Remi Thirion and Rachel Atherton Win Andorra World Cup
We've had a brilliant week at the 2013 DH World Cup race in Andorra, with a new track that has been unanimously praised and an organization on top form. Despite threats of rain, race day came and blue skies greeted the racers, and round 3 of the 2013 UCI DH World Cup season was all systems GO.
After qualifying "only" second, all eyes were on Rachel to see if she could continue her dominant 2013 run. She answered the question emphatically going into the hotseat with an 11 seconds advantage over previous leader Myriam Nicole. Fastest qualifier and last woman down the hill Manon Carpenter put up a brave fight with a solid run, but came up 1.6 seconds short and landed in 2nd. This was Rachel's 18th World Cup win which makes her the winningest UK DH rider of all time (just ahead of Peaty with 17)!
In the men's, the first big piece of news of the day was Cedric Gracia announcing his retirement from World Cup DH racing straight after his run (conveniently, 50 meters from his bar!). In his own words, he's having a hard time keeping up with both partying and training, so naturally, training just has to take second place. Knowing that is not enough to be competitive in modern DH, and after having spent literally hundreds of days injured over the last 3 years, he feels it's time to back down. He will focus on "big movie parts" and Enduro. CG, we will definitely miss you on the World Cup circuit, but something tells us you won't be very far...
So then, back to the racing. After 2 crashes in qualifying, Aaron Gwin came down the mountain early and took 2 seconds off Sam Hill's fastest qualifying time - into the hot seat he went. How long would he remain there was the question. The answer came a few riders later, when Stevie Smith (after an uncharacteristically poor qualifier for him as well) came down the hill to take another 2.1 seconds out of Gwin's time. By now we were 4 seconds faster than Sam Hill's fastest qualifier. It took until Brosnan to see Smith's time threatened again, the Australian pinner coming down just 0.2 seconds off Smith's time to nab second on the hotseat from teammate Gwin.
Cam Cole took a massive crash and had to be airlifted out, which led to a long course hold as we were heading into the top 15 qualifiers. Early word was Cam is OK, just being taken to hospital as a precaution after a fall to the head - we'll update you as we hear more.
When racing resumed, things got serious very quickly. Steve Peat came down only 2.8 seconds back, showing that he can still deal with anything the World Cup can dish out. Gutierrez next man down, into third only 1.7 back - he was stoked with it too. Good run from the Colombian starting to show his true potential. Danny Hart would take third from Marcelo on the very next run, only 0.7 off first place - surely the writing was on the wall. Fairclough, Blenkinsop, Bryceland, and Suding all failed to leave their mark, but the hotseat was about to change. Remi Thirion threw down an incredible 4:13, taking over 2 seconds out of Stevie Smith's time - was this the winning run? Bruni came down in 5th, and now Gee was on track. 1st at split 1, first at split 2...but second over the finish line. How good was Thirion's time? It was to hold to the end, for the Frenchman's first ever World Cup win! Fastest qualifier and last man down the mountain Sam Hill put down a stormer of a run to get onto third on the podium, marking his return to the top echelons of the sport. What a day of racing!