Monday Jun 21, 2010

UCI MTB World Cup - Leogang

The UCI MTB World Cup from Leogang was one of the most exciting to have been witnessed for a while. With a brand new location and course for the 2010 season, there was a division of opinion about the DH track as some of the riders voiced concerns about the potential of entering certain technical sections of the course at such high speeds.

Fears had to be buried the racing started and attentions turned clocking those winning times.    It was a similar case in the 4X as the new course was put through it’s paces, but with the absence of World Cup leader Jana Horáková, (CZE), who is preparing for the BMX World Championships, the other leading ladies were keen to make the most of her absence. 

Qualification saw Labounkova qualify fastest, followed by Molcik and Beerten, but all three were separated by less than a second. Molcik crashed out in the slippery conditions in the semi final, setting up a final with Beerten, Labounkova, Fionn Griffiths and Joanna Petterson.  Beerten got a good gate and dominated from start to finish, while Griffiths and Labounkova fought for second.  The pair tangled on the last turn, allowing Petterson to squeak by for second, with Labounkova having to settle for third.  Molcik won the small final for fifth place. The win put Beerten into the series lead, ten points ahead of the absent Horáková, with Molcik a further ten points back in third.   

Unfortunately for the men, Graves wasn’t off practicing his BMX skills and once again dominated with other top riders like Atherton and Prokop exiting the comp early after slipping, sliding and crashing in the muddy conditions, The saw final Graves versus three riders from RSP 4 Cross Racing Team - Wichman, Tomas Slavik and round two winner Michal Marosi.  Graves got out in front immediately with his usual fast gate, and maintained control all the way to the finish line.  Wichman was closing a couple times, but made some bad line choices and nearly took out his teammates. He finished fourth behind Slavik and Marosi. Graves’ third win now puts him 175 points ahead of Slavik and 190 ahead of Wichman, making it likely that Graves has already wrapped up the 2010 title.  

On Sunday the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Leogang downhill finals started with the women: Jonnier set a great a time with 4:52.70 minutes and Moseley started her run well, but lost a few seconds in forest section and ended with 5:02.39 minutes. Ragot lost time already in the first third of the track and seemed to get weaker in the last section, but finished 3.54 seconds behind Jonnier, which meant second place for her. Then, all eyes fell upon Rachel Atherton who was the last woman to go, and she absolutely smashed the first split, enter the first forest section and didn’t appear on the course again. She crashed in the forest and was not able to finish the race.   

The rain continue to fall as the men’s finals kicked off and the technical section at the top of the course was proving to be the downfall of many riders.  Steve Peat, who had qualified only 34th due to a crash, set the benchmark to beat with 4:11.82 minutes. He looked set to be sat in the hot seat for a while, but the big man from New Zealand who rode so well in Fort Bill, Cameron Cole, beat Peaty’s time by 0.05 seconds and annouced the beginning of some really tight and awesome riding. Next up, Brendan Fairclough rode slightly faster than Peaty and Cole in the third split, but lost time at the very end and finished on third position at this stage.   

Off the back of his win in Fort Bill, the expectations were high when Gee shot out of the start gate, riding really smooth despite the treacherous conditions. In the first split he was 2.5 seconds faster than Cole, then over 5 seconds in the second split, and maintained that gap until the finish line. Matti Lehikoinen couldn’t change anything on the actual ranking, finishing in 4:13.25 minutes, but then the Top 3 from qualifying took to the course: Aaron Gwin, Greg Minnaar and Samuel Blenkinsop.  

Gwin was on the gas the whole time and carried good speed through the whole course crossing the finish line with a time of 4:10.09 minutes, placing directly behind Gee. However it was once again a masterclass from Minnaar with the South African finishing in 4:05.65 minutes, beating Gee by 0.74 seconds and earning him another World Cup win. There was only one more competitor to beat his time, the Kiwi Samuel Blenkinsop, but Sam slipped his pedal twice in the middle section and ended up with a time of 4:11.17 and forth place.    

The final Top 5 results:  

Women - 1st Sabrina Jonnier (FRA/4:52.70) 2nd Emmeline Ragot (FRA/4:56.24) 3rd Floriane Pugin (FRA/4:58.05) 4th Tracy Moseley (GBR/5:02.39) 5th Myriam Nicole (FRA/5:05.48)  

Men - 1st  Greg Minnaar (RSA/4:05.65) 2nd  Gee Atherton (GBR/4:06.39) 3rd  Aaron Gwin (USA/4:10.09) 4th  Samuel Blenkinsop (NZL/4:11.17) 5th  Cameron Cole (NZL/4:11.77)

Channels: UCI MTB World Cup DHI 2010 - Austria, Mountain Bike