The UK’s Rachel Atherton (GT Factory) dominated as well locking up the Elite Women’s title again as Canada’s Casey Brown (Bergamont Hayes Components Factory Team), the lone Canadian on the start line, finished eighth on the day.
The dry, dusty conditions made the rough, steep track even more difficult, with riders sliding out in the corners as they lost traction.
Atherton had already mathematically won the women’s overall title before the Final in the penultimate round after qualifying first. However, it was clear that the British rider wouldn’t back off as she chased her fifth consecutive win.
Emilie Siegenthaler (SUI, Pivot Factory) set the first sub-3:30 time, but that only held up through two riders before Katy Curd (GBR) took the lead, with Tracey Hannah (AUS, Polygon UR) then dropping the top time to 3:13.669, which would be good enough for fourth.
UCI World Champion Manon Carpenter (GBR, Madison Saracen) was next up, and she took over three and a half seconds off the best time, with three riders remaining. Neither Tahnee Seagrave (GBR, FMD Racing) nor Myriam Nicole (FRA, Commencal/Vallnord) could beat Carpenter’s time, leaving only Atherton to ride.
Atherton was clearly riding at another level from the rest of the field, finishing over nine seconds ahead of Carpenter.
“My approach changed a little bit [after locking up the overall], but I really wanted to win, obviously. I thought I can push now, push hard and it doesn’t matter if I crash. I was kinda relieved in a way. I try not to crash for a year and now I’m like wide open and hope for the best.
“This track is THE worst for the dry and dusty conditions, it’s crazy. We are getting used to it, as it has been pretty dry on the World Cup circuit so far. I’m always stoked to race in Windham, I always do well here. I couldn’t believe how noisy it was on the way down. All the fans and the Americans were just wild… they love it. Pretty cool.
“This is the most World Cups I’ve won in one year. I’ve won four before so five is pretty cool. I just try and take each day as it comes. The World Cup overall means a lot. You have to be so consistent all year. World Champs you can just let it go, it doesn’t matter if you crash. The overall, week after week the nerves, the worry, it’s pretty intense. So, yeah, I am happy to have it back.”
Atherton now has 1,410 points with one race remaining. Carpenter, in the absence of former second placed Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker), out from an injury before Round 5, moves into second with 899 points, followed by Seagrave at 836 and Ragot drops to fourth with 785 points.
After qualifying first before a home crowd with a gap of over two seconds on Loic Bruni (FRA, Lapierre Gravity Republic), and the defending champion at Windham, Gwin (USA) was clearly the rider to beat.
Loris Vergier (FRA, Lapierre Gravity Republic) set the first fast time of 2:42.398, after starting mid-field, in 47th place. His time held up through rider after rider, and would eventually be good enough for third. UCI World Champion Gee Atherton (GBR, GT Factory), starting fifth from last came close, but Vergier was still in the lead with only four riders to go.
The next rider down, South Africa’s Greg Minnaar, the record holder for World Cup victories, finally displaced Vergier by eight-tenths of a second. Troy Brosnan (AUS, Specialized) fell short, and Bruni, the number two qualifier and second in the World Cup standings, came limping in with a flat tire, leaving Gwin to come down the mountain.
By the first split, Gwin was two seconds up, and he extended it to three seconds by Split 2, and then three and a half seconds at the finish as he went over the final jump beside a sea of cheering fans waving American flags.
“It is just epically cool [to win at home]. There is no feeling like racing in your home country. If there is one race I kinda want to win every year, just for the fun of it, it’s this one. A huge blessing, I’m so stoked.
“It was pretty good [the run]; I made a few errors. The track was so wild and blown out. So you had to find the line. To be honest I wasn’t really sure [how good it was], it felt good, but you never know because everyone else’s run was good too. I’m just pumped.
“I just try to take it one race at a time and do the best I can. I’ve had a couple rough weekends so, man, it feels good.”
Canada’s Smith has made his way back onto the podium after a long couple of months recovering from ankle injuries. “It’s been half a year on crutches. This feels amazing. When you go through the injuries I’ve had, you’re sitting at home and you think you’re going to come back to exactly where you were when you left off. It’s shown to be tougher than that. Mont-Ste-Anne last week crashing in both qualifying and racing was pretty tough on the brain. It was nice to get back on the podium. Today’s 5th place felt almost like a win,” said Smith
While not assured of the overall title, Gwin added enough to his World Cup lead to give him a cushion going into the final round. Gwin now has 1,089 points, with Minnaar moving ahead of Bruni into second with 954 points and Bruni back at 869 points. Canada’s Mark Wallace (Devinci Global Racing) was 28th holding on to 20th overall and his protected status. Smith is now 23rd overall – the top 20 riders overall are protected.
In the Junior Men’s competition, World Cup leader Laurie Greenland (GBR, Trek World Racing) guaranteed the overall title by taking his third consecutive win. Greenland now has 290 points to Andrew Crimmins’ (AUS, Kona Factory) 220, making him uncatchable. Reigning Junior DH national champ, Magnus Manson (Norco Factory Team), led the Canadian charge finishing 17th on the day.
Full results here.