The wet weather has given us some wild racing over the last week but finally, the sun came out for Round 2 of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Maribor.
Despite a few new sections including a re-taping of the rock garden, the Maribor track provided another thrilling final.
The women’s race followed form from qualification with the green splits coming thick and fast as the riders sped down the track. World Champion Camille Balanche pulled off a clean run to take the hot seat, then Monika Hrastnik went fastest with another tidy ride, both riders safely avoiding crashes that had upset their round one runs. Tracey Hannah was next to cross the line and duly sliced even more off the fastest time. The overall winner from last year revelling in the drier conditions rather than the semi-slick surface of qualification.
However, Hannah had no time to get comfortable on the hot seat as Marine Cabirou once again saw green at the finish. The winner from Friday was back with that no-nonsense style that makes her such an exciting rider to watch. Cabirou was immediately under pressure from Nina Hoffmann. With both red and green splits appearing as she descended down to the finish, there was minimal room for mistakes. A supremely precise ride over the jumps and into the arena was enough to post the fastest time with just two riders to go.
Tahnée Seagrave, still recovering from an injury had struggled to get up to speed during round one. However, a second place in qualification yesterday showed her confidence is returning and she definately was in the running for a podium today. It wasn’t to be for the Brit, however, sliding out early on leaving Hoffmann with just one more rider to challenge her time.
Myriam Nicole had gone fastest in qualification by 3.895s, an eternity on a track this fast. However, a costly front-wheel washout and then a second crash ended all hope of the win for Nicole. Hoffmann took her maiden World Cup win by 1.899s over Cabirou, who won back the overall leader’s jersey from Nicole who still managed to finish fourth. Eleanora Farina went one better than Friday to take third and Tracey Hannah rounded out the podium in fifth.
1. Nina Hoffmann GER 3m 38.602s
2. Marine Cabirou FRA +1.899s
3. Eleanora Farine ITA +4.212s
4. Myriam Nicole FRA +6.075s
5. Tracey Hannah AUS +8.875
As the top 30 qualifiers in the Elite Men started charging it was in form Frenchman Benoît Coulanges keeping the hot seat warm. His time of 1.143s was just shy of Loïc Bruni’s winning qualification run, but on a faster track….
Andreas Kolb was next to see the gantry turn green as he crossed the line. Then, after a qualification run that didn’t go to plan, Greg Minnaar’s trip back to the drawing board yielded the improvement he was looking for and he moved into the hot seat. It would be some time before he was bested by Ángel Suárez who, on an impressive comeback from injury, was again pushing the pace and going 0.422s faster.
Into the top 10 and Aaron Gwin, Finn Iles and Matt Walker all went fastest, shaving just a few 10ths off each time. Then came another stellar display from round one winner, Loris Vergier. The splits went green all the way down as he perfected lines over the relentless roots and carried speed across the cambers. Vergier had set down the standard.
Up next, Troy Brosnan was threatening to deny Vergier another win, but the Australian couldn’t quite match the speed of the Frenchman to steal the hot seat. The penultimate man down the mountain today was the young super-talent Thibaut Dapréla who was fast but lost time in a wild run with many small mistakes.
The last man on the mountain Loïc Bruni was hauling the mail and his split times went red by only as much as 0.773 and green by just 0.233. As Bruni came over the final jump and into the finish arena it was anybodys race. On the line the gap was a mere 0.057s, but it was in the red for Bruni and Vergier celebrated another victory.
1. Loris Vergier FRA 3m 7.771s
2. Loïc Bruni FRA +0.057s
3. Matt Walker GBR +0.403s
4. Finn Iles CAN +0.863s
5. Troy Brosnan AUS +1.016s
CREDIT: Bartek Wolinski