Here's what we noticed from the sidelines as it all kicked off in West Virginia.1. We were treated to two of the closest World Cup finales in history.
Both on and off the track, Snowshoe delivered a fitting finale and we saw two new World Cup overall champions crowned by super-tight margins.
In the end, just 30 points separated Marine Cabirou and Tracey Hannah as the Aussie finished fifth to secure the title. This is the closest women’s series since 2005, when Sarbina Jonnier edged out Tracy Moseley by 23 points.
In the men’s, Loic took the title by 40 points but you only have to go back to 2016 to find a closer series, when Gwin took the title by just 26 points over Danny Hart. However, it should be said that he had the title pretty much in the bag at that point, and just needed a top 40 to secure it on race day. 2016 was also a 7 round series, to find an 8 round series this close you have to go back to 2001, when Minnaar beat Vouilloz by only 12 points.
2. Americans prosper on home soil
With the World Cup returning to the USA for the first time since 2016, the home riders were clearly itching to prove themselves in front of a home crowd. In the elite men’s race, 5 of the top 20 riders were from the States with Charlie Harrison leading the charge and delivering a best-ever 3rd place.
In the junior men’s race, there was also a first-time podium for Matthew Sterling, who has been impressing on the Crankworx tour this year, and Anna Newkirk secured second on the day and in the overall in the junior women’s race.
3. Danny Hart’s persistence paid off
There’s no doubt that Troy Brosnan has earned the title of Mr. Consistent as he picked up his 6th consecutive top 3 overall finish, however, a close second place for that title surely goes to Danny Hart.
Since joining Madison Saracen at the start of last year, the Redcar Rocket has picked up 9 podiums and has only fallen outside of the top 10 twice in World Cup racing. In Snowshoe, it finally came together for Hart to the delight of his fans and Loic Bruni. Hart undoubtedly won the race in the rock garden where he managed to pull out more than 1.5 seconds on Amaury Pierron in an incredible display of technical riding.
4. Next year’s women’s series is going to be wild
After World Champs, we feared that the women returning from injury would run away with it in Snowshoe but that definitely wasn’t the case. Marine Cabirou showed she can go toe-to-toe with them in West Virginia as she powered home to an emphatic victory. Cabirou was especially impressive on the last section where she was the only woman who really nailed the rhythm section and was rewarded with about 2 seconds of an advantage as a result. Let's also not forget Tracey Hannah, whose laser focus saw her clinically ride out the second half of the season, doing just enough to secure the overall title.
As we head into 2020 we’ll hopefully have a fully fit field of women who will all be challenging for race wins. It’s sure to be a thriller.
5. Thibaut Daprela and Vali Holl take momentum into 2020 and elites
Thibaut Daprela and Vali Holl both ended their junior careers in the manner they started them with commanding wins in Snowshoe. Both picked up more than 10 wins in the two years they were racing as juniors and put in times that will have the elites nervous for their arrival next year. Of course, the step up to elites is never easy but riders like Cabirou, Iles and Walker have all made it look easy in recent years.
Holl and Daprela will both be hot property this off-season and it will be interesting to see if they stay put or are snapped up by new teams in the off-season. Whatever they decide to do, we expect them to be near the top of the timesheets as they kick off their elite career in Maribor in March.