Mont Sainte Anne Downhill Finals
The weekend of August 1st saw Mont Sainte Anne hold it’s 25th World Cup mountain bike race. This round was also the 15oth World Cup downhill. After two decades, the downhill track is very familiar with some sections unchanged since the first race in 1992 (the first two MSA World Cups were XC-only). The track changes each year, this year they added gnar and made the track less “bike-parky” leveling some berms and turning them into flat or off-camber turns. They removed the iconic Gondola hip jump and added a massive rock drop.
After Friday’s qualifying round, the heavens opened up and gave the track a good soaking. Morning dawned with a blue sky but the clouds rolled in as soon as the morning practice session started. One last chance to see how the track had changed since qualifying, to dial their lines, and to try to judge grip levels before their run. Several riders had crashes including World Champion Manon Carpenter, Aaron Gwin who broke the tape several times and Rachel Atherton who found the track to be considerably more slippery than the day before. Emmeline Ragot had the worst of it though, falling off the finish line jump and breaking her left arm and left leg.
The junior racers went first in dryish conditions. Great Britain’s Laurie Greenland won with a convincing margin of 5.663 seconds over Alex Marin Trillo and 7.528 seconds over series leader Andrew Crimmins.
By the time the women were in the start gate, the first rumblings of thunder could be heard as darker clouds gathered over the St. Lawrence River. One by one the riders came down until only Rachel Atherton was left. As she waited for her turn to start it finally began to rain. Not a deluge like Friday, but just a steady light rain came down. Rachel was able to continue her dominance of 2015 with a 4th consecutive win. Behind her times were close with Manon Carpenter, Myriam Nicole and Tahnee Seagrave all within about 4 seconds of her. Miranda Miller rounded out the podium in her first World Cup race in 2 years.
The steady drizzle continued into the men’s race and the thunder still threatened a major storm. With the mixed up qualifying from Friday some of the top riders had early runs. This meant that rain mid-way through the race could have changed conditions making for an unfair race. The rain did get heavier in the middle of the race, but probably not by enough to unfairly affect anybody. Steve Smith and the riders around him seemed to face the strongest rain, but it was never enough to really change the track.
The winning run would have to be error free and the rider would have to perfectly judge conditions. He couldn’t just push all out or he’d slide off the track and down the time sheets. Loic Bruni took the lead despite a broken chainguide which kept him from pedaling for at least half of his run.
Rider after rider came up short until Josh Bryceland was able to crack the code with a run that came in just .2 seconds faster than Bruni’s. The final three riders Danny Hart, Marcelo Guttierrez and Troy Brosnan all fell short. The Rat is back!