World Cup Geek Stats: Mont Sainte Anne 2016
Analysis of Danny's double
So it seems Danny Hart World Cup wins are like buses, you wait ages for one then two turn up at once. Momentum, confidence, belief, call it what you want it seems to play a huge part in downhill at the top level and right now Hart is riding a crest of momentum that's allowed him to beat Aaron Gwin twice in a row in a fair fight - no mechanicals, no crashes. In Lenzerheide, it was a scorching bottom section of the course that gave Hart the win. Where did he find the speed to beat Gwin this time? Let's dive in and take a look...
The course setup
Taking a look at Danny Hart's winning run, the splits were pretty evenly spaced out. Three chunks of 40-50 seconds, a longer second sector of just over 70 seconds and a short final sprint to the line making up roughly 4 minutes of racing in total.
Sectors 1 & 2
While Hart came from behind in the previous round, this time he took the race by the scruff of the neck right from the start. He was fastest at split 1 but it was very tight at the top of the race. Loris Vergier was only 0.2 seconds back and in front of his senior team mate Loic Bruni - a real shame to see a puncture ruin his run after the first split. Importantly for Hart, Aaron Gwin was back in fifth place at the first split, over 0.8 seconds back with George Brannigan rounding out the top five.
Into sector 2 and Gwin wasn't going down without a fight. He clawed back 0.3 seconds on Hart, going fastest but only just. It was in this longer sector where the gaps really started to appear in the field. Namely Bruni, Hart and Gwin were all within 0.3 seconds of each other but over 1.7 seconds faster than anyone else in the field. To put this in perspective - from Greg Minnaar in fourth place, the rest of the top 20 were only covered by another 1.3 seconds. These three were clearly in a league of their own through sector 2 although notable others included Dirt Propain Zelvy's own Phil Atwill in fifth place for the sector.
This followed through into the overall standings at split 2 - Hart was still leading with the triumvirate of Hart, Gwin and Bruni around two seconds in front of the rest of the pack while only just over two seconds separated the rest of the top 20.
Sectors 3 & 4
Into sector 3 and Hart took more time out of Gwin and Bruni - roughly 0.4 seconds - which put his overall lead at split 3 at over a second. After a slow start, Adam Brayton was back up to speed by sector 3 with the second fastest time of the day. Unfortunately his race was ruined with a crash on the rocks further down the course but he proved yet again that he's well up to speed this year. Luca Shaw was the man who was speeding up as the race went on this week - he went third on sector 3 which was enough to move up into the podium places overall in fourth place.
Sector 4 and it was Bruni's turn to take the sector honours but the time were incredibly tight. Gwin was less than a tenth back and Hart gave away less than 0.3 seconds. This meant that Hart's lead over Gwin and Bruni was cut back to less than a second but with only 30 seconds of racing to go it was his to lose. More stark was the increasing gap between these three and the rest of the field - over four seconds back to Troy Brosnan in fourth place.
After sneaking onto the podium spots at split 3, Luca Shaw dropped back to 6th after he gave away over a second to Troy Brosnan on the sector but the battle for the final two podium spots was still wide open with less than 0.4 seconds covering fourth to sixth...
Sector 5 - the final run in
In the final sector the roles were reversed in the top 6. Luca Shaw, Greg Minnaar and Troy Brosnan took the top three places with Gwin, Hart and Bruni giving away 0.7 to 1 second on Shaw's fastest time. Importantly for Luca Shaw though, he was 0.417 seconds faster than Greg Minnaar which wiped out the 0.255 second deficit to Minnaar at split 4 and gave him his first ever World Cup podium. Not got the stats at my fingertips for this but I'm guessing it's been a while since there's been two US riders on the same World Cup podium for a while!
At the very top, although Hart was only 8th fastest on the sector, he was in touch with the two riders that still had a realistic challenge. He actually went faster than Loic Bruni and only lost 0.14 seconds to Gwin giving him his second World Cup win in a row.
The big picture
Hart's win had a very different look to it than his debut win in Lenzerheide. While in Switzerland he had to come from behind, this time he led from the front with the fastest sector 1 and 3 and second fastest in sector 2. By the final two sectors he had enough of a buffer to hold off the challenge of Gwin and Bruni.
The difference between these top three and the rest is really noticeable in the heatmap. They were the only three riders who placed consistently in the top 10 at every sector. Others had one bad sector like Luca Shaw in sector 1 and Brook Macdonald and George Brannigan in sector 2.
Sector position heatmap
The dominance of the top 3 shows through in the overall position tracker as well. They had it totally sewn up apart from a little wobble for Gwin in the first sector.
What this chart does show is that the long, brutal nature of the Mont Sainte Anne course leaves room to make up places lost near the top of the course. Seven of the eventual top 20 placed worse than 20th at split 1 with Sam Blenkinsop the rider that improved the most. He went from 38th at split 1 to 32nd at split 2 and eventually climbed up to 9th at the finish.
Overall position tracker
Going into the final round it's still Gwin's to lose in the overall due to his stunning consistency. Two wins, three second places and his worst result being fourth in Cairns. However, Hart has only had one 'bad' performance - 11th in Cairns. It would take Hart to continue his hot streak for the rest of the season and for Gwin to finally have an off day but stranger things have happened. Roll on Vallnord in September!