Posted by Editoress on 07/1/17
Canadian world champion Finnley Iles (Specialized Gravity) took his third Downhill World Cup victory of the season in the Junior Men's category on Saturday at Round 4 in Vallnord, Andorra. In other Canadian results, Mark Wallace (Canyon Factory) was seventh in Elite Men and Vaea Verbeeck 10th in Elite Women.
Vallnord, site of the 2015 world championships, is short and steep - the steepest course on the current World Cup circuit, dropping 626 metres in just over two kilometres. It is also rough and rocky, with holes that can catch a wheel and put a rider over the bars in an instant.
Iles was the fastest at every checkpoint in the Junior Men's race, finishing 4.973 seconds ahead of perennial rival Matt Walker (Madison Saracen), with Kade Edwards (Trek Factory) third. The Whistler-based rider now leads the standings with 220 points to Walker's 140, followed by Edwards at 105. In the small Junior Women's field, British rider Megan James took her second win ahead of Melanie Chappaz (Dorval AM Nicoli). Chappaz continues to lead the standings with 180 points, followed by James at 120 (James has won both races she entered).
"When I was at the top, [my manager] said 'It's Canada Day, put it down', and I tried to ride as fast as I could," said Iles. "I'm happy with my time; it was a good day. There was a section where I thought I had screwed up, but I was able to just carry speed out of it. I felt that for the entire bottom section I was just carrying good speed and really smooth and strong on my bike. I'd say it was definitely one of my better runs this year and I'm really happy with the result."
The Elite Women's race saw the return to competition of world champion Rachel Atherton (Trek Factory), who missed the two previous rounds after dislocating her shoulder prior to Fort William. All eyes were on the British rider, who had been on an incredible 14 consecutive World Cup winning streak prior to her injury. Atherton, on this very steep and sketchy course, took it relatively cautiously, finishing fourth. The winner was Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Vallnord), taking only the second World Cup win of her career, six years after her first at Val di Sole, Italy, in 2011. Nicole, who qualified second, took the Hot Seat spot from Round 3 winner Tahnee Seagrave (Transition/FMD Factory). World Cup leader and fastest qualifier Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) had the fastest time at the halfway point before crashing over her bars and eventually finishing ninth.
"I can't believe it, it's unreal," said Nicole. "It wasn't a perfect run. I feel a bit sad for Tracey's crash, but she's not injured which is the main thing. I'm so stoked to take the win here in Andorra, with all my family and my sponsors here to see me ... I still can't believe it. It was raining a bit so I was being careful; I made a couple of mistakes but it was still a good run."
Hannah, crashing out of contention while in the lead, said "I was feeling really good on the bike and I lost my front wheel. I wasn't expecting it; I didn't make a mistake ... just down onto the dirt, sometimes you fall off. It was a bit of a pisser because my brake lever moved and I couldn't reach it. I think I would have had a pretty smooth bottom section if not for that."
Miranda Miller (Specialized Gravity), back in her first World Cup after injuring her leg at Fort William, managed 11th, just behind fellow Canadian Vaea Verbeeck, who took her first top-10 of the season. Hannah continues to lead the overall standings with 745 points, but Nicole jumped from third to second and is only five points back, followed by Seagrave at 689 points. Miller is 13th in the standings followed by Verbeeck in 14th.
The Elite Men's race came down to a battle of the top qualifiers, with rain starting as the top-25 began their runs. Alex Marin (Madison Saracen) became the first rider to go under 4:20 at 20 riders to go. Wallace, at 13 to go bumped him out of the lead by a quarter of a second. The Canadian held the lead as rider after rider crashed, until world champion Danny Hart (MS Mondraker) came down on a ride barely on the edge of control to knock five seconds off the leading time with five riders left to finish.
"I'm happy with the run, it's a good Canada Day result," said Wallace. "I think Finn [Iles] beat me this time. The run was mostly what I wanted; smooth and good. There were a few spots at the bottom where it got a bit scary, but that's normal here."
"It was probably one of the scariest runs of my life to be honest," admitted Hart. "But I knew that if I wanted to beat these guys I had to let it all hang out. I'm happy to be back on the podium."
The next three riders all slotted in behind Hart, until there were only two left - World Cup leader Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) and fastest qualifier Troy Brosnan (Canyon Factory). Minnaar, as smooth as always, came in over two seconds faster, despite a couple of mistakes at the bottom. Brosnan was quicker than Minnaar on the top two time splits before losing time on the next two, and was 0.167 seconds down coming into the final turns and jump. However, he managed to pull that back and more to win by 0,22 seconds, for the second World Cup victory of his career, and the first ever for his team.
"Of course I'm happy!," said Brosnan. "The run was gnarly; I pinned it at the top and felt that I had some time up my sleeve, and then coming to the bottom I just tried to hang it loose and just held on. I had two mistakes at the bottom corners that pissed me off, but I still held on for the win so i'm over the moon. This feels just as good as my first win."
Minnaar continues to lead the standings with 672 points, followed by 2016 overall World Cup champion Aaron Gwin (The YT Mob) at 569. Brosnan moves up to third from seventh with his win, at 542 points. Wallace drops one spot, to seventh, after Brosnan's jump in the standings, but is only 12 points out of the top five.
Junior men and women, Elite women
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