World Champs Geek Stats: Val Di Sole 2016
Another dominant display from Hart!
Five years after Danny Hart's incredible arrival on the World Downhill stage and he's done it again. It might have been half a decade but there were still a few similarities to the proceedings.
A dominant Aaron Gwin, fresh off a World Cup series win crashed out chasing the one title that still eluding him. Danny Hart put in a nerveless performance to take a convincing victory and a young Brit burst onto the scene. Of course this time it wasn't Hart but 19 year-old Laurie Greenland who was the surprise package. Let's see how it all came together...
The lie of the land
After Red Bull spoiled us all year with five split times, it was another 2011 throwback with just the two splits and the finish line. The first two sectors were both around the 1m20s mark, with a 50-ish second run into the finish in sector 3:
Not did Danny Hart take his fourth World level win in a row, he also went fastest in the first sector for the third time in a row, really underlining his dominance since Lenzerheide. Already he had over a second's advantage over second place but it wasn't Aaron Gwin snapping at his heels but Laurie Greenland who was right up there. Gwin wasn't that far back at this point though. 1.5 seconds behind in third place. At this stage, on this track, that wasn't the huge gap it might seem on other more straightforward hillsides.
The other surprise Brit performance was Bernard Kerr. Initially only a reserve for the British team, he had one day less practice than the rest of the field, stepping up after Gee Atherton pulled out due to injury. It didn't seem to cause him much problem though, going 5th fastest at split 1.
Dean Lucas also seemed to be putting a mixed World Cup season behind him with the 4th fastest time at split 1. At this point, there were a few riders who were rolling the dice and sitting higher up than we might have expected...
Yet again Danny Hart left the field for dead in Sector 2. Only Greg Minnaar and Laurie Greenland got within two seconds of him in the longest sector of the track. Minnaar had a relatively slow start, only 14th at split 1 but second fastest in sector 2 moved him up to 4th overall with two-thirds of the race run.
Bernard Kerr was also still in the hunt for a medal at split 2. He went 4th fastest and took advantage of crashes for Dean Lucas and Aaron Gwin to move up to the bronze medal position at split 2. Although Danny Hart was way out in front, with a 2.5 second lead over Greenland and nearly 5 seconds over everyone else, it was still tight for third place. Kerr, Minnaar and Remi Thirion were within half a second of each other and fighting tooth and nail for that medal position. At this point, Florent Payet looked way out of contention in 8th place, 6.5 seconds back....
In some tracks the final sector is almost a formality, a fast sprint into the finish that only really makes a difference to the overall standings if times are incredibly tight. Not so on a course like Val Di Sole. The big mover was Florent Payet. He came from nowhere to post the fastest time in sector three by almost 1.5 seconds over Danny Hart who rounded out his run with second place in sector 3.
Greenland was only another 0.4 second back in fourth place and so held on to second place, but Payet's storming final sector took 2.8 seconds out of Kerr, 3 seconds from Thirion and 3.6 seconds from Minnaar and gave Payet a dramatic last gasp podium place.
Troy Brosnan's third place time on the sector was also enough to lift him up above Kerr into fourth place at the finish. Ordinarily 5th place would have been a success for Kerr but it must be galling to have run such a consistently fast race with 5th, 4th and 8th in the sectors but still be pipped at the post for a medal at the Worlds. It still has to go down as a great performance though to come in at short notice and post a personal best result at World level on a track like Val Di Sole.
Putting it all together
Another race, another Danny Hart demolition job as shown by the heatmap. two first and a second place in the sector rankings for Hart. Laurie Greenland though really wasn't far behind, only just behind Danny in every sector and it's going to be really interesting to see how he develops in the coming seasons. Do we have a new dynasty of UK riders coming through just as we were starting to wonder who would replace the likes of Peat, Atherton and Bryceland?
Sector position heatmap
There's a great what-if of how Gwin would have dealt with the rest of the course but to win you've got to get down the course in one piece, and there was never any chance of another mechanical miracle from the man who's won without a chain and done a respectable time with no back tyre.
Hart's consistency in the latter half of the season has been incredible. In the 18 sectors raced in the four races since World Cup round 5 at Lenzerheide, Hart has not been outside the top 10, and in fact has been 5th or higher in 16 of the 18!
The overall position tracker shows the tight fight for the bronze medal well. Bernard Kerr held the position at split 2 with Minnaar challenging strongly only for both of them to fall back and Payet to charge from 8th to 3rd in the course of the final 50 seconds of racing.
Overall position tracker
What a race to end a hugely entertaining season. The World Cup series ended one race too soon for Danny Hart but I'm sure a second set of rainbow stripes have mae up for it. As as long as everyone stays fit for 2017 it's already promising to be a cracker, I can hardly wait! Thanks for geeking out on the stats with me for another year. Hopefully see you all next season!