The track here at MSA is a beast, and the 25th running of the race here didn’t pull any punches. As usual, the race course features full speed open sections littered with loose sniper rocks hidden in the weeds, as well as incredible slick technical rock gardens that make rider’s arms scream for mercy. With the typical crazy Quebec weather, both qualifying and race day had bouts of rain then sun but the weather did not impact the results. Riders rode everything from slippery, muddy roots and rocks, to dusty blown out high speed berms and finally, come race time, almost perfect hero dirt.
Carina Cappellari (Radon Magura Factory) set the first sub-5:30 time for the Elite women, only to have Morgane Charre (Solid-Reverse Factory) knocked over 13 seconds off the leading time a couple of riders later. Charre’s time held up for four riders before Canadian champion Miller took four-tenths of a second off the lead.
Myriam Nicole (Commencal/Vallnord) then took the top time below 5:10 to move into the Hot Seat with three riders remaining. World champion Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen) bumped Nicole by two-tenths of a second and, with Round 1 winner Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker) a non-starter due to injuries suffered in a training crash earlier in the day, only Atherton stood between Carpenter and her first win of the season.
However, Atherton was clearly the fastest, nearly three seconds ahead at the first split. She had lost a bit by Split 2, but regained it in the lower portion the course to win by 3.417 seconds, for her fourth consecutive World Cup victory of the season.
“I’m so happy,” exclaimed Atherton. “Mont-Saint-Anne always kicks my ass’ it’s a really hard track. I was in the start gate and it was hammering down rain, and I though ‘oh, no’ … but I decided to ride it like it was dry … it wasn’t! I had some pretty wild moments and it wasn’t a pretty run, so I’m happy to make it to the finish.
“Getting beaten last year by Manon definitely gave me motivation, and I’ve been training well, and everything has just been working for me. Every athlete has a time at the top and, luckily for me, my time is this year,” added Atherton.
Atherton now holds a commanding lead in the overall standings with 1160 points, followed by Ragot at 785 and Carpenter at 714. Atherton needs only 126 points in the two remaining rounds to mathematically win the title.
Torrential rain for the top men in qualifying upended the start order, with World Cup leader Aaron Gwin (Specialized) starting 20th from last after crashing out of his qualifying run. Despite that, Gwin laid down the first sub-4:30 time to move into the Hot Seat. He was bumped five riders later by World Cup Number 2 Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic), whose time of 4:22.356 would prove to be extremely fast, as rider after rider in the top-15 could not match it.
Wallace had a super run sitting in third with 10 riders still to come. Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (Col) Giant Factory Off-Road Team pushed him into fourth. With four riders to go, defending World Cup champion Bryceland squeaked in two-tenths of a second faster than Bruni bumping Wallace into 5th.
Troy Brosnan (Aus) Specialized Racing was the final rider as the Aussie was the closest to Bryceland at 0.225 seconds bumping the Wallace to 6th for a career-best finish and his first top 10 result. Wallace’s teammate, Steve Smith, finished 41st as he tries to regain his old form.
Bryceland was surprised with his win, not thinking he had a run that would hold up. “Im pretty surprised to be honest. It wasn’t great to plan and I was hesitant in a few bits and a bit messy… it was a really big surprise.
“It’s been hard getting over injuries, but I was just patient, just bided my time and do what I do,” explained Bryceland. “But I knew it was going well this week in practice, and I had a good qualifier, so I just couldn’t wait to race today.
“The track is just a brute – it wasn’t runnings as good as it has been by race time – but I picked some good lines and tried to find a smooth way. The open bits dried up, but the woods have been getting showers all day, so it was proper slimy. I knew it was going to be good, but I honestly thought Troy was going to get me. This is mint,” he concluded.
Gwin managed to hold onto the overall series lead with 839 points, but Bruni has moved closer, and is now only 25 points back with two races remaining. South Africa’s Greg Minnaar also moves closer, 70 points out of the lead.
In the Junior men’s competition, Laurie Greenland’s win, with Alex Marin Trillo (Giant Factory) in second and Andrew Crimmins (Kona Factory) third, puts Greenland into the overal World Cup lead, with 230 points to former leader Crimmins’ 202.
Once again Max Scharf (Canada-B) led the Canucks in 14th with Daniel Shaw (Can) Canada in 15th and Bracken Camilleri (Can) Canada in 19th all in the top 20.