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So there we have it, the World Championships in Hafjell wrapped up what has been a truly amazing season of world class DH racing. We've had first time winners and champions returning to form, we've had battles in bike parks and showdowns on the steeps. Throughout it all, Vital has been there to document the action and give you a glimpse into the lives of the teams and riders that do their utmost to put on a good show at each race. And not ones to shy away from a little introspection, we're here to take a look back at how we did with our latest ground-breaking feature, the Vital Power Rankings. Equal parts science and black magic, the Power Rankings were our attempt at time travel - looking into the future to predict the outcome of each race before it went down. Down, geddit? Time to shine the white hot light of hindsight on our predictive powers, to see whether or not we need to ask for a refund on those crystal balls.

The Points System Explained

We could slap ourselves on the back for getting a few names on the list close, but that wouldn't be worthy of the incredible amount of armchair engineering that went into the Rankings. So we have devised a points system to see how we ACTUALLY did in each round:

  • Correctly calling a rider in the top 10 - 1 point
  • Any rider actually finishing on the number we called - 2 points
  • Getting the winner right - 3 points
  • Any wild card finishing in the top-15 - 1 point

And so without further ado, here is how it all panned out. Get those "I told you so!" shouts ready. (and riders, before you start feeling too smug about yourselves, there's a whole section dedicated to how YOU did at the end of the article too...).

Round One, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

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The track in PMB always takes a lot of heat for being, well, different...be that as it may, with huge jumps and high speeds, it takes proper bike handling and all-out speed to even be in the mix here. Of course, there's the small matter of the dreaded motorway section to contend with, which prompted us to leave Sam Hill out of the list altogether - although there were threats of mutiny and/or bloody revolution among the Power Rankings writers at the time. Danny Hart shone with his absence in the inaugural Rankings too. We had to make some tough calls, and PMB's lack of gnar had us doubting the Redcar Rocket.

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7 points for round one, a meager haul but we'll hide behind the season opener's unpredictability and blame Gwin for winning and robbing us of Sik Mik and Loic Bruni delivering on their Rankings. We won't construct a full sentence including the words "Sam Hill" and "I told you so", but yeah. We didn't see Sam Dale coming, but this would not be the last we'd see of him either. Anyway, the real World Cup starts at round 2, right?

Round Two, Cairns, Australia

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The Rumble in the Jungle was hyped up as a survival camp with a treacherous track and various lethal specimens of fauna and flora out to inflict nearly endless suffering and painful death upon those who strayed from the beaten path. Miraculously, nobody got eaten, but one unlucky spectator will always remember how foolish it is to try and hop on a bike and coast down a World Cup track. As for the race, well, it was apocalyptic. So apocalyptic that Gee borrowed a pair of Five Tens and ran flat pedals for his race run. A winning decision, it turns out, and a handy excuse for the Power Rankings staff - let's face it, who could ever have predicted THAT?

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7 out of the top 10, the women's 1-2, and 12 points in total for the PR team. We left the southern hemisphere feeling better about our fortune telling career outlook, although the lack of actual hindsight to rely on would soon make itself felt again. As of round 3, in fact...

Round Three, Fort William, Scotland

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Punctures, punctures, and more punctures - after the monsoon of Cairns, the Power Rankings staff was desperately looking for the next available excuse, and the tire industry sure delivered in Fort William! Atherton and Carpenter both flatted, robbing us of precious points and dropping us back down to a single digit PR total for the round even though we got 7 out of the top-10 right on the men's side.

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Troy Brosnan took his first ever win here in Fort William, making us wait a little longer for the Sam Hill comeback we could all feel was coming. Sam Dale was on our radar by now, and Remi Thirion reminded us that when the going gets rough, so does he. Danny Hart made us look good here by appearing in the top-10 for the first time in the season, after we called him for it for the first time as well. Brook Macdonald on the other hand was 0 for 3 after 3 rounds. The punishment for letting us down so badly would be swift (but would it be appropriate?)

Round Four, Leogang, Austria

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Sam Hill, muthaf$ck#r! The laconic answer to the question "who would win" minted by kidwoo would go on to become a battle cry for the Sam Hill fanclub over the remainder of the season. Sam got oh so close in Fort William, and the smell of blood whipped the Power Ranking sharks into a frenzy - surely, it was going to happen? Sam would win one, right? Well, history was going to write itself one way or the other, we just got a little ahead of ourselves here in Leogang (that's what SHE said).

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With the history books open, OF COURSE we should have had Ratboy higher for this race. But although we felt he was close to his first ever World Cup win, we figured he would need a more technical track to shine. Winning here proved that he had arrived as one of the absolute fastest riders of 2014, and the history books were about to be re-written, once again. For the rest, our predictions for round 4 were a bit of a shambles. Brook made us pay for leaving him out of the Rankings, his teammate Brannigan came out of "nowhere" to claim a podium spot, and Sam Hill's shining star faded in the dark bike-parky night of Leogang. We took some consolation in having called a top-10 for young Connor Fearon - Yeah Connuh! - and it was time to make the trip across the pond for the first time in 2014.

Round Five, Mont Sainte Anne, Canada, Eh

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Off to Canada we went, buzzing with anticipation ahead of one of the absolute classic races of the DH calendar. Mont Sainte Anne is long, fast, and rough, and a rider complaining about the track here would be like hearing the Indycar boys dissing the speedway in Indianapolis. Well, MSA delivered, and we really only have 2 regrets: Stevie Smith taking himself out in practice, and us not having the balls to call Sam Hill for the win here. Because, win he did, and all of mountain biking rejoiced!

