Vital Power Rankings - Leogang, Austria World Cup - The 15 Fastest Racers Going In
We've barely had time to catch our breath after the banger of a race that went down a few days ago in Fort William, and it's already time to don our pointy hats again and shake the Aonoch Mor cement dust off our Power Rankings crystal balls for the next round of the 2014 UCI World Cup downhill series. Our Top 15 picks for Fort William more or less honored their nominations with solid performances, but Troy Brosnan silenced all doubters and earned his first-ever World Cup win in the most emphatic of fashion, demoting the Power Ranking staff writers to Chump Club status in the process. Troy, we'd blame the view from our couch, but in truth, the writing has been on the wall for while and we just failed to commit to making the call. Fool us once, shame on you...
1. Sam Hill
There have been some exciting races over the past few years, but they all pale in comparison to the rush of seeing green on the timing screen as Sam Hill crossed the Fort William finish line with only 2 riders left to race. The flat pedal king was back and with him came all the excitement of seeing a man so in tune with his machine that nothing could get between him and the top step of the podium again. Well, nothing but a fellow Aussie on a mission to join the illustrious club of World Cup winners, that is. The rain held off for the finals in Fort William but we're calling a raincheck on seeing Sam back up where he belongs. Because we believe.
2. Troy Brosnan
In just one race, Troy delivered on all the potential we've always known him to possess, but he looked so composed as he went about it that this may as well have been his tenth win. Leogang is in some ways similar to Fort William and will favor those who can put down the watts, and Troy's last Fort William sector proved he belongs in that electrifying group without a doubt. Troy will carry the momentum from his first win into this week, and there's no reason to think he won't be fighting for the top spot once more.
3. Stevie Smith
For his first race back after a missing the first two events of the season, Smith looked like a man riding well within himself. A 6th place is a solid reminder that you can't hide speed. Leogang will bring back sweet, sweet memories for the Canadian Chainsaw Massacre who won the 2013 World Cup overall here with a flawless, winning run. The only reason we're not calling for an encore is that it's only his second race back. Give it a couple more and Stevie will be looking to claim top spot in the Power Rankings, and nearly as important, the top step on the podium.
4. Aaron Gwin
Gwin looked solid in Fort William, and although he came up short of the win we predicted, he seemed pleased with his form and is obviously back to going really fast on a bike again. Leogang won't be his absolute favorite type of track, but don't expect him to be far off a win at any venue the way he's riding.
5. Danny Hart
Danny, Danny, Danny - we have all sorts of trouble deciding where to put you this week. We'd love to have 3rd place shared among 5 riders and call it a day, but that's not a luxury we have in the Power Rankings war room. Decisions must be made, and come what may, we'll just have to live it down when you prove us idiots. Will it make you feel any better if we say that the bike park track of Leogang lacks the gnarfactor to challenge your riding style?
6. Gee Atherton
Every time you put Gee anywhere but near the top spot of the podium, it's a down payment on your Chump Club membership fee. And remember we're not only clients, we're the presidents. Let's just say that we expected Gee to have more horsepower down the motorway section of the Fort William track, and since winning in Leogang means maxing out on the old watt-o-meter, maybe the G-man's legs aren't where they're supposed to be just right now.
7. Greg Minnaar
Calling 7th for Greg is a bit like calling 6th for Gee - it can come back to bite you in your O'Neal-covered ass... Greg didn't seem as on it at Fort William as we'd expect and a hop across the channel and a new week of racing may be all he needs to right the Syndicate ship. Unfortunately, we're not ready to back that bet just yet. We won't put it past the champion to prove us wrong, but we'll let him do the work and make up for those hundredths of seconds being sucked away by his antiquated wheel size (KIDDING!).
8. Loic Bruni
Bruni let us down a bit in Fort William, and the only reason we've still got his back this week is his past performances here in Austria. It's a track he feels good on and the positive energy of knowing he can do well should help him loosen up and get back to the kind of riding we saw from him over the last 8 months or so. Plus he's supposed to be on that new bike which would stoke anyone out.
9. Josh Bryceland
According to our calculations, Ratboy should be a regular podium contender by now. He's shown us the speed this year, now we're waiting for the consistency. His Fort William weekend didn't go to plan, and he'll be eager to wipe that one off the board with a performance like the 5th place he pulled off here in Leogang in 2013. But for these rankings, we're putting you on the spot Josh. If we hear audio from you about Leogang being too bike parky in the first slideshow, we'll slide you down to 49th. Don't let the media nerds derail your focus!
10. Connor Fearon
Connor's short career has been progressing nicely and were it not for that pesky last pedaling section in Fort William last week, we would have seen him duke it out with a bunch of the top boys. Leogang is not Fort William, and he should be able to make good on all that speed to take full advantage of the shorter run here, blasting his way into the Top 10. Yeah Connuh!
11, 12. Sam Blenkinsop & Remi Thirion
Blenki had a flat in Fort William, but his splits were not of the kind to let him fight for a top spot there. With the distraction of having a new bike not quite ready for the team, and only a short week between the races, we're leaving Blenki in the same spot as last week's rankings and we'll leave it up to him to climb his way back up.
Remi does well in Leogang, and a solid performance last week in Fort William puts him back on our radar and into this week's rankings too. It's nice to see the style master show up here.
13, 14, 15. Sam Dale, Neko Mulally, and Steve Peat
Sam Dale blew everybody out of the water on the last section in Fort William, putting down so much power that he nearly landed the last jump under the finish line arch. He could well have another one of those runs here, but we'll let him show us that before we let him into the trust tree.
Neko didn't make good use of the Wild Card we gave him last week, but the bike park tech of Leogang will look like something closer to home. And he won't stumble two weeks in a row. U-S-A!
Steve Peat had a Fort William to forget, and nothing better than a solid Top 15 to move on. The birthday boy does well here in Leogang, so never count Old Skool out. If it's a muddy one, look out for another Top 10.
Wild Cards - Markus Pekoll & Marcelo Gutierrez
Markus Pekoll is riding at home, and he's shown flashes of speed this year that have us thinking he could be on for a surprise Top 10 appearance here. Wild pick for wild card 1.
Marcelo likes this venue, and although he has yet to show the kind of form that he ended with last season, maybe a short and fast run down a hill he favors is just what the doctor ordered. We left him off the Fort William Power Rankings (we were right, too), but maybe a turn-around is in the cards.
1. Manon Carpenter
Manon is the girl to beat, straight up. She was dominating the Fort William track right up to her final run puncture, and lightning doesn't strike twice, right?
2. Emmeline Ragot
Emmeline won in Fort William, but with both Manon and Rachel flatting, she'll have to do it again with a full deck to climb any higher in the rankings...this time.
3. Rachel Atherton
It's way too early and too easy to write Rachel off after a less-than-stellar outing in Fort William, but Manon and Emmeline look fast right now and Rachel isn't firing on all cylinders. As soon as we finished writing this line we had a horrific vision of Rachel winning by 7-seconds, but in all likelihood, that sort of form is still a little ways off. For now.