Vital Power Rankings, Windham World Cup - The 15 Fastest Going In 4
Mont Sainte Anne's legend is steeped in heroics forever enshrined in MTB lore, and the 2014 edition certainly lived up both to the hype and the heritage. Long, fast, and rough, it is a track to separate the men from the boys, and last week none proved worthier of the challenge than Sam Hill. Putting an end to 5 long, win-less years of World Cup racing, the flat pedal thunder from down under produced a vintage performance that reduced the Vital Power Rankings staff to a gaggle of giggling schoolboys. The collective hysteria was only slightly dampened by our failure to call the result. Well, one short week later and we have an opportunity to redeem ourselves - and redeem ourselves we shall. The course at Windham is short and sweet, and although it lacks the utter gnar factor of MSA, the only U.S. race of the season makes up for it in intensity. With everybody firmly on East Coast time already, we're betting on repeat performances from many of those who did well at MSA. All that remains is to pick the order. To our crystal balls we go...
1. Sam Hill
Call it easy, call it a feel-good call, call it a fanboi call - it's all true. But we also happen to believe that come Saturday, Sam Hill will ride his current form to the top step of the podium once again. Speed is a fickle thing, but if anybody knows to take it when he can get it, it's Mr. Hill.
2. Josh Bryceland
From Syndicate whipping boy to heavyweight podium contender, what a difference a year makes. Well, when we call Josh's name, he steps right up and delivers, so we'll just keep doing our part. Riding with confidence and enjoying every minute of it, Josh will take no prisoners on Windham's short course. And after railing the ruts on the way to the podium, no _ _ _ _ _ will be safe at the after party. Hide yo' wife, hide yo' kids, people of Windham!
3. Aaron Gwin
Gwin was 6 tenths off the 3rd place we called for him in MSA, but had the course been 3-minutes long, it would have been even tighter. Gwin will be chomping at the bit to do well in front of his home crowd, and with 1 more week on the new bike under his belt, there should be nothing stopping the Gwinner from delivering here and it's not a lack of patriotism that's keeping us from putting him in the top spot. It's science.
4. Greg Minnaar
Minnaar was in touch in Mont Sainte Anne, and there's no track he can't ride, so we're betting on the saffa stepping it up in the states. He won't want to let Ratboy get out too far ahead on that new V10, and two new bikes on the podium is just what the marketing department ordered.
5. Troy Brosnan
We called Troy in 4th for MSA, and that's exactly where he ended up. True, he was third at split one, so maybe we'll have to eat these words, but a World Cup podium is a popular place and a tenth here and there will quickly see you slip a few spots. We're pretty sure Troy can make us look like fools here, and he would probably enjoy beating his teammate at home too, so watch this space!
6. Danny Hart
Danny went 3 better than our MSA prediction of 7th last week, so we're bumping him a spot. One step at a time, Danny Boy, one step at a time...
7. Brook Macdonald
OK Brook, you were 9-seconds off the winning time last week with a full off-the-bike crash that may well have cost as much. The Bulldog is getting back to the speed we know him for. Make it count, Kiwi!
8. Sam Blenkinsop
Blenki scored a sweet podium in Mont Sainte Anne, and the only reason we're not calling him higher is that he was behind at the 3-minute split - and Windham is a 3-minute track. We'd love nothing more than for the gloveless Kiwi to prove us wrong on this one. When Blenki rides like he did in Canada, there are few riders we'd rather watch.
9. Loic Bruni
We called a 10th place for Loic last week, and 10th is what he got. Let's try with 9. No balls busted here, eh Loic?
10. Gee Atherton
Gee may not have been close to the podium in MSA, but he was the runaway winner in the Tough Guy category. After a nasty crash in practice left him unsure as to whether he could even ride or not, he nursed a painful wrist down the hill for 11th. To put that in perspective, Mont Sainte Anne is about as gnarly as they come, and 69 of the fastest guys in the world failed to beat the G-man with all their limbs intact. The only reason we're not calling Gee further up this list is that we're unsure he's fully recovered, and regardless of how he's feeling NOW, it's a short week and he would certainly have preferred being able to NOT worry about injuries.
11-12. Remi Thirion & Matt Simmonds
We had Remi in 12th last week, and he came in 11th. OK then Remi, have a bump up! Matt Simmonds on the other hand made a bit of a mess of our armchair coaching skills by throwing down a superb run for 8th in MSA, less than 2-seconds off the podium after we left him out of the Power Rankings. Well, if that's the way it's gonna be...
13-15. Neko Mullally, Harry Heath, Nick Beer
Neko hasn't scored the touchdowns we predicted earlier in the season, so we're going to settle for a field goal in Windham too. East coast gnar should provide the Pennsylvanian plenty of opportunity to silence the doubters, us included! Harry Heath came through with a solid performance in MSA, and since we're betting on the riders carrying good form through another week of racing, Harry makes his first Power Ranking appearance here in Windham. Nick Beer has done well here previously, and we know the Swiss sender can deliver at any time - not quite like clockwork, but a lot more exciting!
Michael Jones & Andrew Neethling
Michael Jones and the rest of the CRC team seems to be benefiting from the presence of a certain Aussie flat pedal pinner among the ranks, so what's to stop him from producing a Windham encore to back up his great MSA performance?
Needles, Needles, Needles. We were stoked with your MSA qualifier (3rd!), less so with your race run. We're going to be cautious here and send it back to 2012 and a 9th place finish here in Windham as a possible indicator, and leave it up to you to prove us wrong!
1. Rachel Atherton
Rachel was more than 3-seconds up after 3-minutes of racing in MSA. Remind us how long the course is here in Windham now again...?
2. Manon Carpenter
Clearly more than just a threat this year, Manon has well-and-truly arrived at the top. If she can take down an in-form Rachel here in Windham, we might have to put her 1st for the rest of the season.
3. Emmeline Ragot
Emmeline will be sick and tired of our 3rd place calls, especially after finishing so very close in MSA. She's riding well and will capitalize on any weakness by the two in front.