The fan favourite could be tracked all the way down the mountain by the partisan crowd who took to chanting “Steve Smith” for nearly his entire run. Smith kept his cool after a brief thunderstorm threatened to spoil the festivities, turning a once grippy track incredibly slick in places where riders least expected it.
World Cup leader Gee Atherton (Gbr) GT Factory Racing set the best time which was holding with 15 riders to go including several top contenders like Smith, Danny Hart (Gbr) Giant Factory Off-Road Team, Samuel Hill (Aus) Chain Reaction Cycles.Com / Nukeproof, Aaron Gwin (USA) Specialized Racing DH and Greg Minnaar (RSA) Santa Cruz Syndicate.
An abrupt heavy rain shower threatened the final 10 riders and it looked like Atherton’s time may stand the test but the rain stopped as suddenly as it started creating a slicker track. Hill delivered the second best time and Minnaar the third best. The sun came out for the final two riders but Hart could only manage 6th best.
Smith flew out of the gate and was neck and neck with Atherton all the way down the hill. He knew he was having good run and poured it on in the final section to clinch the victory by 0.904 of a second making history as the fans went wild.
“I couldn’t be more excited. I was shitting my pants at the top. It was pissing up there. It cleared up for a few minutes and I said I wasn’t going to make a game plan on how to ride it, I just went with it. I was sliding in every corner, 2-wheels drifting. It was scary. I put on a mud seat so I could pull tearoffs if I had to, but I stuck to the dry tires as I knew it wasn’t going to get soft.
“It was going good all week and I had a lot of fun on the track. I was sliding around and just having fun in that race run. It was so fast, but you had time to think… so you’re just heading down going wow this is a good time.”
Smith was joined on the podium by Gee Atherton (GBR) in second and Sam Hill (AUS) in third.
The early leader was reigning Canadian DH champ Micayla Gatto (PerformX Commencal) who was the first rider down the course. Her time held until the last eight riders as Tahnee Seagrave (Gbr) FMD Racing / Intense Cycles took over and then the times started dropping.
Manon Carpenter (Gbr) Madison Saracen Downhill Team threw down the mantle and broke 4:30 which Floriane Pugin (Fra) Gstaad-Scott couldn’t match but former World Champ Emmeline Ragot (Fra) Lapierre Gravity Republic forced the issue setting the best time with only top-ranked Rachel Atherton (Gbr) GT Factory left on the hill.
But Atherton’s time had come as she crashed twice ending up 12th as Ragot claimed the victory at MSA with Carpenter second and Pugin 3rd. Gatto ended up a strong 8th – her best WCup result this season – while Vaea Verbeeck (Can) was 13th, Jaime Hill was 15th and Kristen Courtney finished 16th on the day.