Nicole has been super frustrated at times with this year’s World Cup. She’s ridden well, but the results haven’t always shown that. Mechanical issues and bad luck at some races have left her with a feeling of a stop-start season. On her run in Val di Sole, Nicole had nothing to lose – only being with an outside chance of the overall. She let go of the brakes, attacked the course and came across the line with a time that was never in danger of being beaten by the eight women who followed her down.
Camille Balanche just about did enough to win the women's overall
Camille Balanche's participation in this race was very much in doubt after she broke her collarbone in Mont-Sainte-Anne in early August, but a month later, she was here in Italy and willing to do what was necessary to wrap up the women's overall. Having scored no World Cup points in Canada, her lead in the women's general classification had been reduced by Vali Höll's win there. For these Val di Sole finals, it meant that as long as Balanche finished in the top four, she'd secure the title even if Höll won the race.
Easier said than done when you have a collarbone that isn't exactly 100 percent strong following surgery. Val di Sole is also not a course you want to be riding with such a shoulder, given the bone-shaking nature the course has on riders' bodies. Balanche hadn't raced the course in full since first practice and didn't even complete her qualifying run.
The Swiss athlete, to her credit, gave it her all in her run and recorded a leading time. She then had to wait nervously for nine other women to make their descents. By the time Höll came down as the last woman on the course, Balanche was in fourth place. It was set up for a grandstand finish! Except the Austrian World Champion came in with the third best placed time at the finish line. These circumstances gave Balanche the overall title, much to her relief.
The Black Snake was rough as it has ever been
Not many downhill tracks on the World Cup have their own nicknames, but Val di Sole does. The Black Snake, as it is called, can be a venomous beast! Despite having undergone some work for the World Champs last year, the track is still one of the most technical tracks on the circuit and also extremely physical. World Cup legend Greg Minnaar reported the track was in its roughest condition in years.
The course was full of holes waiting to trip the riders up, and mechanicals were a constant worry. Myriam Nicole suffered a rear tyre blowout as in qualifiers, and she wasn't the only one to suffer from tyres blowing up during the week. When the rain did come, it didn't last long and only made the roots and rocks as slippery as a snake.
Downhill course preview – Val di Sole
Jackson Goldstone takes us down the rough and rocky downhill track in Val di Sole, Italy.
The men's overall title was wrapped up before finals
Amaury Pierron was declared the men’s overall title winner before he put down rubber on dirt to race finals. Finn Iles, his nearest challenger at 249 points behind, elected not to race following a heavy crash last weekend at the Worlds so Pierron could not be caught. Pierron could have also elected not to race, but that’s not in his nature, and being the racer he is, he got on his bike to roll down. There was also the carrot for Pierron of matching Aaron Gwin as the only other male rider to win five World Cup wins in a single season. Unfortunately, Pierron crashed on his run while going for the win but it didn’t really matter given his overall season’s accomplishment.
The drama for the weekend was left to the men's race
Loris Vergier took his second World Cup win of the season with a ride that blew everyone out of the water. The Frenchman won by 3s over Austrian Andreas Kolb, who was the last man down the hill as the fastest qualifier.
Downhill winning runs – Val di Sole
Watch Loris Vergier's and Myriam Nicole's winning runs at Val di Sole for the eighth downhill stop of 2022.
The men’s race was an exciting finale to one of the best ever World Cup season’s on record. Brit Bernard Kerr had been leading the race for a long time, but that all changed with just the top five left to go. First, Aaron Gwin went faster than Kerr, only for his fastest time to be usurped by his Intense team-mate and fellow American, Dakota Norton. Then came Vergier with his unbelievable winning run and Kolb’s run that managed to place him second with a time just 0.172s inside Norton’s.
Like his fellow Frenchmen Loic Bruni and Amaury Pierron, Vergier has that ability to pull out a run from nowhere even if he’s not at the top of his form and not entirely fit having sustained a shoulder injury a month ago during the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup.
Gracey Hemstreet and Jackson Goldstone are Junior World Cup Champions
Canadian duo Gracey Hemstreet and Jackson Goldstone received their awards for winning the Junior women's and men's overall World Cup titles, respectively. Both had wrapped up the titles a round earlier at Mont-Sainte-Anne. It was a double celebration for Hemstreet as she also won the Junior women's race here in Italy.
The World Cup says goodbye to Florent Payet
Frenchman Florent Payet raced his last race at a World Cup. The 36-year-old first raced a mountain bike World Cup in 2005 in Vigo, Spain, and has enjoyed 17 years on the circuit and competed in 101 World Cup races following the end of this World Cup season. The former double European Downhill Champion's best World Cup result came on home soil in Lourdes in 2017, where he finished fourth.
End of an era for World Cup coverage on Red Bull
Val di Sole marked the end of 10 years of live broadcast coverage of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup via Red Bull TV. It's been a momentous decade of covering both downhill and cross-country events. Check out our best moments from covering downhill in the last 10 years in our montage edit below:
A decade of historic downhill racing
Check out some of the best moments from the last decade of downhill mountain bike races.