10 of the Greatest Competitive Mountain Bike Runs in the History of the Sport
Sponsored Feature: From Atherton to Peaty and Gracia to Lacondeguy...
Competitive mountain biking is a world drenched in legend, tradition and idols, no matter whether you’re talking about downhill, freeride or any other discipline.
The sport has grown immeasurably in the past 10 or 15 years, and so much of that is thanks to the legends and heroes of the sport – the Steve Peats, Cedric Gracias, Rachel Athertons – who have drawn attention to the thrill and inspired new generations.
These legends have ridden lines to remember; produced unforgettable results under ridiculous pressure and made irreplaceable marks on the mountain biking timeline.
Of course, any list of the greatest lines ridden in competitive mountain biking is going to be subjective, but below you’ll find 10 moments that enthralled, bewildered or inspired beyond belief; or often achieved all three.
Have we missed out a mega moment that you would’ve included? Let us know in the comments below...
1) Danny Hart, Champery, 2011
You know the course. You know the run. You know the man. And you know the moment that would go down in action sports commentary history from the ecstatic Rob Warner – “How can Danny Hart sit down with balls that big?" he screamed, as the world joined him.
One of the greatest downhill world cup moments of all time, the British Hart was beating strong on a wet, filthy day in Switzerland. On one of the steepest tracks on the circuit, Danny dominated, winning by over 11 seconds, and chucking in one of the steeziest whips of all time in the process.
2) Cedric Gracia, Leysin, 2000
Cedric Gracia is a name steeped in mountain biking history. One of the true legends of the sport, and one of the biggest winners of all time. Arguably one of his greatest wins was in the Leysin round of the UCI Downhill World Cup a full 15 years ago.
After winning qualification, Cedric was the last rider down the mountain on race day and knew exactly what he needed to do to take the top spot off the acclaimed Nicolas Vouilloz, who was the season’s world cup series champ. In fact, Gracia knew so precisely how to ride the track that he ended up winning by a massive nine seconds. Not bad, eh?
If you’re after even more Gracia madness, skip to 30 seconds into this highlights feature of the best moments from Red Bull Rampage:
3) Cam Zink, Red Bull Rampage, 2010
Cam Zink is synonymous with the most viral moments from freeriding frenzy Red Bull Rampage at this point. The dude nailed the biggest backflip of all time in the contest in 2013, a record that he would then go on to beat again in 2014, and famously nailed a 360 off the huge Icon Sender in 2010 – a move which was subsequently voted the best Rampage moment of all time.
The huge drop, the huge balls, and the huge talent of Zink left the crowds with their jaws on the floor. It’s a moment that won’t be forgotten in the world of freeride mountain biking.
4) Steve Peat, Canberra, 2009
The people’s champion, mountain biking pioneer, legend and all around inspiration Steve Peat finally claimed his first and only world championship win in Canberra, Australia in 2009. Safe to say there was a bit of a party afterwards.
Peat was far from the last man down. After he took the lead off Mick Hannah, there were still three men left to run. Three may not sound like a lot, but when those three are Sam Hill, Greg Minnaar and Gee Atherton, it’s certainly cause for concern.
Hill would end up more than two seconds off Peaty though, Minnaar a mere +0.05, and Atherton could only end up sixth. One of the most emotionally wonderful moments in the history of the sport!
5) Sam Hill, Champery, 2007
Champery certainly seems to lend itself to legend. Long before Danny Hart would whip his way into the history books though, a certain Sam Hill had cemented his status as a MTB hero on the track. It may have been in qualification, but the footage of Hill making his way down the muddy mountain and beating everyone else by 14 seconds is something that will never be forgotten. His third place the next day was arguably even more historic... and then there was this a bit down the line:
The next year? Sam Hill would have another one in Val di Sole. Racing down the mountain last, Hill was over five seconds up on leader Steve Peat at the first split, over six seconds up at the second split, and was on to sail to victory until he skidded out and crashed after a monumental jump near the end of the track. After that serious bail out? He still came third, just over half a second away from Peaty.
6) Aaron Gwin, Leogang, 2015
In 2014, Aaron Gwin amazed the world and became an internet sensation after getting a flat tyre during his race run in Leogang, and then managing to complete the run regardless. In 2015, he got another piece of bad luck on the Austrian track, as his chain snapped off as he pedalled out of the gates, though this time, he did a hell of a lot more than just finishing the run.
As supporters, enthusiasts and riders all watched on in utter bewilderment, the American went less than a second off the pace at the second split. Next thing we knew, he was crossing the line 0.045 seconds faster than the leader at the time Connor Fearon and taking a historic win.
Rob Warner lost his shit in commentary, of course, and so did the rest of the world. How was it possible? We still don’t know.
7) Andreu Lacondeguy, Red Bull Rampage, 2014
In the run up to Red Bull Rampage 2014, Andreu Lacondeguy had finished fourth place in the event three times in a row. Coming into Utah last year, he swore that this time around, he was either going home in last place or first – and he was right.
Lacondeguy dropped in from a giant cliff, showed some huge steeze and nailed some beautiful step downs which have lead his run to be called one of, if not thee greatest Rampage run of all time.
8) Rachel Atherton, Val di Sole, 2008
A mountain bike scene without Rachel Atherton at the forefront seems unthinkable these days, but it was really back in 2008 that she cemented her place in the history books, at the age of just 21.
Atherton had already finished third in the overall UCI world cup rankings in 2006, and chalked up a couple of wins across that season and the 2007 year after turning senior, but 2008 was really her year. Having already wrapped up the overall world cup title, she turned her eyes to the World Champs in Val di Sole.
No British woman had ever won the rainbow stripes in downhill before, but Rachel would claim both her and her country’s first on that day – by a stunning 11 seconds. A legend was born.
9) Darren Berrecloth, Crankworx Whistler, 2005
Mountain bike slopestyle was still in the heavy stages of progression back in 2005, but just then as it is now, Crankworx Whistler was still the centrepiece.
One of the most historic moments from the event to this day remains the run in which “The Claw" nailed a 360 over a 60ft road gap and rode away from it. The “360 heard around the world" set a new standard for slopestyle, and it’ll always be featured on any list of the greatest moments from Crankworx you’ll come across.
10) Chris Kovarik, Fort William, 2002
Fort William is one of the staples of downhill mountain biking. An iconic venue in the Scottish Highlands with a history which stretches far further than the treacherous trail itself. One notable star along that prestigious timeline? The time Mr. Chris Kovarik claimed the biggest downhill win of all time, beating the rest of the field by over 14 seconds, in 2002.
After taking a huge crash in timed runs at the start of the weekend and still chalking up a time close to the best recorded, Kovarik was confident come race day, and rightly so. He says that he wanted to get down the hill and out of the shitty weather as quickly as possible, and he did exactly that, smoking the rest of the field.
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