The first ever World Cup in Leogang, Austria has just come to an end, and it was Greg Minnaar and Sabrina Jonnier taking home top honors in less than ideal conditions.
Words and Photos by Fraser Britton
A week of rain and cold was predicted but failed to materialize until the last 2 days of the event. Saturday and Sunday (race day) were extremely cold (3c on race morning!) and extremely wet, making for some interesting racing.
Race morning dawned cold, foggy and extremely wet. The majority of riders figured that a track in Europe's oldest bike park would probably be bedded in and hold up pretty well to increment conditions, but they were wrong. By race morning the holes and mud bogs had risen to axle depth and deeper in some places, and were eating front wheels, and race runs, alive.
Sabrina Jonnier managed to hold off all comers with a 3.54 second lead until Rachel Atherton hit the track last. At the first split Rachel was up by 3 seconds, but soon after disaster struck. She went down hard in the mud at Marshall point 26, just before the second split and apparently injured her shoulder, receiving a DNF and walking down the track.
"I stayed on my bike, but I didn’t think it was fast enough for the win.” the French woman said. “I made a bunch of mistakes, but you can’t do no mistakes on a track like that. It’s not my conditions at all! I just tried to be clean and pedal hard, I guess I was just safe enough for the day.
We don’t know what’s happened to Rachel though, I hope she is alright. I wanted to do a 43/45 (seconds) so I am a bit off, but it was drier than this morning, so it was much harder."
Jonnier was joined on the podium by 3 French women and a Brit. Second and third went to Emmeline Ragot and Floriane Pugin, while Tracy Moseley took 4th with Myriam Nicole in 5th.
For the men, it was Greg Minnaar who took home the win, and credited his gangly legs and arms for being able to make it through the track in one piece.
"It was honestly some of the worst conditions I have ever ridden in. It was so tough. It definitely wasn’t a race winning run, I’ll tell you. It must have just been cleaner than the others. It was just so tough, the rust were so deep. It had changed so much form the last practice run, and I had a really horrible last practice run. I crashed twice, went off course.
I tried to back it off and just ride smooth, even with that it was just so hard out there. I was bouncing off stuff everywhere. Luckily for my dangly legs, or else I would have been screwed. I knew i was close to the bottom and thinking there goes another mistake. I managed to stay up, and get the win. I could see steve and he was jumping when I crossed the line, so I knew I had it, but if there had been silence I would have just left the finish. I wouldn’t have thought I had it."
rider after rider who looked like they would be able to set fastest times went down, victim to a crater or slippery root...or the much despised, wet, deep muddy pedaling section mid course.
Steve Peat qualified slowly, but set a roaring time when he came down, and was in the hot seat for what seemed like an eternity until Cam Cole finally knocked .05 of a second off of his time to take over the throne. British rider Gee Atherton and American Aaron Gwin and managed to set fast times, slipping into 2nd and third respectively while all eyes went up course for Sam Blenkinsop, the fastest qualifier, rocketed out of the gate. Unfortunately, Blenki fell victim to the mud as well, with a lower split 3 seconds slower than Minnaar, relegating him to 5th place.
The World Cup now has a 3 week break until everyone heads back to Europe for what is bound to be an epic stop, the legendary steepness of Champery, Switzerland. Stay Tuned!
Intense M9 FRO has been getting numerous top 10s all season long!
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