Bright sunshine brought total change from a sopping-wet qualifying as riders took to the hill for finals at Round 6 of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Downhill World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy.
Check out the latest World Cup standings by clicking the link below:
The Val di Sole course is known for its relentless holes, rocks and tree roots, its surface riddled with potential for disaster, especially when a little (or a lot of) water is added to the mix. Friday’s qualifying day had proved just how intimidating the world’s hardest race track becomes in a storm. With rain threatening all day, it had stayed dry for the Junior categories and Elite Women, but a torrential downpour buffeted the Elite Men, the extreme conditions causing most of the top runners to struggle down the hill and lose vital series points in the process.
Conversely, Saturday’s finals would start damp from the day before but later dry out, with the course conditions improving throughout proceedings.
Women's DH finals – Val di Sole
Emilie Siegenthaler set the benchmark early with a 4m 52.383s. The time was good and held strong for fifth at close of play.
Veronika Widmann had her sights set high for finals after a superb third-place qualifier. This time she raised the level even further and looked set for even better, but unfortunately came unstuck on some greasy tree roots. Thankfully she got back on the bike and still managed a commendable fourth place.
Camille Balanche laid down a blistering run, fast, smooth and composed to finish more than two seconds faster than Widmann. Balanche’s time was good enough for third place, a brilliant moment in the Swiss rider’s career and her first visit to the podium.
With all the weight of carrying the series leader’s jersey and every expectation that comes with it, Tracey Hannah had her work cut out to stay calm and focused. But Hannah was calculated in her ride from the very start, putting in a clean run to slip into second place, a good tactical advance towards the series title at a time when the pressure might have taken anyone else out of the running.
Marine Cabirou has been hankering after a win ever since she stepped up into the Elite category. The 2015 Junior World Champion has showed her speed and progression through the ranks since then, and it was only a matter of time until something big happened.
Today was the day, and anyone who witnessed Cabirou’s flawless, flowing ride through this most inhospitable terrain will remember it as the moment she raised the stakes.
Watch Marine Cabirou's winning run in the player below.
Women's winning run – Val di Sole
Cabirou was sensational in every section of the course, unfazed by the rocks and gradient and changeable conditions and determined right to the finish line to take a race-winning time of 4m 25.790s.
Men's DH finals – Val di Sole
Conditions couldn’t have been better by the time the Elite Men set to work. The beating Italian sunshine worked its wonder to dry the course just the right amount, giving support and grip in all the right places.
Friday’s qualifying times soon fell. Baptiste Pierron, brother to Round 5 winner Amaury Pierron, rode early in the session but set a scorching time of 3m 45.470s, over 20s faster than Joe Breeden’s fastest qualifier and a sign that the ride was about to get wild.
There were many noteworthy performances. Troy Brosnan was on a new set-up with a 29-inch front wheel but fell off the podium for the first time in 2019, finishing in tenth place. Remi Thirion was firing on all cylinders and managed a solid eighth, equalling his season best from Round 4 in Vallnord. Greg Minnaar had been riding with great confidence all week and had even been tipped for the win, but a small crash while on-track for a top three wiped out his chances, placing him seventh. Meanwhile, David Trummer continued his monumental rise through the ranks, taking seventh here and his third top 10 of the year.
Danny Hart was on what looked like a potentially race-winning run, fast, committed and white-knuckled, until disaster struck late in the run. Hart rolled home with a punctured rear tyre but amazingly still finished on the podium, in fifth.
Amaury Pierron came into his own troubles, struggling to get into the flow that had seen him post an astounding sixth-place in the very worst conditions in qualifying. Pierron was fast in finals too, but ultimately didn’t quite have the edge that gave him the win here in 2018, this time settling for fourth.
Loris Vergier stomped a clean and confident run for third, a narrow two-tenths faster than his fellow Frenchman. This was another solid result to go with a string of top-five performances this season by Vergier.
Loïc Bruni set off on a trademark fluid run, bouncing with ease between turns up top and smoothing out the fearsome rocks with absolute serenity as the course pointed ever-more steeply downwards. Bruni has been almost unbreakable in 2019 and this was another clean and calculated run. But even by his own admission, it wasn’t enough for the win. Bruni would finish second but retain the series leader’s jersey.
That win would come to a certain Laurie Greenland, the 22-year-old Brit finally breaking the French clean run of wins in 2019 and taking his first-ever World Cup victory with a stupefying ride on the very edge of feasibility. Greenland’s record at Val di Sole is strong – second in World Championships 2016, second again in the 2018 World Cup – and he arrived here off the back of a tremendous third place at Round 5 in Les Gets.
Greenland’s confidence and belief were at an all-time high and it showed. His run set a new mark for committed riding on the nastiest track of them all, allowing Greenland to post a time of 3m 37.819s.
Watch Laurie Greenland's winning run in the player below.
Men's winning run – Val di Sole
In the Junior categories there was upset for the near-habitual winning duo of Thibaut Daprela and Vali Höll, neither managing to tame the track for the victory. This opened the doors for New Zealand’s Tuhoto-Ariki Pene and Norway’s Mille Johnset to take maiden wins in their respective Junior Men and Women’s categories.
UCI DH World Cup Rd 6 Val di Sole Women's results
|1.||Marine Cabirou||4m 25.790s|
|2.||Tracey Hannah||4m 37.566s|
|3.||Camille Balanche||4m 44.566s|
|4.||Veronika Widmann.||4m 46.312s|
|5.||Emilie Siegenthaler||4m 52.383s|
UCI DH World Cup Rd 6 Val di Sole Men's results
|1.||Laurie Greenland||3m 37.819s|
|2.||Loïc Bruni||3m 40.673s|
|3.||Loris Vergier||3m 42.701s|
|4.||Amaury Pierron||3m 42.986s|
|5.||Danny Hart||3m 44.668s|