The UCI DH MTB World Cup reached its conclusion in La Bresse, France in less than ideal conditions.
The rain that so affected qualifying returned for finals, making the course super slick to say the least. This was no bad thing, with the track running faster than in qualifying as a result. Watch the highlights here, or read on for more vids, photos and results.
For the Elite Women, the overall title still needed to be decided, while in the Elite Men’s contest there was still the question of who would finish second to World Cup champion Amaury Pierron to settle, with up to five riders in contention for that spot.
All the points for this weekend’s racing came down to the final run. With no points up for grabs in qualification, there were an extra 50 points available in the final to make sure that the fight for the overall title came down to the wire.
There was very little in it between contenders Tahnée Seagrave and Rachel Atherton, with 110 points separating the two. The battle that had been raging all season long came down to the wet final World Cup run of 2018. After the huge amount of rain that had fallen in the previous 24 hours, the riders would need all the experience they could call upon to deal with the tricky course conditions.
“It’s crazy, it’s so wet. It makes it so hard on the pedal in the middle – it’s pretty wild out there.”
Next up saw an aggressive start from Tracey Hannah that turned the spilt time green. Carrying more speed into the rooty flatter sections than we’d seen from the previous women, Hannah extended her advantage down the hill, but holding a tight line around the bottom of the turns she just missed out on the top time by just 0.37s.
Then it was crunch time. The World Cup overall title boiled down to the two women left at the top. With maximum points on the line, Seagrave needed the win, whereas Atherton only needed a top five position to secure enough points to win the title.
Carrying great speed at the top of the track, Atherton was tucking as she hit the big jumps. Jumping the roots and letting the bike do it’s job, she extended her lead down the hill, showing a different pace to what we’d seen all day. It’s in these tough conditions, very similar to what she’s used to riding at home in North Wales, when her experience plays out, and by Split 4 she’d pulled an incredible 11 seconds over Nicole’s time. She wasn’t holding back at all.
Atherton blasted over the line with the fastest time, taking the World Cup overall title and making history as the first woman to win six titles in the process. The battle may have been won, but the race wasn’t yet – fastest qualifier Seagrave was left at the top of the hill.
Watch Rachel Atherton’s POV race run below:
In touch with Atherton’s time, she was only 0.6s back at Split 3. As the rain came down, Seagrvae crossed the line just 0.6s behind Atherton, taking second place and leaving Atherton to celebrate her 37th career World Cup win.
“That is hands down one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. If I wanted to win this, I had to go full blast. This track is savage, seriously hard, and I’m really shocked I beat Tahnée on it. I haven’t riden in rain like this for years, I’m stoked.”
– Rachel Atherton
UCI DH World Cup Rd 7 La Bresse Women’s results
|1.||Rachel Atherton||2m 51.421s|
|2.||Tahnée Seagrave||2m 52.059s|
|3.||Myriam Nicole||3m 03.083s|
|4.||Tracey Hannah||3m 03.457s|
|5.||Katy Curd||3m 06.533s|
Rain was coming down hard as the Elite Men started to come down the hill. One rider who excelled in these conditions was one of the early starters, Bernard Kerr. The British rider sat in the hot seat early on, with a time of 2m 31.009s, which was already faster than Gee Atherton’s qualifying time the day before.
Kerr would hold the top spot for a fair time, but was then unseated by Belgium’s Martin Maes, with a time that was over four seconds faster. Maes’s run was full of flow and he took that speed right down to the finish to post a new leading time of 2m 26.841s. Key to that time was how fast he was over the tricky flat part in the middle of the course and the steep section that followed immediately after it. Not bad from a rider who is a regular on the Enduro World Series and only participates in the odd World Cup.
All eyes were on Gee Atherton to see what he could do given his qualifying win, and he didn’t disappoint. The Brit looked like he was going to overhaul Maes’s time after posting faster times in the first three splits, but he lost time in the bottom part of the course to finish outside the Belgian’s time by over a 1.3s. Atherton now sat second, with Thirion third.
The weather started to clear up as the session went on, but this appeared to be at the disadvantage to the riders now coming down, as the muddy seemed to get a bit stickier. Times were slowing considerably, with huge amounts of time being lost by riders in the steep section in middle of the course, where Maes had been incredibly fast.
Mistakes were being made as riders pushed hard, and both Luca Shaw and Aaron Gwin went down on their runs, the latter surprisingly front wheel slipping out on an innocuous flat turn at the top of the course. Connor Fearon slipped a pedal seconds into his run meanwhile, putting paid to his hopes.
In the battle for the second place in the World Cup overall standings, pre-race incumbent Loris Vergier had a messy run and his time was soon bettered by Danny Hart. Troy Brosnan was faster than Vergier but couldn’t better Hart’s time however, meaning that Hart was confirmed in second place in the overall, with Brosnan third and Vergier in fourth. None of their times made an impression on the top three of Maes, Atherton and Thirion.
Just three men were now left – Loïc Bruni, Brook Macdonald and Amaury Pierron. All three pushed hard, and at various points looked like challenging Maes’s leading time, before losing time and speed in that key middle sector.
Pierron came the closest, but slid out on a flat, high speed grassy turn within sight of the line confirming a shock first World Cup win for Maes. Seems the enduro bro’s are looking to make some moves on the DH world. We’ll see what happens in 2019…
Watch Martin Maes’s winning run below:
Macdonald’s time was fast enough for him to slot into third place however, moving Thirion down to fourth and Kerr to fifth. Atherton got due reward for his return to form in France, with second place, completing what was without doubt the most surprising race podium of the season.
UCI DH World Cup Rd 7 La Bresse Men’s results
|1.||Martin Maes||2m 26.841s|
|2.||Gee Atherton||2m 28.232s|
|3.||Brook Macdonald||2m 29.966s|
|4.||Remi Thirion||2m 30.638s|
|5.||Bernard Kerr||2m 31.009s|
Watch all the UCI MTB World Cup on Red Bull TV HERE. https://www.redbull.tv/live/AP-1V94M7NG91W11/mercedes-benz-uci-mountain-bike-world-cup