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It may be summer, but school's NOT out for the World Cuppers. After 4 rounds, we're halfway through the season, and with just 2 weeks to go until Mont Sainte-Anne, now's a good time for us to hand out the mid-term report cards. Find out who's been doing their homework, who's been missing class, and who's been spending too much time behind the bleachers smoking.

1. Winning Is Everything

Sitting pretty at the top of the World Cup standings, Aaron Gwin took the win at the opening round in Lourdes, France, which he followed up with a 2nd place in Fort William, and of course, a win for the ages with the legendary Leogang chainless run. Even by Aaron's standards, the lowly 8th place at round 4 in Lenzerheide couldn't knock him out of 1st overall. Back in form for 2015, Gwin looks every bit as deadly today as he did during his dominant 2011-2012 campaigns, and is certainly still one of the guys to beat going into the last 3 rounds of the World Cup.

Note: The UCI standings include points both for qualifying and race runs.

2. Winning Isn't Everything

Loic Bruni has qualified 1st in 3 out of 4 rounds so far this year, but he has not managed to seal the deal yet. Although he will be hungry for that elusive first World Cup win by now, he can take solace in the fact that he is 2nd in the overall and showing the kind of consistency usually required to win the whole thing. Statistically speaking, he'll need to take at least 1 round if he wants the overall though.

When your worst result is 8th, you know you're up there. Bruni in Leogang - photo Johan Hjord

3. Qualifying Matters

If the qualifying round was the actual race, we'd be looking at a different story when it comes to the current standings. This table shows how the top riders would have placed if their quali runs had been finals (i.e. we attributed points according to the UCI points table for finals to the actual qualifying results). As you can see, Bruni would be our run-away leader, no surprise there after winning qualifying 3 times out of 4. Where it gets interesting is measuring the differential between current actual standings and these fictitious, quali-only standings. Those showing numbers in green are basically qualifying better than they are racing right now, so one could argue they have the biggest margin for improvement (and the bigger the number, the bigger the margin). Those with numbers in red should try to lift their qualifying game before they give up too many points there - Minnaar and Fairclough being the biggest offenders here in the current Top 10, disregarding Danny Hart who was injured for a round.

Fictitious standings if qualifying results were the final results. Table may not be fully accurate towards the bottom.

4. Kids Will Be Kids

Mike Jones and Connor Fearon have shown impressive speed so far, but as is often the case with the young riders, the consistency isn't quite there yet. Australia's Fearon would have to be considered the favorite to be the first of the young guns to step to the top of a 2015 World Cup podium, but don't discount the Welshman too quickly...

Connor Fearon qualified 3rd in Lenzerheide but failed to deliver in the finals, will we see him win one soon? - photo Lee Trumpore

5. The Kids Are Not Kids

The winning times of the fastest Juniors would have put them solidly in the Top 20-30 in Elite:
  • Lourdes, Crimmins, 3:10.159 - 20th Elite
  • Fort William, Maes, 5:01.455 - 27th Elite
  • Leogang, Crimmins, 3:42.706 - 21st Elite
  • Lenzerheide, Greenland, 3:05.884 - 14th Elite
As for the standings, it's a two-way race between Andrew Crimmins and Laurie Greenland, and with only 2 points separating them at this stage of the season, we're looking forward to seeing the battle play out over the next three rounds!

Note: The UCI standings include points both for qualifying and race runs.

6. The Tracks Are Getting Better

When somebody wins Leogang without a chain, that should be the end of the "bike park" complaints, at least for this season. Newcomers Lourdes and Lenzerheide both put on excellent shows with riders more-than-stoked on the tracks, all of which bodes well for the general state of affairs in the World Cup. Next year's calendar already has us drooling too...

Champery? Nope, that other bike park, Leogang... photo Johan Hjord

7. Where Is The Rain?

Usually, bringing a World Cup to town means a surprise monsoon won't be far away, but that has not been the case so far in 2015. Sure, we have seen some precipitation, but we have been spared any race day drama involving the weather. Let's hope this item #7 doesn't jinx it. #maybejustalittlerain

It's like all the World Cup rain of the season came down in 1 hour in Leogang - photo Duncan Philpott

8. Here Come The Girls

Emmeline Ragot certainly stepped up to the plate again for 2015, but just hasn't been able to put it together on race day. That has left Rachel Atherton with a margin that looks more comfortable on paper than it would probably seem like to Rachel in real life. Manon hasn't looked as fast as during her dominant 2014 campaign, but she'll be encouraged by her 2nd place in Lenzerheide, hoping to build from there. Tracey Hannah crashed out of what looked like a surefire winning round in Lourdes, and has struggled to regain her form since then. But her consistency sees her holding down 3rd place in the overall standings for now. Myriam Nicole has been out with injury since crashing in Fort William (BDS), but just last week took the win in the Crankworx L2A DH. 4 rounds in, it's all still to play for and we can't wait to see what the rest of the season has in store for the ladies of the World Cup.

Note: The UCI standings include points both for qualifying and race runs.

9. Danny Hart, Steve Smith, and Sam Hill Are Your Dark Horses

Any of of these three could arguably step up and win Mont Sainte-Anne. Smith is quietly working his way back up the rankings after being out with injuries several times since last year. Danny Hart suffered a vicious internal injury in Fort William, but one look at his results and we know the speed is still there.

Uhhhhhh Hart..... photo Sven Martin

And as for Sam Hill...he was on a cruiser in Lenzerheide, but he'll be more determined than ever to make the end of this season count after missing out on three races due to a training injury sustained back home in March. And then, there's World Champs...

Sam Hill \

10. You Don't Have To Be A Trade Team

The Syndicate was famously denied trade team status by the UCI for the 2015 season, but #OHWELL.

CLEARLY not a trade team. - photo Sven Martin

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