Steve Smith has won his first World Cup round in Hafjell, Norway! The Devinci Global Racing rider, decked out in his home nation of Canada’s colours stormed ahead of his team mate George Brannigan who also had his best result to date!
Markus Pekoll was sitting comfortably in the hot seat, his time seeing off challenges from both team mates Damien Spagnola and Brook MacDonald. It wasn’t until Cam Cole flew past the line that Pekoll had to move over, his time proving enough to finish just inside the top ten.
With the overall title in Gwin’s bruised and battered hands, the fight for second place between Gee and Greg was on. Gee hadn’t had the qualifying run he’d been hoping for and so was up first and went into the lead almost two seconds up on Cam’s time. Gee was the only rider to never be outside the top four all year, no doubt helping GT Factory Racing win the team standings.
Sam Hill was up next, going for some style points manualing into the final of the start jumps and throwing some tweaks in the rock gardens. He was super tucked through the speed trap, closing in on Gee’s time, but crossing the line in third place. Nick Beer was looking fast, taking a different line through the rock garden to the rest of the field, but just missing on on beating Gee’s time.
This was Minnaar’s first race since winning the World Champs in Leogang, and there’s no doubt he was looking for another win. Minnaar was sixth at the first split but cam through the speed trap so tucked he made Sam Hill look sloppy, hitting over 70kph and clawing the time deficit back to just half a second. He sprinted over the line just 0.155 seconds ahead of Gee’s time, securing second place in the overall standings.
Josh Bryceland was the fastest qualifier out of the Santa Cruz guys, and in some races this year, their youngest rider has had the best results out of the team, but today wasn’t Josh’s day and he had to settle for eight place. Still, sixth overall is a great result for Ratboy!
Third in qualifying was George Brannigan’s best result so far as he set off from the start hut. The young kiwi rider on the Devici Global Racing team was 11th at the first split but had jumped up to just .6 seconds behind Greg by the second split and stormed past the finish line 1.7 seconds up on Minnaar! This was Brannigan’s first top ten finish all year and he was doing it in style, with a guaranteed place on the podium.
Just two riders remained, Rob Wallner and Steve Smith. Swedish rider Wallner became the 2010 European Champion here two years ago and had been looking great in practice and qualifying. The Scandinavian crowd was going wild for him, but something wasn’t going right for him and as he cooled off in the finish pit it became clear that he’d been having trouble with his brakes. Don’t worry Rob, it happens to the best riders. Just ask Gwin…
So just Steve Smith remaining, would Devinci be able to go one-two on the podium? Easily! Smith was looking pinned from the word go, up at the first plit and holding his time all the way down. Steve took the same right hand line through the first rock garden as his team mate Nick Beer, and then seemed to just skip through the second rock garden before sprinting to the finish line like a mad man to finish nearly half a second up on George Brannigan, meaning all three team riders were on the podium!
As soon as he’d caught his breathe Steve said: “I’m so happy right now! I’ve never won a World Cup before and this has been a dream of mine for so long! It was so hard with the wind, but it was the same for everyone. I can’t believe I finished first, I’m so stoked! This is insane all three of us are on the podium today and it’s George’s first ever podium and Nick’s first podium this year so the whole Devinci team is so stoked right now!”
Men’s Top Five
1 Steve Smith 3:31.76
2 George brannigan 3:32.16
3 Greg Minnaar 3:33.89
4 Gee Atherton 3:34.05
5 Nick Beer 3:34.89
Full results can be found here.
Aaron Gwin was unable to race on Saturday after injuring his hand during practice. This was the same hand an injury Gwin suffered in Val d’Isere, but this time was far more serious. However, with such a lead coming in to the final round Gwin already had the series wrapped up.
Men’s Final Overall Standings
1 Aaron Gwin – 1260
2 Greg Minnaar – 1162
3 Gee Atherton – 1123
4 Steve Smith – 930
5 Sam Hill – 735
6 Josh Bryceland – 699
7 Brook MacDonald – 650
8 Danny Hart – 699 (missed two races due to shoulder injury)
9 Mick Hannah -632
10 George Brannigan – 604