Qualifying at the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Lourdes, France, has concluded with Loic Bruni, Tracey Hannah and Laurie Greenland on top after a brutal and surprise-filled afternoon.
175 Elite Men were registered for a start and the qualifying round narrowed down the field to 80 riders who will compete in Sunday's final. There was plenty of drama as current World Champ, Gee Atherton (GT Atherton Racing) did not finish his qualifying run due to a crash resulting in a possible wrist injury (unconfimed). Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing) is reported as a DSQ and fan-favorite, Sam Hill (Team Chain Reaction Cycles) did not start due to a shoulder injury. Gwin and Atherton will be allowed to race the finals due to their Top 20 ranking from 2014. Because Sam Hill did not attempt a qualifying run, he will not race on Sunday.
France took top honors as Loic Bruni was fastest with a blistering 3:03 followed by fellow countryman, Remi Thirion (Commencal), just 1.8-seconds back. Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate) and Neko Mulally (GSTAAD-Scott), were 3rd and 4th with only .3-seconds separating 2nd through 4th place. It was incredibly close racing.
31 Elite Women dropped in for their qualifying runs trying secure a Top 20 spot to make the finals. Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) put a significant dent in the rest of the field by posting a top time nearly 6-seconds ahead of Rachel Atherton (GT Atherton Racing). Current World Champ, Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen), was 12-seconds off the pace in 5th. Tracey's fastest qualifying time of 3:29.785 was about 12-seconds faster than Rachel Atherton's timed training run yesterday.
Only 4 Americans were registered for Elite Men; Aaron Gwin, Neko Mulally, Luca Shaw and Eliot Jackson. There were no American women registered to race in the Elite Women's class.
Juniors do not qualify, but take seeding runs instead to determine their start position for the race on Sunday. Laurie Greenland (Trek World Racing) backed up his timed training results by taking the top spot with a run that was 7-seconds faster than yesterday. He was also fastest through the speed trap at just under 50kph. Props to Matt Osman, the only American Junior racing this weekend. Go get 'em Matt!
We'll report on any news as we get it in our Official Lourdes World Cup forum thread.