No Damp Disposition
Aaron Gwin stamps his mark on Leogang Qualifying 2016.
Words: James McKnight Photos: Seb Schiek
It was pretty much written from the start: Aaron Gwin’s dauntless presence during Leogang 2016 practice was a sign of something big in the bag… However, the qualifying run of a young Frenchman by the name of Loris Vergier – a man as modest as his famous mentor – hinted that he might just have an answer for the American’s almost infallible confidence.
The young Specialized rider from the south of France came ever-so-close to toppling the characteristically cool Gwin, going 1-1-1 in the first three splits before catching a struggling Josh Bryceland (who had reportedly fallen twice in the unpredictable ‘Gang-grease), who he was forced to chase to the finish line.
Whether Vergier would have bettered Gwin’s time is of course an unanswerable question, but he will ride into Sunday’s finals safe in the knowledge that he is capable of great things. Loris’ previous best finals result is 4th in Windham 2015, his best of 2016 a 7th in Cairns… we’re gunning for him.
With rapidly changeable course conditions and equally fickle weather, it’s perhaps understandable that parts of the men’s results sheet look somewhat upside down and inside out; in addition to Bryceland, other big names such as Thirion, Fearon and Greenland fell foul of the tricky ground conditions. But those who were up there at the sharp end of things have been promising from the get-go; Mike Jones’ miraculous escape from injury in his Fort William finals run crash did nothing to harm the young Welshman’s confidence, and his punishing of the Leogang track throughout practice alluded to his top-three speed.
Danny Hart is apparently going for the record number of practice runs in one World Cup season – the Redcar Rocket doesn’t seem to stop! Danny’s approach seems to be working just perfect, following up his Fort William podium with a fourth-place qualifier here.
Last week’s winner and 2012 World Champion on this very track Greg Minnaar rounded out the top-five. We can’t leave it there though… Dirt favourite Brendan Fairclough is on fire at the moment and edging close to the podium. Sixth place for Brendog!
For the Elite field on the whole it would appear that the conditions appeal to a certain type of rider on average. That is, a British or French one. About 26% and 21% respectively of the top 80 Elite Male qualifiers, in fact. No other nation comes close.