So Loic Bruni finally removed the monkey from his back and took his first ever World Cup win at the weekend but it was far from a dead cert until the finish line.

He was pushed hard all the way by Troy Brosnan who used his local knowledge to the full and so nearly took his second World Cup win front of the home crowd. So where was it won and lost? Let's take a look.

The lie of the land

The five splits weren't evenly spread as we can see in Loic Bruni's winning times - the bulk of the 3m25s course in the first two sectors. Then there were two short 20-30 second sectors and finished off with a mad dash to the finish. Only 16 seconds of race time but a very important part of the course as we'll see...

Sector Time
Sector 1 00:55.987
Sector 2 01:21.061
Sector 3 00:23.472
Sector 4 00:26.938
Sector 5 00:16.238
Total 03:23.696

Sectors 1 and 2

Both Bruni and Brosnan laid down a marker in sector 1. Brosnan led but Bruni was a mere 0.032 seconds behind so essentially neck and neck. Only Connor Fearon was within a second of this pair after 55 seconds of racing. Where were the other front runners from Lourdes? Aaron Gwin was struggling at split 1, 13th and over 2 seconds back already. Steve Smith punctured, Amaury Pierron was a Did Not Start, leaving only Danny Hart the remaining challenger 1.4 seconds back in 6th place.

In sector 2, the longest sector in the race, Loic Bruni edged ahead of Brosnan by 0.6 seconds, going fastest on the sector while Brosnan could only go fourth fastest. This was where Aaron Gwin started to haul himslef back up the standings. He was second fastest on the sector, only a quarter of a second back from Bruni with Mick Hannah consolidating with the third fastest sector 2 and holding third place overall.

Laurie Greenland showed he isn't fazed by the step up to the senior ranks by maintaining his pace, going fifth fastest on the sector and moving up to fourth overall. Danny Hart lost time here and started to slip down the field. He gave away nearly 2.2 seconds to Bruni and dropped down to 9th overall.

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...

Sector 5

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.

Name Split 1 Split 2 Split 3 Split 4 Finish
Bruni +0.032 Leader +0.020 +0.184 Leader
Brosnan Leader +0.666 Leader Leader +0.493

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

cairns_heatmap
cairns_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!

Position tracker

cairns_positiontracker
cairns_positiontracker

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!