Wet weather wreaked havoc on both elite races at the first of two World Cup downhill races again this weekend. Much like last weekend’s world championships, riders battled the course as much as they did one another.
It was two French riders that found fast footing in the mud. Loris Vergier landed his first World Cup win in two years. While in the women’s race, Marine Cabirou picked up her World Cup season where she left off in 2019: on the top of the podium.
Canada’s three riders all struggled in different spots. Seth Sherlock finished as the days top Canuck after a chainless run in the junior men’s race saw him coast to thirteenth place.
Elite Women – Cabirou in command
Marine Cabirou (Scott DH) stomped her authority on the elite women’s race. The French woman rode to a massive 6.115 second winning margin on Friday. Her win in Maribor is her fourth consequtive World Cup win, continuing her streak from 2019.
“It is totally amazing. Today I was really motivated. I am so happy,” the 23-year-old said after the finish line. “The conditions were hard – so slippery. I tried to push where I knew I was safe.”
It was a French 1-2 in the women’s race, with national champoin Myriam Nicole (Commencal Muc-Off) following Cabirou on the podium. Last year’s World Cup winner, Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) finished third.
Tahnée Seagrave struggled to keep up the pace but held on after a massive case on the course’s largest jump. Last week’s world champion Camille Balanche crashed in her race run, finishing eighth.
Vergier leads French sweep
The elite men were up next, and was once again a French podium sweep. While that’s becoming more common in downhill these last years, this podium looked a little different. Loris Vergier (Santa Cruz Syndicate) floated to the win, his first in two years. With neither last year’s World Cup winner, Loïc Bruni, nor 2018 overall winner Amaury Pierron (absent due to injury) helping this sweep, the French showed they are the nation to beat in downhill.
The day started on a down note, though, with the withdrawl of world champ Reece Wilson. The Scottish rider crashed hard in morning practice, and decided not to start finals.
Before Vergier’s run, it was other Syndicate racers putting on a show. Luca Shaw set the fast time early on. One rider later, Greg Minnaar went even faster. The two teammates stayed in the top spots as many other pre-race favourites struggled.
Mark Wallace, Danny Hart, Loïc Bruni all crashed on a treacherous flat corner at the top of the track. Finn Iles (Specialized) waited until further down to graze a tree, not so lightly. The Canadian bounced and stayed on his bike, but will be feeling that one for a while.
As more riders slid down with slower times, it looked like Minnaar might take his 22nd World Cup at just shy of 39-years-old. While the South African said he’d made mistakes in his run, he was creeping closer to the win.
Then came the French. First Remi Thirion (Commencal Muc-Off) unseated Minnaar. One rider later, the South African’s teammate Loris Vergier took over the hot seat. Madison Saracen’s Matt Walker was able to push Luca Shaw off the podium, but not disturb the French at the front of the race.
Thibault Daprela, the last man on the mountain, slid through the top corner, but just held on. The young Commencal Muc-Off rider, in his first elite World Cup appearance, careened down the course into third.
Led by Vergier and Cabirou, French take 1-2-3 in the men’s elite race and 1-2 in the women’s elite. Leonna Pierrini added a third French victory in the junior women’s race. Santa Cruz Syndicate had a great day on course, finishing 1-4-6. Likewise, Commencal Muc-Off owned the rest of the top spots with Thirion and Daprela finishing 2-3, and Nicole in 2nd.
Canadians in Slovenia
As mentioned, Seth Sherlock (Intense Factory Racing) was the top Canuck at the first of two Maribor rounds. The Squamish junior rode out a chainless run to place 13th in jr. men.
Finn Iles held on after solid encounter with a tree, finishing his run in 28th in elite men. Mark Wallace was one of the many elite men succumbing to the first sweeping corner, sliding out and rolling down to 34th.
All three will have another chance at a clean run this weekend. The World Cup double header continues through Sunday in Maribor. Saturday is qualifying runs for World Cup #2 finals on Sunday. You can watch it all live on Red Bull TV.