Temperatures plummeted, rain drizzled and fierce winds arrived at the top of the mountain in Lourdes, France, with only 15 Elite Men downhill racers to run. The 25th season of the UCI World Cup had kicked off with plenty of drama surrounding wheel sizes, but weather and course conditions had been perfect until the very end. Rain drizzled on the course and didn't seem to cause any major problems for the racers initially, but the wind at the top was blowing riders awkwardly until the last 10 riders remained. That's when the rain came down hard and dashed the hopes of the fastest qualifiers with riders like Aaron Gwin and Danny Hart crashing multiple times on the ice-like course before finishing.
Regardless of weather conditions, there's no denying that race winner, Alexandre Fayolle of Polygon UR, put down an impressive run. The 52nd-place qualifier proved he's a contender this year with the second result of the entire weekend to hit the 2:52 mark, which only Loris Vergier had achieved in qualifying. Fayolle, who placed 17th at the 2016 World Champs in Val di Sole, kept that hotseat warm until the very end.
Mark Wallace takes the new Canyon team to a silver medal position and Marcelo Gutierrez of Giant Factory Off-Road earns bronze.
Analyzing the splits of the 29er riders (Santa Cruz Syndicate) against riders in similar conditions might indicate the wheel size has merit, but we'll have to wait for Fort William for the next officially documented performance. Claudio Caluori, in the webcast, indicated there will be more 29ers at Fort William.
Rachel Atherton earns an incredible 34th World Cup downhill win. She laughingly said post-race, "I kind of wanted to be beaten this weekend, because I can't take it anymore," referring to the stress of her long-running winning streak which includes 14 World Cup and 2 World Championships in a row. Brisk winds during race runs caused some concern for the women. Fastest qualifier, Tahnee Seagrave, was quick, but struggled into 3rd, just barely behind Tracy Hannah who finished strong with a 2nd place. Tracy said she "chose not to think about the wind." Myriam Nicole and Manon Carpenter round out the Top 5 Elite Women.
Finn Iles continues to dominate the Junior class with a win by 3.5 seconds over Kaos Seagrave. Kaos, younger brother of Elite pro, Tahnee Seagrave, has stepped up his game and was the only rider to give Finn any real challenge today. Sylvain Cougoureux in 3rd, edged out Moritz Ribarich in 4th by only .002 while Kade Edwards finished 5th just behind.
Three competitors formed the Junior Women's class with Melanie Chappaz taking the victory with a 4:22.878.