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8 out of the top-10 with only Stevie's injury and Loic crashing standing between us and a perfect 10, 2 riders finishing on the number we called, and a clean sweep of the women's podium (albeit not in perfect order) for the first time in 2014 - bar management's decision to call Sam in 5th, the Power Rankings staff had every reason to be chuffed about this one. See, even the armchair team needs a real track to perform!

Round Six, Windham, U-S-A!

After our stellar MSA outing, we were feeling unjustifiably sure of ourselves and really quite smug - what better venue than the short and fast Windham track to set us straight again? We called Sam Hill for the win here, eager to make up for our lack of trust in Canada 1 week earlier, and although the Flat Pedal Thunder from Down Under came up short in New York, we had a number of other riders go fairly close. A top-15 on the number, and a wild card in the top-10 for the first time helped keep our score in double digits on the Beast Coast, even though the women's podium was back to its elusive and unpredictable self again.

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By now, 2014 was turning into the year of the Rat, with Josh looking smooth, fast, and in control in Windham. Taking the lead in the overall World Cup standings for the first time in the season, had he done enough to earn the #1 Power Ranking pick for the final race in France?

Round Seven, Meribel, France

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Meribel, France, and so many unknowns. Never before visited by the World Cup, how would the track ride? How would Josh handle the pressure of the #1 plate? Would Sam Hill come through with another win? How many baguettes would the average World Cup team consume? All these questions and more were about to be answered, but not before we'd stuck our necks out one last time during the World Cup season. Apart from Matt Simmonds nearly ruining our wet dream of Sam Hill taking another win, we had most of our top ducks in a row, give or take. Meribel took no prisoners, which a number of top-10 regulars were about to find out. Ultimately, the track earned instant legend status, and we could not have had a more legendary winner to go with it.

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With only 6 out of the top-10, we were lucky to manage another disorderly women's podium sweep, or we would have ended the season with a single digit score. Matt Simmonds had us scratching our heads all season with some inconsistent finishes, but he proved here that he can hang with the best on any track. Bruni is for real, and there are some young guns (Williamson, Brannigan, Thirion) who will probably need to be reckoned with in 2015. But before we travel that far ahead in time, there was one more big race on the calendar...

2014 World Championships, Hafjell, Norway

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One run and done, World Champs is a ruthless format that rewards those who will throw caution to the wind. The Power Rankings staff felt the pressure as well, and we threw down a rad call for our chance to leave our mark in the history books too. Much like the Rat overshooting the last jump of the course, our ship of predictions went down in flames...but you won't fault us for trying!

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OK, so what - we called a tie. It's our Rankings and we make the rules. But even in our wildest dreams we couldn't have predicted just how crazy this race would turn out to be. Neko nearly won after breaking his chain right out of the start gate. Sam Hill was on a winning run when he had a nasty crash in the last rock garden. And Josh Bryceland came within 1 jump and two turns of adding the World Champs title to his overall World Cup title when his impromptu ballistic missile experiment ended with a broken foot and the Rat coasting over the line to second place. With all that, we feel almost fortunate to still have scraped together 9 Power Ranking points from World Champs, even though like so many of the racers here, we fancied our chances before hearing the start gate beeps.

Rider Rankings

Predictions are only as good as the results, right? So hang on, it's not our fault if the tire companies still can't make proper rubber in 2014. The best chain money can buy still snaps out of the start gate. And as for sliding out in turns and going OTB in rockgardens, what's up with THAT? Well, we've hung OUR dirty laundry out for all to see, and now it's time to turn our attention to the people who are ultimately responsible for ruining our carefully constructed predictions - the RIDERS! Who consistently delivered on their rankings? Who blew it? Who needs a little extra motivation for winter training? You're about to find out...

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We've included any rider who was ever called up in any of the 2014 Power Rankings, in any position. True, to score points if you were called outside of the top-10 is more difficult (you have to finish on your spot for that to happen), but if we called your number, we were expecting points to be delivered!

Looking through the data above, only 6 riders had the honor of being called for all 8 races. Out of those riders, Troy Brosnan delivered 7 points, which puts him tied with Ratboy for most PR points delivered in the season. The Rat did it with being called for one less race however, which also puts him on top of the % race. Josh delivered a stunning 100% PR points winning record in 2014 - an achievement he will no doubt place right next to winning the World Cup overall when he looks back over his long career in years to come. Josh was joined in this exclusive club only by Connor Fearon and Greg Williamson, both of whom came through when their number came up. Granted, they were only called once or twice, but delivering those all-important points puts them in our good books - for now.

Brosnan and Hill, the Dynamic Duo from Down Under, both deliver under Power Rankings pressure as well. Call their number, somebody answers the phone. The 3 G's Gwin, Gee, and Greg never really made us sorry for entrusting them with our predictions and our reputations either. But heading on down the list, things are not so rosy. The eminent Blenkinsops, Mulallys, and Macdonalds of the class are not exactly models of consistency, while Bruni takes the prize for underachiever of the season with a mere 25% hit rate despite being called up for duty in EVERY RACE (Matt Simmonds gave him a good run for his money with his 0-for-5 too). That's one investment we'll rue for years to come. Stop breaking our (crystal) balls eh Bruni!

If we are to be honest, we may have left a few points on the table too. Sam Dale had 3 top tens we didn't call him for, and George Brannigan had 2. We probably need to keep a closer eye on team CRC's young guns Joe Smith and Mike Jones for 2015 as well.

So there you have it. Our first season of Vital Power Rankings is in the books, and we're gonna call it a success. Some you win, some you lose, and anyway, we make our own rules here. Unless you left better predictions of your own in each Power Ranking comment section (you didn't), you can bite your tongue 'til next year.

Vital Power Rankings will return in 2015!

(is it 2015 yet???)

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