- Bike Checks
Round #4 of the 2013 UCI DH World Cup was eagerly anticipated, with many questions that needed answers. We've seen domination by Gee and Rachel Atherton in the first three races - could they keep it going? Could Aaron Gwin return to top form? Sam Hill is back on the gas, could he repeat his 2010 World Champs winning performance here at Mont Sainte Anne? Could "home team" Stevie Smith convert his fastest qualifier into a second career World Cup victory?
After rain and fog earlier in the week, raceday weather looked like it would cooperate and all that was left to do for the riders was to throw down the run of a lifetime and see where that landed them...but the weather in MSA is notoriously temperamental...
Myriam Nicole took the hotseat from Tahnee Seagrave, with 6 more riders to go. Siegenthaler then had a brief stay in the hotseat, before giving it over to Manon Carpenter who followed her down the hill. Carpenter blasted Rachel Atherton's fastest qualifier by 13 seconds, our first indication that the course was running a lot faster for race day. Pugin failed to put a dent in Carpenter's time, and then there were only 2 girls left. Ragot threw down an absolute stormer, taking almost 5 seconds out of Carpenter - what would Rachel do? Sadly, it was not to be her day. Down by 10 seconds after split one, she'd go on to take an over the bars crash in the big rock section. She still finished her run taking on the big finish line jump anyway...(we counted only 4 girls in all taking it on).
Over to the men's - Andrew Neethling had a poor qualifier, so logically he ended up with a long term reservation in the hot seat. He took 3 seconds out of Stevie Smith's fastest qualifier - and surely a sub-4-minute winning time was on the cards (Needles would eventually finish 8th). It would take until the next top rider with a bad qualifier to dislodge Neethling - Gee Atherton with the 18th time in qualifying hit the afterburners and came down in 3:59.389. Moving on, a few rain drops appeared - would that decide the race? By the time we were into the ten fastest qualifiers, the rain drops to turned to a downpour, and the course was getting slick. It was just a passing shower, but you couldn't help but feel there were a few seconds in it. Sam Hill threw down a brilliant run to grab second place on the hotseat, 1.2 seconds off Gee's time - could it still be done? Minnaar followed Sam down, a few hundredths in it taking third at the time. Gwin came up short, as did Blenkinsop. Hart came up short as well - only Smith left up top. It's hard to describe the run that followed, but somehow, Smith pulled back a 1-second deficit at split 1, to take his second World Cup win by almost 1 full second at the end of an epic run. Big congrats on an amazing result in less than optimal conditions!
Of note: Sam Hill finishes third for the second straight race. Gwin on the podium again. Brendan Fairclough had a loose and fast run to crack BACK into the top-10 - yeah Brendog!