The venue in Lourdes is situated right in the middle of town on the side of Pic du Jer, a local mountain. A funicular whisked riders to the top of the track and was a definite change of pace from the usual chair lift. The track itself was a combination of worn singletrack and fresh cut sections that made their way directly down he fall line, more often than not.
Large rock sections and awkward corners made things challenging as speeds reached upwards of 50km/hr. To take the win, riders would have to take risks with line choices, including several gaps where consequences were high if things didn’t go as planned. The rain held off all weekend, and the track was dusty and loose come race morning with nothing but blue skies and brilliant sunshine.
Gwin crashed hard in qualifying and went outside the tape. As such, he was DSQ’d and received no qualifying points. But as a protected rider, he was allowed to race come Sunday and would take his run with 23 riders still to go. The American set the pace, over 6 seconds ahead of the fastest rider at the time and sat in the hot seat as he watched all contenders attempt to unseat him – but no one could match him today.
“Yesterday was rough. I knew I had a good run in me, possibly a winning run if I got my act together. I’m just happy it held up. I’m stoked, it’s been awhile. I can’t thank everyone at Specialized enough. I feel like the program and the bike are really coming along. I felt better than I have in a really long time… so I’m really happy.”
Gwin was joined on the podium by local French star, Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic), an early favourite and top qualifier today, who just came off a win at Crankworx New Zealand last week. Michael Jones (Gbr) Chain Reaction Cycles / Paypal was third nailing his first World Cup podium while Danny Hart (Gbr) MS Mondraker Team in new colours was 4th and Sam Dale (Gbr) Madison Saracen Factory Team rounded out the top 5.
Ragot made her way down the mountain to a loud partisan crowd and was excited to return to the podium for her new team. She edged out Rachel Atherton (Gbr) GT Factory Racing for the win with countrywomen Myriam Nicole (Fra) Commencal / Vallnord in third.
World Champion Manon Carpenter (Gbr) Madison Saracen Factory Team was fourth while top qualifier Tracey Hannah (Aus) Polygon UR was 5th. Casey Brown (Bergamont Hayes Components Factory Team) the lone Canuck did not finish her qualification run to make the final.
Canada’s Wallace was stoked to earn his best ever World Cup finish. “My run was good. I blew a corner about halfway down so that was frustrating but other than that it was great. It was wild. The crowd was unreal here and this was one of my favourite tracks yet. It was wild and loose and didn’t have much pedaling.” Canada’s Forrest Riesco also made the final finishing 63rd and while Jack Iles (Norco Factory) who also qualified ended up 77th.
Magnus Manson (Norco Factory), Canada lone Junior men’s entrant was 20th as Andrew Crimmins (Aus) Kona Factory Team took the win over Laurie Greenland (Gbr) Trek World Racing with fellow Aussie Jackson Frew in third.
The world cup circus now takes an early season break before making its way to Fort William, Scotland in a month’s time.