Iles and Wallace podium at Snowshoe World Cup
A huge day for Canadian downhill in West VirginiaPhoto by: Bartek Wolinksi / Red Bull Content Pool
Finn Iles found himself at the center of the drama Wednesday as World Cup downhill works its way through a wild, week-long season finale in Showshoe, W. Va. The Canadian came oh-so-close to his first elite World Cup win, before settling into fourth.
Vancouver Island’s Mark Wallace finished fifth, 0.109 seconds later. It’s huge moment for Canadian downhill, as its the first time two elite men have stood on a World Cup podium at the same time.
Elite Men – All eyes on Iles
After laying down the fastest time in Tuesday’s qualifying, Finn Iles was the last rider to drop out of the start hut in Snowshoe. But the time the Canadian national champ’s tires touched dirt, all kinds of drama had played out before him.
The excitement started early, with World Cup leader Thibault Daprela. Commencal Muc-Off’s latest star was flying on course, until disaster struck. Daprela shattered his front wheel in the mid-course rock garden. The young French rider crashed hard, but appears to be alright. With his front wheel in pieces, though, Daprela’s run was over.
Loris Vergier (Trek Factory Racing) was the first to post a time that seriously threatened the podium. But the Trek Factory Racing rider wouldn’t enjoy the hot seat long. Soon, Loic Bruni (Specialized Gravity Racing) stormed down the mountain, redeeming his flat tire in qualification with a new fastest time.
Mark Wallace (Canyon Collective) was next on track after Bruni. After starting slightly off the pace in the opening sections, the Vancouver Island rider pulled back time through the wildly technical sectors all the way to the finish. Wallace crossed the line just 1.30 seconds off Bruni’s leading time.
Reece Wilson (Trek Factory Racing) dropped soon after, and battled with Bruni’s times the whole way down the track. The timing board went from green to red, with the two incredibly smooth racers barely separated by more than a second the entire way. The lights stayed red all the way to the last split, only for Wilson to miraculously pull back time before the finish line and pull ahead of Bruni by 0.032 seconds to take the lead.
The few remaining riders dropped, one by one, but none were able to touch Wilson’s time.
Finally, only Finn Iles remained. The last man on the mountain, Iles was the only rider to drop after Wilson and come anywhere close to the Scottish rider’s time. The Canadian national champion, fastest in qualifying, was 0.340 seconds away from Reece at the penultimate split time. Iles looked smooth and confident all the way to the finish line, but crossed 1.289 seconds back. Good enough for fourth.
Reece Wilson wins the Snowshoe World Cup, his first victory since taking 2020 world champoinships. Loic Bruni second, and Loris Vergier third. Canada lands two riders on the podium for a second time on Wednesday, with Finn Iles in fourth and Mark Wallace in fifth. Incredible racing from both Canadians in a wildly tight race. The entire podium finished within 1.332 seconds, the top-3 all on the same second.
“Amazing, amazing, I had one little mistake, but so amazing. I underestimated that crash, it does a lot to your head and it takes a while to get that confidence back. I like to be on line and I like to be precise. And on this course you have to be relaxed when you get off line and, just lean back to an extent. You get off-line and it all just looks like pointy rocks.
Despite registering a DNF Wednesday, Thibault Daprela maintains his World Cup overall lead. But fellow Frenchmen Loris Vergier and Loic Bruni are breathing down his neck. With his win, even Reece Wilson has a mathematical chance to steal the series title.
Speedy snowbirds: Canadians fly in West Virginia
A big contingent of Canucks made the short migration south for 2021’s final World Cup. Along with Iles and Wallace’s podium finish, there were several big results on Wednesday. Jackson Goldstone and Tristan Lemire both landed on the junior men’s podium earlier in the day.
Kirk McDowall, two-time past Canadian national champion, made a stellar return to the international scene. McDowall scored 32nd for Dunbar Cycles in his first World Cup race since 2019.
Lucas Cruz (Norco Factory Team) continues his consistent improvement in the elite ranks, finishing 44th in Snowshoe. Forrest Riesco (Commencal Canada) followed close behind in 48th. Henry Fitzgerald (Norco Factory Team) and Gabe Neron (Dunbar Cycles) followed in 51st and 52nd. It’s Neron’s first year racing internationally, and his result in W.Va adds to a big top-50 finish at world championships. Seth Sherlock (Intense Factory Racing) made his first return to a World Cup final after a few narrow misses, and a broken wrist earlier in 2021.
Rachel Pageau (Commencal) set a fast time in qualifying, but joined the swelling ranks of riders to crash hard in Snowshoe.
Höll smashes demons and rocks to win first elite World Cup
In the elite women’s race, Myriam Nicole (Commencal Muc-Off) looked like the rider to beat. The Frenchwoman stormed to a fast qualifying time, and won her last two World Cups as well as world championships.
Early on, it Emilie Siegenthaler (Pivot Factory Racing) setting fast time, racing in what could be her final World Cup weekend after over a decade of racing downhill. That time was quickly bested by Tahnée Seagrave (Commencal Muc-Off), who flew through the top jumps to reset that time.
It was Marine Cabirou (Scott Downhill Racing), winner of the 2019 Snowshoe World Cup, who quickly reset the bar. Still struggling with an injury from a massive crash earlier this season in Les Gets, Cabirou started steady before pulling time the entire way down the course. Cabirou put a massive 4.7 seconds into Seagrave by the time she crossed the finish line.
Vali Höll (RockShox Trek), rallying from a big crash in practice, opted to skip the big transfer jump at the top of the course. The Austrian still set fast times throughout the top half of the track, somehow. By mid-course, the Austrian looked more comfortable, sending the huge jumps on the lower sections of the course. Höll smashed Cabirou’s time at the line to take the lead by over five seconds.
Camille Balanche (Dorval AM) was next down the mountain. The 2020 world champ rode a clean run. Balanche’s consistency sees her sit second, and keeps her hopes in the overall alive.
Nicole, last on the mountain, went for the big jumps right away, pulling out a big advantage right away at the top of the course. The French woman was flying through the mid-course rock gardens, still greasy from overnight, before sliding out and crashing. Nicole re-started, but had to stop again to adjust her seat. The 2021 world champion slides into fourth, 9.895 seconds back.
Vali Holl wins her first elite World Cup. Camille Balance takes second, Marine Cabirou third, Myriam Nicole fourth and Tahnée Seagrave fifth.
It’s a big moment for the Vali Höll, who has struggled injury and crashes in her transition from junior to elite.
“The whole season wasn’t what i was looking for, with lots of crashes,” said two-time junior world champion said at the finish line. “It was hard to gain that self confidence back. I had a massive crash first day in practice on the transfer jump, so I decided not to do it. It looks really cool on T.V., so I wanted to, but I decided to keep it safe.”
That strategy paid off in spades. Her win, combined with Nicole’s misfortune, means both the Austrian and Camille Balanche are still locked in a three-way race for the World Cup overall title.
Full elite men’s and women’s results from Downhill World Cup #5. Wednesday also saw two Canadians fly onto the podium in Snowhoe’s junior downhill events.
West Virginia isn’t done with downhill just yet. Rider’s barely have the evening off to lick their wounds as practice starts Thursday for the final DH World Cup of 2021.
Before that happens, the cross country racers take to the course for Short Track on Friday. Downhill finals take place Saturday and the XCO grand finale on Sunday. Full Snowshoe World Cup broadcast schedule.