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All good things must come to an end, and although we're not entirely sure how we ended up here so quickly, the final World Cup of the 2014 campaign is upon us. We've had an incredible season, with first-time winners climbing precipitously to the top of that elusive podium, and previous champions stepping up their game once again to give chase. We've feasted our eyes on a fearless display of the ultimate in bike control, set to a soundtrack of bikes shrieking in agony at the abuse being dished out by the world's fastest riders. We've gorged ourselves on slideshows from the world's best action photographers, and we've stared in disbelief at the riders walking away from stacks that registered on the Richter scale. And as we now stand at the top of a French mountain hosting its first-ever World Cup, we can't help but wonder - will we see a first-time winner of the overall World Cup as well? We'll know for sure come Saturday, but in the meantime, here is how we see it.

1. Josh Bryceland

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Even a few races ago, we would have hesitated to make this call. But Ratboy has proven beyond doubt that he is the fastest man down a mountain on two wheels right now, and if he felt any pressure in Windham, it certainly didn't show in his riding. Josh's breakout season has left him with the overall World Cup lead going into Meribel, and although he'd have to be superhuman to not be feeling a little extra weight on his shoulders by now, once the start gate beeps ring out, he'll be in his element and on his way to a season-ending party to end all parties.

2. Sam Hill

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As far the Vital Power Rankings staff writers are concerned, Sam Hill could show up in Meribel with a unicycle and we'd still have him on this list. The truth is that this call makes us a bit nervous, sad and self-conscious, because in reality, anything could happen. The flat pedal thunder from down under is back to his very best, and on a course that doesn't require a lot of pedaling, Sam could quite easily do one better too. And just imagine if it rains... #champery2.

3. Danny Hart

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Windham was a case of what could have been for the Redcar Rocket, and in the absence of scientific data to rely on, we're going with the age-old proven formula for establishing Power Rankings: our gut. From what we've seen of the Meribel track, it'll take a combination of super-human bike skills and total lack of fear to dominate here, which should make Danny a shoe-in.

4. Aaron Gwin

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Aaron Gwin is back in the hunt for the overall title this year, and he won't give up that up without a fight. From what we've seen, the Meribel track is steep, loose, and fast - all of which should suit to the Californian crusher to a T. However, there's the small matter of a rainbow striped jersey and a possible rendezvous with destiny in Hafjell in a couple of weeks' time that is probably ultimately what Gwin's next real goal is. But on the day, it will come down to who can hold it wide open and keep it clean, and we wouldn't put it past the Gwinner to do better than our call, either...

5. Troy Brosnan

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Troy has tasted a World Cup win this year already, and he wouldn't mind coming back for seconds. He's also within striking distance of the overall title, and when they say 3's a crowd, this is exactly what they were talking about - nobody wants to be the third wheel do they? We have Troy in fifth, but he's already proven he can hang on the longer and faster tracks, so we're facing the potential for ridicule on this one. Just the way we like it.

6. Gee Atherton

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Gee hasn't had the best of seasons, but count on the Vulcan warrior to find a way to go out with a bang. The last time the World Cup was held on a grassy French mountainside, Gee came within a cat's whisker of the win. And he'll not want to dwell on Windham any longer than he absolutely has to. Meribel and fare thee well.

7. Brook MacDonald

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The further down we go in this list, the harder it gets! Brook was on the box in Windham, and if he's really back on it, we know how fast he is. Meribel is an unknown quantity at this point, so we're going with a solid top-10 for the Bulldog, and we're leaving it up to him to prove us wrong. Again.

8. Remi Thirion

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That's right, we're in France, and the mountains here speak French. So with a little je-ne-sais-quoi of recklessness and NFG, we're betting our baguettes on Remi finishing his World Cup campaign with a flamboyant flurry. Ooh la la.

9. Sam Blenkinsop

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Blenki looked back to his flying self in Windham, and he earned himself a 4th place in the process. The only reason we don't have the gloveless Kiwi higher on this list today is his consistent finishes just inside the top-10 earlier in the season. One more race to prove he's back to podium contention and we'll put in the warranty claims on our crystal balls.

10. Greg Minnaar

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Putting Greg 10th is the non-call to end all non-calls. He hasn't looked entirely his old self over the past few races, and although he's proven countless times that he can pull out a result even when he's not firing on all cylinders, this is the season-ender and there will be a lot of very hungry riders out for blood. Greg has nothing to lose here but also nothing to prove with his Cairns DSQ ruining his overall run, so he'll ride his other-worldly speed to a safe Top 10 finish and start looking towards World Champs...

11-12. Loic Bruni and Michael Jones

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We've probably gone off our rockers here, but we're not convinced Loic will be the fastest Frenchy in Meribel. Call it intuition, call it a hunch, call it inability to find a spot for him among the 10 riders above - it may be Meribel the terrible for the Power Rankings staff on this one, but we like nothing more than to be proven wrong!

Michael Jones scored his first ever Top 10 in Windham, and he did it in some fashion, beating out team mate Sam Hill on his way to 6th. Clearly benefiting from the presence of the flat pedal master on the team, he'll ride his good form to another solid finish in France.

13, 14, 15. George Brannigan, Sam Dale, Joe Smith

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George Brannigan will be anxious to keep up with team mate Brook MacDonald as he comes back to form. Sam Dale fell on to his head and off the radar in Windham, but he's been on a tear this year and he'll have enough raw speed to rack up a solid finish here at the season-ender. Joe Smith won't quite match his performance on the short track of Windham, but he'll surf the Team CRC wave of form to an honorable finish.

Wild Cards - Mick Hannah and Connor Fearon

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Sik Mik showed us that he's back on the bike with aplomb by winning Crankworx Air DH and will have a solid run for his first World Cup race back after injury. He'll no doubt have his eyes set on the Hafjell World Champs already, so this will be merely a dress rehearsal for the Aussie pinner. And on the topic of Aussie pinners, young Connor Fearon has been looking increasingly quick, to the point that we're entrusting him with a wild card. Use it wisely, young man!

Women

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1. Emmeline Ragot

We know what you're thinking. But this is far from an easy call. Em has been struggling to keep up with Rachel and Manon all throughout the season, until she put them all back in their place with that no-holds-barred run in Windham. But now, with the overall title within her grasp, she'll use her home court advantage to the fullest, throw caution to the wind and walk away with another win and the World Cup overall to boot.

2. Rachel Atherton

Rachel has shown that she has the speed, but she has also shown that she still can't make it stick to the bitter end. On the long, fast, and rough Meribel track she'll go close, so close - but it won't be enough this time.

3. Manon Carpenter

We won't go as far as calling a choke, but Manon did not look comfortable with the speed in Windham, and Meribel does not look like a walk in the park. Ride loose or ride slow, and riding loose is a hard thing to do when that overall trophy is staring you in the face.

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iceman2058 iceman2058 8/20/2014 2:17 PM

6 comments newest first

danny hart has got to be the most over hyped racer ever. no way he deserves #3. loic should definitely be higher he has been so fast this year.

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