Posted by Editoress on 08/3/14
Canadian Jack Iles Second in Junior Men DH (plus Steve Smith Interview)
Mont Ste Anne in Canada has always produced some of the most exciting downhill racing, and this year was no exception for Round 5 of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano. Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen) solidified her lead in the women's category by taking her third victory of the season, while Australia's Sam Hill (Chainreactioncycles.com/Nukeproof) took his third World Cup win at Mont Ste Anne, and his first win since 2009. Troy Brosnan (Specialized Racing DH) retained the overall lead in the men's standings after finishing fourth.
Canada's hopes for a repeat of Steve Smith's (Devinci Global Racing) incredible win last year were dashed when the BC rider injured his ankle in training and had to withdraw from competition. However, Jack Iles (Evil Vengeance Tour) had a breakthrough ride in the Junior men to finish second, while Micayla Gatto (Pivot Factory DH) finished just off the podium in the women's race, in sixth place.
Gatto spoke with us after her ride. "It actually went really good, I felt good the entire way down. I've been feeling good all week. I just had a little bobble before the last rocks so I had to roll the jump and it's a bit of a shame because I missed the podium. But I was in the same second as my friend Tracey Hannah ... it's always really frustrating to come sixth, but on a positive note, it's the best result I've had all season and the closest i've been to getting on the podium. So, I'm going to put it behind me and charge forward, and hit it in Windham."
Micayla Gatto also spoke about Worlds: "The national team has been announced and I am on the roster. I couldn't be happier, I love world championships, it's always a great time to be able to hang out with fellow national team members and the cross-country racers. And I've got a bit of revenge to make up in Norway because I flatted in the qualifier there last year, and didn't get to race. So, I'm coming back with a vengeance."
Rain a day earlier had made qualifying a muddy affair, but race day opened clear and it stayed sunny all day, with the track getting harder and faster throughout competition. Australia's Tegan Molloy, the only Junior women in the race, was the first rider off and set a time that stood through nearly half the field before Tahnee Seagrave (FMD Racing) obliterated it by nearly 30 seconds to move into the Hot Seat. Seagrave's time proved strong enough that she remained in the lead until the final three women, when world champion Rachel Atherton (GT Factory) knocked a further 15 seconds off, taking the lead down below five minutes.
Emmeline Ragot (Lapierre Gravity Republic) rode second from last and slotted in behind Atherton, leaving only Carpenter with a chance of displacing the world champion. Carpenter hit the first split over four seconds behind Atherton, but improved to only three-tenths of a second back by the second split, and pulled ahead to squeak out a win by 0.724 seconds.
"My run started off a bit slow," commented Carpenter. "I struggled with the start but I got through it, and the rocks in the middle, and then was able to pick it up a bit. I'm going to have to get a massage after that, my arms and legs are ruined!"
Carpenter now has a commanding lead with two races remaining, at 1030 points. Ragot remains in second at 870 points with Atherton moving up to third at 850 points. Gatto moves up to ninth from 11th, with 385 points.
The men's race saw a steady decrease in the leading time, with rider after rider knocking off a few tenths of a second here and there. It wasn't until Nick Beer (Devinci Global Racing), 50 riders in, that the time went below 4:20. Riders began immediately chipping away at that time, with Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic) the first to go under 4:15. Bruni held the lead until the final ten riders began to come down the hill, with four riders in a row setting new best times, the last being Hill, with five riders still to come after him.
None could match Hill's time, the only one under 4:11, with the fastest qualifier, and Round 4 winner, Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate) coming closest, but still over a second behind the Australian. For Hill it was the end of a long drought at a venue where he has had considerable success - now three World Cup wins and a world championship title.
"I can't really explain the feeling of finally winning again, I'm tearing up a bit. It's been a long time, I can't believe it happened here," said Hill. "The last big race I won was here, at world champs in 2010, so it's been a long road back to the top. I didn't feel in my qualifying run that I could put it all together, so didn't want to get too excited in the race, just try to ride smooth and get to the bottom. Fort William [Round 3] was close, but the last rider down beat me, and I thought that was going to happen here, so I'm happy to get the win."
Mark Wallace (Devinci Global Racing) was the top Canadian in 23rd, followed by Forrest Riesco in 42nd and McKay Vezina in 44th.
Troy Brosnan continues to lead the men's standings with 799 points, although Bryceland has edged closer and is now only 42 points back with two races remaining. Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing DH) is third, at 725 points. Smith is still the top ranked Canadian, dropping to 34th from 29th.
Smith spoke in an interview before heading back to BC to consult with his doctor. "I was just planning to do one mellow timed run, and that's what I was doing. In one section at the end, in the woods, I just slid on a root and dropped the pedal ... but where I dropped it down was a rock and it just twisted the foot and impacted it pretty hard."
"The x-rays have showed no fractures, so it's either just a really bad sprain or possibly ligament damage that just puts me out for this race. I really look forward to this race, it was a perfect time to the season after my last injury. I've been building up and I knew I was at 100% for this. it's just how things go sometimes with racing, and there's still hopes for the rest of the season."