The opening round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup didn't disappoint, the new round packed all the punches as the riders fresh into their season tried to tame the rock-strewn course.
Scroll down for the action highlights, winning runs and POV clips from the day of racing.
Croatia finals highlights
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Men's DH finals at Lošinj
It was business as usual for the indomitable Aaron Gwin here in Lošinj, Croatia, as the YT Industries rider and multiple World Cup overall winner steered his steed to the top spot in today’s finals.
Fellow American Luca Shaw rolled over the line just 0.798s back, with Dean Lucas in third. The ever-stylish Sam Blenkinsop, who has a knack of making the most awkward of tracks look like a breeze, finished in fourth place while another US rider, Dakota Norton, rounded out the podium with a career-best result.
It’s been a typically calm and measured weekend of riding for Gwin who took his time to learn the track during practice before knitting it all together into a relatively smooth run, for what could be the roughest track of the year. "You're going to have to run that limit between charging and trying to save your equipment." he commented. "I had some mistakes for sure in the run, but nothing crazy costly. I didn’t know but I knew it would be really close."
You're going to have to run that limit between charging and trying to save your equipment
Watch Gwin's winning run below:
Aaron Gwin's Lošinj 2018 winning run
Following the carnage of practice and qualifying, it began to look like the finals would be dictated by those riders able to nurse their bikes and their bodies down the track in one piece, and with young pretender Finn Iles getting ejected over the bars on entering the now-infamous Zarja section aka ‘puncture place’, the prophecy began to take hold.
Fastest qualifier Brook Macdonald was looking bang on the money at the top of the track but came unstuck on the stepdown that claimed Claudio Caluori earlier in the week, taking a massive over the bars. Brook’s a tough cookie and after taking a moment he was back on the horse and entertaining the crowd.
Whether the track has recovered from the impact is unknown. Greg Minnaar and Amaury Pierron were also looking good for a podium spot but succumbed to flat tyres towards the end of the track.
With four out of the top five running 29in wheels the wheel size debate rolls on, but with Gwin now one victory short of Greg Minnaar’s record for most amount of World Cup wins, things are looking good for YT and their recently updated 27.5in Tues.
The first round of a World Cup doesn’t get much better than Lošinj, with the location, the spectators and the track all far exceeding expectations. Such has been the intensity of the riding, those of us lucky enough to be trackside for the duration can now focus on getting our breath back in time for round two in Fort William.
UCI DH World Cup Lošinj Men’s results
|1.||Aaron Gwin||2m 19.193s|
|2.||Luca Shaw||2m 19.991s|
|3.||Dean Lucas||2m 20.328s|
|4.||Samuel Blenkinsop||2m 21.107s|
|5.||Dakota Norton||2m 21.821s|
Women's DH Finals – Lošinj
As the top five females hit the track, it was Cecile Ravanel in the hotseat, an incredible feat for her second-ever downhill race. Boasting top-10 results in the Enduro World Series and cross-country riding there was no question that Ravanel’s endurance wouldn’t be up for the test, but to put in such an aggressive ride on this gnarly track would take more than just bike fitness.
Staving off challenges from more established riders on the downhill scene, Ravanel managed to hold onto the lead until Tahnée Seagrave's run.
Seagrave, started lighting up the split times from the off and was up over 2s from split one. Carrying good speed over the rocks, her aggressive style on the short track led to green lights all the way down for Seagrave as she knocked time off Ravanel’s. Hitting over 40kph through the speed trap in the urban section she knocked Ravanel from the top.
But it wouldn’t be the end for the French rider, as Ravanel would go on to claim her first ever UCI World Cup podium spot (finishing in fifth place) showing that her skills across the disciplines are second to none and she's definitely a rider to keep your eye on this season.
Next up was Marine Cabirou and despite digging deep on the track she was unable to match Seagrave’s pace, but still put in a strong run that resulted in fourth.
Defending 2017 World Cup winner, Myriam Nicole, was next to take on the Croatian beast. Making the rocky sections look smooth, Nicole had an incredible run, carrying speed and flow through the turbulent track.
Myriam Nicole GoPro POV — Lošinj winning run
Even commentator Claudio Caluori was shocked by the effortless way Nicole danced through the rocks: “I didn’t think you could ride this course so clean,” he remarked as Nicole lit up the split times with her run. Clearly not phased by the sharp rocks her aggressive ride saw her 3s up by the Zarja section and her fast pace led her straight into the hotseat.
With only two riders left at the top of the hill it was down to Tracey Hannah and Rachel Atherton to challenge the incredible time set by Nicole. Hannah had already suffered at the hands of this course, with a big crash during the week.
As her run progressed it was clear that she was outside the blazing time set by Nicole. A crash midway down the track, appearing to be from her front wheel washing out, led to all challenges on Nicole’s time being quelled. Not the start to the World Cup season the Australian would’ve wanted – Hannah recovered from her crash and went on to finish 10th.
Rachel Atherton was the last rider able to challenge Nicole’s run. Taking the winter to rebuild strength from a broken shoulder sustained last season, Atherton looked to be back on form as she came into split one with a green light.
But her style was noticeably less aggressive than Nicole’s, whether she was saving energy for further down the course or was conscious about the risks of crashing so early on in the season and on such a brutal course was unclear. But what was clear, was that Nicole had put in an incredible run. Atherton crossed the line +3.559s back from the Frenchwoman’s time, placing her in second. Speaking after her run, Atherton said: "I’m so stoked to be in World Cups again, last year was pretty bad, I’m just happy to be back up there and back in the mix. Track's wild… so stoked for PomPom she deserves it – she was going flat out. Helluva time she put down."
I’m so stoked to be in World Cups again, last year was pretty bad, I’m just happy to be back up there and back in the mix
An elated Myriam Nicole secured her fourth UCI World Cup win, giving credit to her sponsors, family and team saying that they’d spent a lot of time working on testing the wheels and suspension to get the bike to roll well on this kind of track. The reigning title holder fended off the pressure of the number-one plate and will proudly be going into the next round at Fort William, Scotland, with it on her bike.
"I have to be honest, it was a really tough weekend… this kind of track is hard to have fun because rocks everywhere, it’s dangerous, a lot of people got injured... it's short, it’s a sprint, you have to be 100 percent. I managed to put it all together and I’m really stoked about that," said Nicole.
Watch her winning run below:
Myriam Nicole Lošinj 2018 winning run
I have to be honest, it was a really tough weekend…
UCI DH World Cup Lošinj Women’s results
|1.||Myriam Nicole||2m 40.706s|
|2.||Rachel Atherton||2m 44.265s|
|3.||Tahnée Seagrave||2m 44.484s|
|4.||Marine Caribou||2m 45.935s|
|5.||Cecile Ravanel||2m 48.416s|