LOOKBACK: ALL THOSE SPILLS AND THRILLS OF UCI MTB WORLD CUP SERIES
With the action behind us, it's time to reminiscence on all the spills and thrills from a captivating UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series. What did you have in mind? We are sure you have your own list of special moments and shockers. But, do check out what Red Bull and those who were in the thick of the whole World Cup action had to share.
Ukrainian Yana Belomoina had never before won a World Cup race but in searing temperatures in Germany, the 24-year-old gave a hint to potential future dominance with the victory. It proved to be one of three wins in four straight events, Belomoina also finishing on the podium in the other subsequent remaining races of the season.
Rachel Atherton had begun the UCI World Cup season as the overwhelming favourite for the title after what had been a perfect season, and looked to be living up to that billing with an opening-round victory. But riding on home soil, the Briton crashed nastily in practice and dislocated her shoulder in the process leaving Tracey Hannah to end Atherton’s 14-event winning streak.
At 21, Tahnée Seagrave has been billed as the British successor to Rachel Atherton and in the world No.1’s absence, she produced the perfect performance to win in Austria and was embraced at the bottom by family and friends after beating Tracey Hannah by 0.693 seconds. Seagrave said: “I have been waiting so long to get a win but I had to give it my all."
It proved a weekend of pulsating racing in both the men’s and women’s downhill events. For Myriam Nicole, it was a first World Cup win in six years while Troy Brosnan sneaked victory in a contest in which the lead continually changed hands between Danny Hart and Greg Minnaar among others. In the aftermath of his victory, Brosnan said: “It’s amazing. Honestly, it feels as good as the first one.”
A heavy downpour the night before made for tricky going and unpredictability on the relatively flat and technical Swiss track. Nino Schurter, the dominant force of the men’s cross-country field, looked comfortable only for a storming last lap by Jaroslav Kulhavy nearly leading to a thrilling upset on the line. Schurter, though, was not to be denied a home win.
That Rachel Atherton was racing at all was hugely impressive just a month after a nasty crash led to a dislocated collarbone. But despite the injury and the obvious discomfort in the saddle, she came astonishingly close to a second win of the season and one very much against the odds. “I never thought I would be back on the podium so soon,” said Atherton after her second place.
Rain is never seemingly all that far away when it comes to the Canadian leg of the UCI Tour, and the downpour added another twist to what is already regarded as a brutal course to master. And the rain tipped it down as the men’s race ticked on, the early starters in lighter drizzle seemingly with a big advantage. But American Aaron Gwin defied expectations with a downhill ride that seemed to defy the laws of physics.
The pre-event talk might have been about the return of Julien Absalon following a shoulder injury which had ruled him out for much of 2017 but it was his nemesis Nino Schurter who took the headlines with the title with a round to go. It was the same in the women’s cross-country for Yana Belomoina for what was a maiden crown. She said: “It is an amazing feeling and it has been a great season for me. It is also great for Ukraine.”
Aaron Gwin and Greg Minnaar, two of the greatest World Cup racers of all time, knew that whoever won the event would clinch the overall title. Gwin took the honours. For a flying Minnaar, it was heartbreak, his rear tyre disintegrating and, with the burst rubber, his title hopes evaporated. Gwin took the crown for the fifth time in his illustrious racing career.
The plaudits had come thick and fast in the downhill world when a year ago Rachel Atherton pulled off the unthinkable, a 100% season. Coming to the World Cup finale, Nino Schurter knew he could emulate that feat in the cross-country discipline. After achieving it, the rider set his sights on the “perfect, perfect season” by winning the world title in Cairns in September.
Until the next UCI Downhill. Ride.
Photos and information by Redbull