24th fastest in sector 1 and 25th fastest in sector 3 but a 10th place in sector 2 was good enough to get 9th overall. It’s also interesting to spot the little clump of relatively poor sector three placings from Marc Beaumont down to Connor Fearon. 38th, 42nd, 55th and 47th respecitvely for Beaumont, Bruni, Bryceland and Fearon. If only I’d got the Geek Stats anemometer set up on the motorway I’d be able to tell you if the wind made the difference. An idea for next year?!
So another classic race at Fort William and finally a new World Cup winner to add to the list. Three races and three winners with the overall looking more than a two horse race for the first time in years. Will Leogang make it four different winners out of four next week? I can’t wait to find out!