Shoe switching, blistering, tireless, tyre-less, hard-hitting racing. The 2014 downhill season barely gave us a moment to breathe.
Unpredictable plot twists and standout British riding provided the main headlines. Josh ‘Ratboy’ Bryceland launched a blistering breakthrough, Manon Carpenter raised the bar to new heights, and the Athertons showed that they’re not done just yet either.
In amongst all the action there were plenty of laughs, bails – to come in a separate post – and moments that made this year’s series one of the best. Here’s our summary of the standout highlights…
1) A Nod To The Future
The season got going in South Africa, with round one of the World Cup taking place in the easily spelt town of ‘Pietermaritzburg’.
The series opener proved a sign of things to come. Ratboy shocked everyone by stomping qualifying, but was denied a run at the podium by a mechanical, while Manon showed her early intent with a first World Cup win in round one.
A solid start to what would be an insane season.
2) Carnage In Cairns
Adam Brayton had a pretty gnarly crash in Cairns in round two. It left him with a broken leg and a severe gash which was 27cm long. Ouch.
The crash also left him with a downhill bike that was halfway up a mountain. So, despite rumours that he had stolen the bike, MTB fan Ben McGowan offered to take Adam’s ride to the bottom of the track for him. Adam accepted.
Despite the good intentions, the trip down the World Cup track didn’t end too well for Ben. To be precise, it ended in two broken vertebrae and a dislocated shoulder.
We wonder who took the bike down from there…
3) Gee Atherton’s Shoe-Steal Success
Cairns wasn’t all about crashes. It was also one of the high points and weirdest moments of the season for Brit star Gee Atherton.
After deciding that he would race better on flats, Gee sized up a spectator and asked him if he could borrow his Five Tens for the finals. The fan happily obliged, and Gee went on to win it.
“By the time I’d finished anti doping after the race, the guy had left,” admits Gee. “So I still have his shoes.”
What a strange situation.
4) The Rookie Breaks Ground At Fort William
No debutant on the World Cup series had ever won their first downhill race at Fort William. Until 21 year old Australian Troy Brosnan came along.
In a showing that left the sidelines buzzing and the journos even moreso, the Specialized rider slayed Scotland’s signature track to claim his first World Cup win.
A huge break for Troy, and one that would launch his commendable push for the overall title.
5) Aaron Gwin Hammers Leogang Tyre-less
American star Aaron Gwin knows how to ride a bike. His back-to-back overall World Cup wins are a testament to that fact.
Just incase anyone was unaware of his talents, however, take a look at the video above. This is Leogang, Austria, where Gwin’s tyre came off and he decided he’d race the rest of the course anyway. In style.
This is probably the most memorable moment of the season, and without doubt an incident that secures Aaron’s all time status as an absolute boss.
6) The Rise of The Rat And The National Anthem
The moment the whole mountain biking community had been waiting for finally came in Leogang in June – Ratboy got his first win on the World Cup circuit!
A monumental moment for the man renowned for the quirky personality and infectious laugh caught brilliantly on Steve Peat’s web series ‘This is Peaty’.
The best part of the win? Josh’s attempt at singing the national anthem on the podium, and the subsequent release of this attempt on Soundcloud shortly after.
7) The Manon Domination Period
Manon Carpenter had been threatening to break through for much of the 2013 season, but couldn’t quite find that extra touch needed to get past Rachel Atherton or Emmeline Ragot.
After overcoming that initial hurdle in Pietermaritzburg, Carpenter would go on to win again in Leogang and follow that up with success at Mont-Sainte-Anne, showing that this was most certainly her year.
The Welsh rider put in a lot of off-season work, so it was great to see it all pay off.
8) The King Of The Hill Gets His Win
Everyone knows the famous Sam Hill runs. Champery in 2007 was particularly special, with the Australian giving a big middle finger to the hideous conditions to stomp an unbelievable run.
While Sam has been amongst the top riders for some time now though, the two-time overall winner hadn’t taken a World Cup win for several years before he rode to gold in Canada.
Hill then followed this up with the win in Meribel to make it a very successful season, and it’s great to see him riding hard and nailing his lines again.
9) The Blistering Brits
There is one major common denominator to take away from the 2014 downhill season – British mountain biking is on fire.
From Ratboy and Manon taking overall wins to Tahnee Seagrave showing huge potential and Matt Simmonds proving he has a whole lot of pace behind that power, it’s been a good year for Team GB.
Rachel Atherton won in Meribel to show that she’s still got it after struggling early on with illness, and with Gee taking his second World Championship win last weekend after a disappointing season, it’s definitely game on next term!
10) A Worthy World Champs Sees The Season Out
We’re all pretty devastated that the downhill mountain biking season has now come to a close. It’s really been a cracker.
If there was ever a send off worthy of such a success though, it was last weekend’s World Championships. Flying, falling, tears and joy – it really had it all.
Neko Mulally claimed a fourth place finish with no chain, Manon saw out the season on a high, Gee exorcized some season demons and Ratboy took second with a broken ankle. Just a bit of drama then.
It will have been a hard one to take for the Rat having hammered Hafjell so well on the day – check out his GoPro footage above – but it just wasn’t to be for the Mancunian after an ankle break on the final jump. Gutting stuff.
Bryceland will be back next year though to defend his overall win and continue the hunt for that first World Champs title – probably with all the usual Santa Cruz antics along the way.
We’re counting down the days already…