September 23, 2013 (Leogang, Austria) – The UCI MTB World Cup season officially ended this past weekend in Leogang, Austria where Canada’s Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing) celebrated a historic storybook finish to his stellar year taking home the Elite Men’s overall title over British star Gee Atherton (GT Factory Racing).
Smith came on strong in the latter part of the season with victories in Mont-Ste-Anne, Hafjell, and Leogang to clinch the overall following a see-saw battle with Atherton that saw Smith become the first Canadian to secure the Elite Men’s overall DH title. His MSA win was also historic as the Cassidy, BC won a World Cup on home turf setting the stage for the final run to the title.
On the women’s side former World champ, Emmeline Ragot of France, took the win over Rachel Atherton (Gbr) GT Factory Racing, but Atherton was still in control of the overall and took home the title. Manon Carpenter (Gbr) Madison Saracen Downhill Team was third while newly crowned Canadian champ, Micayla Gatto, led the Canucks in 10th in Leogang to finish 13th overall.
In the Junior Men’s DH race Noel Niederberger (Sui) GSTAAD-Scott took the final win as Loris Vergier (Fra) Lapierre Gravity Republic in second wrapped up the series title. Michael Jones (Gbr) FMD Racing / Intense Cycles was third on the day. Canada’s Mark Wallace (Devinci Global Racing) finished a strong 8th while McKay Vezina was 9th. Wallace was the top-ranked Canuck overall in 7th marking a historic season as well with his first World Cup podium in Hafjell, Nortway.
The weather threatened all week in Austria, with morning practice session usually getting underway under cold and foggy conditions, with intermittent rain. By afternoon the skies cleared and the sun shone brightly warming things up substantially. The bike-park style race track had numerous new sections in the trees re-routed, and the fresh dirt chewed up quickly, exposing roots and creating large holes. By race day, the track that most riders had initially panned, was running quickly and offered a challenge to even the fittest rider.
Smith was almost speechless with the win and the title. “I need to sit in a dark room by myself and think about this. It’s pretty insane. I’ve definitely come a long way from doing DH laps with my mom! My run was great. I always ridden slow at the top and slow at the bottom here in years past, but today I felt that I rode really fast at the top so I got nervous at the bottom and toned it down.
“I definitely rode the bottom slower than I usually do but I had a good clean run and I’m over the moon right now. Normally I’d be like 1st at the first split, so that’s a turnaround. It’s pretty cool!”
Smith was joined on the Leogang WCup podium by Loic Bruni (Fra) Lapierre Gravity Republic in second, Michael Hannah (Aus) Hutchinson UR in third, Atherton in 4th and fellow englishman Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate) in 5th. Rounding out the season overall behind Smith and Atherton was DH World Champ Greg Minnaar (RSA) Santa Cruz Syndicate in third Bruni in 4th and Samuel Blenkinsop (Nzl) Lapierre Gravity Republic in 5th.
Joining Ragot, Atherton and Carpenter on the Leogang Elite Women’s podium were Jill Kintner (USA) Team Norco and Myriam Nicole (Fra) Commencal/Riding Addiction in 5th. The final series podium shifted with Atherton on top followed by Ragot and Carpenter with Nicole in 4th and Morgane Charre (Fra) in 5th.
Everyone in the DH caravan now heads home for some well-deserved rest before training season begins again.