There can’t be a better feeling than winning a World Cup Race on home soil with your friends and family waiting for you at the finish line. And Aaron Gwin should know, he’s done it two years in a row now! Gwin qualified fastest here without a chain on Friday. With no mechanicals in his race run there was nothing to stop him from dominating once again.
A crash on Friday left Danny Hart with 20 stitches in his arm, and saw him qualifying much lower down in the field than usual. A little bit of needlework did nothing to slow Hart down, and he sprinted across the line knocking Kona rider Mitch Delfs off the hot seat. Delfs’ time of 2:30.679 was enough to see him finishing just outside of the top ten in 11th place, his best World Cup result to date.
Greg Minnaar hasn’t really had much luck in Windham. Missing out on the top spot here in 2010 gave the series overall title to Gee Atherton. Last year he finished 12th and this year Greg had to settle for joint 10th with fellow compatriot Andrew Neethling.
Loic Bruni missed out on racing in Mont Sainte Anne last week, having to finish off his final school exams back in France. Loic’s had a great season so far and his good form continued here in Windham where he finished fifth, earning his first of what is bound to be many podium appearances.
Gee Atherton was the next man down the hill and had clearly put all the misfortunes from the previous week behind him, the first rider to be up on Hart’s time at the second split. Gee carried his speed through the final section of this short track, knocking Hart off the hot seat and going into the lead.
Whilst the track at Windham is relatively short, there’s a few nasty sections waiting to catch riders out; none more so than the rock garden in the woods. A few riders got a bit sketchy, but Brook McDonald took crashing to crazy new levels with one of the biggest slams ever seen. How Brook escaped unharmed is mad enough, but crazier still was seeing Brook jump back up, turn his bike around and continue riding at his usual, full throttle pace. Even with such a hard crash Brook finished 34th, just 12 seconds off Gwin’s time.
Brook’s team mate Damien Spagnola qualified third on Friday, his highest starting position this year and was having a great race run and no doubt would have podiumed. Even with a rear puncture Spagnola flew through the second split time in second place, but a hundred metres or so later admitted defeat and was forced to push his bike down the rest of the track.
With Gee still on the hot seat it loked like he could get his first World Cup victory since 2010. Only two riders were left at the top of the hill: Steve Smith and Aaron Gwin. Smith was down at the first split, but was super fast through the rock garden and went into the lead.
Just Gwin left then, and everyone knows where this is going. With crowd behind him and going wild Gwin laid down the perfect run, somehow finding nearly a second on Smith’s time, and claiming his signature spot at the top of the podium.
Gwin said: “Whether I won or lost today I knew the fans would have my back and be supportive of my racing, but there’s no doubt that the win here feels very special. You can hear the fans all the way down and it pushes you on. I actually took the chairlift quite late today and it allowed me to see what times the top guys were posting and I knew I’d have to be on it to win. I made a mistake early on where I hit 3 course marking poles and I know I lost time in the first sector but I was trying to stay cool and keep the pace right to the line. Walking out onto the podium here with the US flag here means a great deal to me.”
Men’s Top Five
1 Aaron Gwin 2:26.416
2 Steve Smith 2:27.374
3 Gee Atherton 2:28.127
4 Danny Hart 2:29.499
5 Loic Bruni 2:29.773
Full results can be found here.