Sector 3 and 4
These short sectors were where Josh Button made his charge for the podium. His lower sector times belied a mere three weeks of training beforehand! He went fastest in both sector 3 and sector 4 and launched himself up from 12th at split 2 to 7th at split 4. Aaron Gwin had a mixed sector 3 and 4. He was only 0.03 seconds behind Button in sector 3 but then gave away the time again to Bruni and Brosnan in sector 4.
Brosnan and Bruni meanwhile were going blow for blow all the way down the hill. Brosnan clawed back the 0.6 second gap at split 2 to lead Bruni at split 4 but only by less than 0.2 seconds.
This was going to go all the way down to the wire, and the tiny 16 second flat sprint to the line…
After the gnarly rock gardens and high speed jumps it came to 16 seconds of lung busting effort to decide the race, and it was Bruni who came out on top. He took almost two thirds of a second out of Brosnan to edge in front and take his first ever World Cup win.
Of the eventual podium, only he and Mick Hannah were in the top 10 for the sector. The unlikely sector champ was Graeme Mudd who has only raced seven World Cups since 2010 and had only qualified for the finals once before in Cairns 2014, coming 29th.
Today was his day and the sprint was worth it, boosting him from 14th at split 4 to a career best 8th place at the finish. Such a short, pedally section brought a few other unlikely names to the fore such as Aiden Varley and Forrest Riesco – 57th and 44th overall but 4th and 10th fastest on the pedal to the finish!
Putting it all together
This has to rank as one of the tightest World Cup races ever. You can see from the splits breakdown how The advantage swung first to Brosnan, then Bruni, back to Brosnan and finally back to Bruni again in just three and a half minutes.
Looking at the heatmap you can also see this, with the top two sharing a sector win each in the long first two sectors, Brosnan placing higher in sectors 3 and 4 but then a 20th place in the final sector giving it away at the end. The heatmap also shows how consistent Mick Hannah was – never out of the top 5 but ultimately not quite quick enough in the first sectors to push for the win further down the course. Still great to see Hannah back in the mix at World Cup level though.
Sector position Heatmap
Finally, the postion tracker showing overall positions at each split shows the ding dong battle at the top, but most interestingly, it highlights the places gained and lost on that final pedal. Connor Fearon and Laurie Greenland lost out the most while Graeme Mudd’s charge from 14th to 8th stands and Josh Button’s sneak onto the podium in the last two sectors stand out in the up direction.
We all love to see the gnarly sections on the live feed but there’s nothing like a short sharp pedal to sort the men from the boys!
So, we head into the short break until Fort William with a three horse race developing for the title already. Gwin and Brosnan have both won in Scotland whilst Bruni’s best is 6th place. An omen, or will Bruni continue to break new ground? I can’t wait to see how this season pans out!