After a dry first day of practice, La Bresse turned nasty on us and wouldn't let up until the racing was all done. A grey, wet, and cold day greeted the racers as they took to the hill to decide the last World Cup of the season, and wrap up the overall standings in the Elite Women's as well.
Early in the day, Valentina Holl continued her rampage through the Junior Women's ranks with a dominating, 17-second win with a time that would have landed her on the third step of the Elite Women's podium! An impressive performance from such a young rider, and surely the UCI needs to be petitioned to let her race in the top category next year?
In the Junior Men's, Thibaut Daprela had already wrapped up the overall title but still laid it all on the line to take the win at the last race of the season, 0.7 seconds ahead of Henry Kerr in second and Kade Edwards in third.
Time then for the women, and all eyes were on Rachel and Tahnee and the overall title. Myriam Nicole and Tracey Hannah had come down within half a second of each other, but Rachel would soon show that she had no intention of holding back, wanting to go out with a win even though she needed only to finish 4th or better to wrap up the overall title. 11.5 seconds up at the line and her job was done! Tahnee would not lay down however, keeping Rachel in sight until the finish line, eventually loosing out only by 0.6 seconds which bodes well for their ongoing battle. The rest of field will have some work to do over the off-season to close this gap though. Back to our winner then, and Rachel takes her 6th overall World Cup title, moving ahead of Sabrina Jonnier and Anne-Caro Chausson to become the all-time most winning World Cup overall rider!
As we joined the elite men's race, EWS specialist Martin Maes laid down a blistering time in the pouring rain that would not be caught for a long time, making for a long, wet stay on a very cold, hot seat. Eddie Masters made a mistake in the wet woods and went down on a root. Number 3 qualifier Remi Thirion came down into third, but 3 seconds back, followed by the fastest qualifier Gee Atherton who lit up the splits at the top but lost 2 seconds through the flatter middle part of the course - had Maes done something truly special? With the weird starting order employed by the UCI this year, we'd have to wait a long time to see how the rest of the fast qualifiers would stack up.
Minnaar up next, but he went down early, followed by a long list of riders who would try to challenge Maes only to come up well short. Blenkinsop looked amazing through the top and the jumps, only to somehow drop 5 seconds in the flat woods. Would the EWS power of Maes actually prove too much for most of the field on a track that seemed to be running slower as the day went on? Finn Iles was flying, pulling a tear-off on the last gap of the big jump line, but his early green splits would soon turn to red.
Into the heavy weights, and Loris Vergier saw his bid come up short with a messy run full of little mistakes, showing us that everybody was pushing hard but coming up against a track that would not give up the goods easily. 10 riders to go! Luca Shaw set off on fire, up by 0.8 seconds after two splits and looking good, only to go down on a wet root. The young American has showed that he has the pace to challenge for a win, but he'll have to wait until World Champs in two weeks to see if he can make it happen in 2018. Next to drop Danny Hart, 0.5 up at the early splits, +5 seconds at the line. Could it even be done anymore? Brosnan gave it a good shot, but a couple of mistakes late in the run saw him cross the line in 7th (he would finish 11th). Time for the last 5 riders, and Maes was still sitting in the hot seat! Gwin up next, but he'd go down after just 30 seconds of his run. He still showed us a special move he'd been saving up for the occasion, scrubbing around the side of one of the big tables in the jump line - spectacular.
Connor Fearon slipped just after the start gate, had he paid the price for running flats? With such a short track there was no room for any mistakes today, and his challenge for the win was over as soon as it began. 8th on the day will be encouraging on a tough day though. Bruni on deck, 1.3 seconds up at the first splits! Riding loose and on the ragged edge, he'd somehow go on to drop 4.3 seconds and go into 5th at the line (6th at the end of the race). The track was short but as far as physicality goes, one of the tougher tests of the year. Brook put down a perfect top section, looking incredible and showing green splits, coming over the line in third - 3 seconds back, and another podium for the resurgent Bulldog. Only the newly crowned overall World Cup champion Amaury Pierron remained. Would he deny Martin Maes as spectacular win? Green up top, 0.3 back at the last split, HE CAN DO IT! And slips out in the second to last grassy turn, sliding into the crash padding! Denied at the line, looking like he might pull off the impossible. A Belgian wins the day here in France, but with a more classic track coming up in two weeks, you'd be a fool to bet against Amaury taking his first rainbow stripes with the form he's in. Stay tuned!
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