With a tight race between Amaury Pierron and re-crowned world champion Loic Bruni brewing, and Tracey Hannah being pursued by late-charging Marine Cabirou, World Cup finals were all set for a good old fashioned showdown.
Add in an entirely unknown venue in Showshoe, West Virginia, and the stage was set for possibly the most exciting race of the year.
Racers and fans barely had time, less than seven days from Sunday’s race in Mont-Sainte-Anne to Saturday’s finals in Snowhshoe to catch their breath before the final round of World Cup racing. Riders, exhausted from a long season, had to face down a long and physically demanding Snowshoe track.
So, who came out on top? In both races, it came down to the wire.
Hannah wins her first overall title by the narrowest of margins.
Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) came into West Virginia with a narrow lead over Marine Cabirou (Scott Factory Downhill). The French woman had won the last couple rounds and was closing in hard on Hannah’s lead.
A recently returned from injury Tahnée Seagrave (Transition Muc-Off) was the first to push a fast time, until new world champion Myriam Nicole (Commencal Vallnord0 came down. Despite picking a couple of safe lines to save her foot, still not 100% after missing most of the season due to injury, Nicole took over the hot seat. Just two riders remained. Marine Cabirou, winner of the last two world cups, and series leader Tracey Hannah.
Cabirou was fast at the top, but had fallen behind Nicole by the midpoint of her run. Then Cabirou jumped a long triple that most of the riders had avoided, and the momentum carried her across the line nearly two seconds ahead of Nicole. With Cabirou in the hot seat, the pressure was now on Hannah. She needed to pull off a top-six finish to keep her overall title.
Hannah started aggressive, hitting the larger jumps on course to take an early lead. Getting held up in the rocks midway down, the Australian had dropped to fourth. At the next split, Hannah was back to fifth and looking in danger of losing the title in the final race of the year.
Hannah crossed the line fifth. Cabirou wins her third straight World Cup downhill. Hannah, captures the World Cup title. Just 30 points ahead of Cabirou, she becomes first for an Australian woman to win the overall. Italy’s Veronika Widmann finishes third in the series, 666 points behind Hannah.
Elite Men’s downhill – Perron puts the pressure on Bruni, Hart disrupts the narrative
Thomas Estaque (Commencal 100%) set the days early fast time the hot seat for over an hour. None of the top riders could beat him. Until his fellow Frenchmen arrived in the start hut.
Hunting the overall title, and needing a win to overtake Loïc Bruni, Amaury Pierron was in attack mode from start to finish. The rider that seems to be able to turn things to another level, did so again in West Virginia. Pierron smashed Estaque’s time by an incredible 5 seconds. Estaque’s time was still strong enough finish inside the top-10, in eighth.
Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) was the first to challenge Pierron’s time, but faded down the latter part of the track. Greg Williamson put in a big run to move into third behind the South African. Crucially, both were making it harder on Bruni, who would need a top three result if Pierron were to win in Snowshoe.
Charlie Harrison (Trek Factory Racing) puts in a big run for the Americans, replacing Minnaar on the hot seat in second.
Two riders remained, and Loic Bruni is next. A week after winning world championships, Bruni didn’t quite look his normal “super” self. He made several small mistakes and crossed the line third, slower than Pierron and Harrison. With fastest qualifier, Danny Hart still at the top, Bruni was visibly frustrated knowing he might have just let his first World Cup series title go at the final race of the year.
Hart was close the whole way but, riding in second, he stood between Bruni and his world title. Bruni couldn’t watch, sitting at the finish line with Pierron. One of the two French riders would win, but which one? At the mid-point of the track, Hart’s splits went green. The Madison Saracen rider completely changed the narrative at the bottom half of the course. If he were to win, which had seemed all but impossible after Pierron’s wild run, Bruni would have enough points to save the overall.
Hart crossed the line first, taking his first win of 2019 after qualifying first at the last three World Cups. With his win, the overall points flipped, and Bruni moved back ahead of Pierron. Hart wins the day, Bruni wins an incredible double: World Cup overall and world championships. It’s the first World Cup title for Bruni, who becomes only the fourth to pull of the double.
Pierron goes second at Snowshoe, and second in the overall. Charlie Harrison takes third, landing a podium for the American crowd at home in Snowshoe, West Virginia.