Following hot on the heels of last weekend’s Fort William epic, the fourth stage of the Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup saw things really heating up in the battle for the overall title.
The alpine village of Leogang in Austria was the stage for a pitched battle between the top contenders in both the men’s and the women’s elite events, with the men’s seeing a particularly close-fought scrap for the podium places.
Women battle for the top spot
The results from the season so far left things very open at the top of the leaderboard, so going into this event there was all to play for.
Manon Carpenter, Rachel Atherton and Emmeline Ragot had each won a stage. Manon and Rachel’s Fort William race was marred by the misfortune of flat tyres and Rachel was still struggling to overcome the illness that has dogged her since stage two in Cairns, but all were looking pretty strong in qualifying.
“Going into this event there was all to play for.”
Manon took the top spot, followed by Ms. Ragot and Atherton respectively.
Rachel was looking good in the race, beating Manon’s top qualifying time as she ripped down the course. Emmeline couldn’t quite match her finishing a second and a half slower and letting her compatriot Myriam Nicole – who’d also ridden impressively all weekend – sneak in ahead of her.
But in the end no-one could stop Manon Carpenter, who is mining a rich vein of form at the moment, and finished a full three seconds ahead of Rachel. Given the way she’s riding at the minute, it’s hard to believe that Pietermaritzburg a few weeks ago was 21-year-old Manon’s first ever World Cup win.
All change at the top
In the men’s final, the top spot changed hands more times than cards on a blackjack table, with successive riders knocking each other off the top spot.
After putting down the quickest time in qualifying Frenchman Loic Bruni had every right to expect that the race would go his way, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be after he crashed out near the bottom of the course.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for Frenchman Loic Bruni after he crashed out near the bottom of the course.”
American Aaron Gwin was similarly unlucky, suffering a flat tyre. While it didn’t stop him finishing his run (to massive cheers from the crowd) it did stop him competing properly for first place.
There was no such impediment to Josh ‘Ratboy’ Bryceland though. He’s been threatening to do it for a while now, but Leogang was the event when he finally won his first World Cup.
His Santa Cruz team-mate Greg Minnaar came a close second, while Troy Brosnan followed up on his strong performance in Fort William last weekend by taking third.
Gee Atherton meanwhile unfortunately couldn’t manage more than a 12th place finish just behind Stevie Smith who also couldn’t quite keep pace with the leaders.
The season is shaping up
With the next event over a month away (in Mont Saint-Anne, Quebec, on 2nd August) this makes the leaderboard look very interesting for the next few weeks.
Manon Carpenter is sitting pretty at the top of the women’s competition, with her second World Cup win putting her well ahead of Emmeline Ragot in second and Myriam Nicole in third.
In the men’s competition things are very, very close. Combined with his first place last weekend, Troy Brosnan’s result from Leogang puts him in the lead. But he’s only 29 points ahead of Aaron Gwin in second. Josh Bryceland meanwhile moves up to third overall.
The next few events will be well, well worth watching.
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