Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing) and Emmeline Ragot (Lapierre Gravity Republic) rode to victory in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill race in Mont-Saint-Anne, Quebec on Sunday.
Smith’s victory almost didn’t happen, as rain moved in during the competition and made the course slippery and muddy. Several riders crashed on the slick surface. The Canadian expertly maneuvered his way down the course in the final, with the entire hill cheering for him.
It initially looked like Smith, the last rider down the hill, finished second, but the scoreboard flashed green after a few moments and revealed that he had bettered Gee Atherton’s (GT Factory) time by less than a second (3:58.485 to 3:59.389). Samuel Hill (Chain Reaction Cycles.com-Nukeproof) was third in 4:00.603.
“I was scared. I knew Gee was going really early because of his crash [during qualifying], so I tried not to think about it and that he had a better course [because of the rain],” Smith said in a UCI story. “I just tried to ride it without any expectations. I tried to ride it fast, just like in practice when it was so slippery.
“I was sliding everywhere. I’m so stoked to get a good clean run. I felt great. Home soil … I don’t think there is a better place in the world for me to win, this is about as good as it gets for me.”
Atherton has a 120-point lead over Smith in the downhill World Cup standings with two more stops remaining. Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) is a distant third, 309 points behind Atherton.
In the women’s competition, Ragot made it down the course in 4:24.985 to claim a convincing victory over Madison Saracen rider Manon Carpenter (4:29.196) and Gstaad-Scott’s Floriane Pugin (4:32.079).
The event’s leader changed after almost every run, with Ragot eventually beating Carpenter’s time with one rider left to charge down the hill: Rachel Atheron (GT Factory), who had not lost a World Cup competition this season.
But Atherton found trouble almost from the start, crashing in the first wooded section and again in the rock garden. She finished 35 seconds down as Ragot claimed victory.
“I did a really fast run and I pushed myself,” Ragot said. “I knew if I wanted to win today I [would] have to push. I needed to be full on to win it. It is hard to push past your limit and not crash, hard to do, but I made it.”
Atherton leads Ragot by 60 points in the World Cup standings with two more events remaining on the schedule. In third, and within striking distance at 140 points back, is Carpenter.
On Saturday, Julien Absalon (BMC Mountainbike Racing) won the men’s cross-country event in 1:28:17 ahead of José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Multivan Merida) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower). In the women’s race, Katerina Nash (Team Luna Chix) rode to victory. Maja Wloszczowska (Giant) placed second and Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools) took third.