So the 2014 World Cup season draws to a close with the gnarliest track of the year, hosting some amazing racing. Hill takes the win on the day and Josh Bryceland takes the overall – a combination that most fans would have been happy to see at the start of the season! Matt Simmonds also took his debut World Cup podium, but where did Hill find that third of a second to take the top spot?
At split 1, it was Gee Atherton and Markus Pekoll that made the running, with Sam Hill slotting into 3rd place, just under half a second back. Josh Bryceland was in 5th place here, but most importantly for the overall, he had a 1 second advantage over Aaron Gwin whilst Troy Brosnan was nowhere to be seen back in 52nd place, 3.7 seconds behind Atherton.
Further down the list, top qualifier Matt Simmonds was running 13th at split 1 and the surprise package of qualifying Francisco Marques Pardal backed up his 4th place qualifier by squeezing into the top 20.
The middle sector was the main selector for the overall. Do well here and you were well set for a good position at the finish line. Whilst everyone was talking up Sam Hill, it was Matt Simmonds and Aaron Gwin that took the fastest times of the day here. Simmonds went fastest but Gwin was a mere 0.033 seconds back. Hill and Bryceland were a second further behind in 3rd and 4th. Brosnan recovered slightly here, with the 14th fastest time in sector 2 but he was still giving away time to Gwin and Bryceland. It wasn’t to be his day.
Overall, Gee Atherton was still in front but only just. The top 5 were covered by just a third of a second at split 2 and it was all to play for. Loic Bruni was also still just in touch, 0.7 seconds back but then there was a bit of a gap back to Danny Hart in 7th place – 1.8 seconds back.
Into the final sector and this was where Gee Atherton lost the win. Although there was nothing obvious on the live feed, he gave up a massive 1.2 seconds to Sam Blenkinsop and Sam Hill, only 11th on the sector and almost dropping off the podium. Ahterton was saved only by the fact that Gwin gave up a similar amount of time on the final sector and he was the one dropped off the podium – leapfrogged by Loic Bruni
It was amazingly tight at the top however, only 1.3 seconds separated Sam Hill and Aaron Gwin in 6th by the finish line – the tightest top 6 of the year by some margin!
Looking at the breakdown of each sector, we can see that Sam Hill didn’t go fastest anywhere, but he was suprememly consistent. 3rd fastest in the first two sectors, and 2nd fastest in the sector 3. For Matt Simmonds, he gave up time in sector 1 that he wasn’t able to completely make up elsewhere and for Aaron Gwin, he was saved by the fast sector 2 that helped him up after 14th in sector 1 and 10th in sector 3.
Josh Bryceland said in his post race interview that he felt he was riding a little tight, but all he needed, after Brosnan’s result, was to come 6th or higher and he managed to keep it consistent with 5th, 4th and 3rd fastest sectors that were enough to give him the overall.
So that’s that, World Cup season over with some amazing racing, a handful of different winners and a new overall World Cup champion. Add in Sam Hill back to his best and I cannot wait for the World Champs!