Afterbang - The Final Chapter: Hafjell and Leogang

Oct 2, 2013
by Nathan Hughes  
Scotland, Italy, Andorra, Canada, Norway, Austria….. Class of 2013: dismissed. Into the history books goes another season of hard-fought bicycle wars, one that concluded with an unforgettable head to head. Downhill is maturing at a rate nobody can get to grips with. Suddenly we’re at a point where Cedric Gracia is retired, Troy Brosnan is a well-established elite and Sam Hill’s domination of the late-2000s is cobweb-coated vintage. The fact is these are still the early days in our sport's evolution. ‘Remember when Stevie Smith took his first overall?’ we will smirk. And we’ll think back to the days where wheel size was bitterly debated, people had to make back-protectors out of cereal boxes for UCI regulations and laugh at all those low resolution 16mp photos of retro gear we used to froth over. Well, before we draw a line under this season we should pause to reflect and savor it a little. School is out; the shrill sound of the bell is hurting our ears, but we can’t go yet because we need some more pictures for the yearbook.

M overall
  Blenkinsop, Bruni, Minnaar, Atherton and unforeseen star student, the prom king, Smith.

Rewind with us two weeks, to a fairy-tale land of grass roofs, forests, trolls, Vikings, Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. Come back to a time before Stevie Smith had sealed his fate as the 2013 season title-holder, to the climbs of the Scandinavian Olympic village, Hafjell, Norway.

Hafjell bike park
Forest Fresh
Arne the viking.
Red Riding Hood
Morning fog and grassy roof tops.

World Champ Greg
  Greg Minnaar training in the calm before the storm for what would be his last race of the season. Fifth place here makes it 30 podiums in 5 years, including 11 wins and not counting two world championships.

No caption needed.
  Take your hat or helmet off to the man in the technicolor jersey, who would still make 3rd in the overall without riding Leogang. Minnaar has had career-long podium consistency like no other racer the planet has known.

 and this is the Canadian that could spoil the Atherton party.
  Some people's careers are just getting fired up. Smith was in a good place after blitzing Mont St. Anne and Crankworx. The prerequisite belief and hunger was growing for Smith and he was all but preloaded to spoil the Atherton party.

Marcelo Gutierrez
  Norway was a race to be on a Giant. Gutierrez backed up his two teammates in 7th this time, but much of the season he's led the charge for his team. Grit and determination have driven Marcelo well into the limelight of the top ranks.

It was years since Neethling had been on a World Cup Podium but all that changed in Hafjell.
  Windham 2011 was the last time Neethling drank champagne from the bottle, but he was back here to remind us of the depth of talent in top flight racing. On their day there's an arm's-length list of riders who could do the deed.

Danny Hart Killed it in Norway but a quali run injury in Leogang cut his season short.
  Danny Hart killed it in Norway and finally got back to where he's been headed all these years. His ambitions were severed by quali run dual wrist injuries in Leogang, making this his last showing.

You don t need a rut when you BELIEVE.
  You don't need a rut when you BELIEVE. Thirion's mid-season storming was never backed up with another top ten. Another year of training, another chance to make waves.

Ropelato scrub
  'Michelin man' Ropelato on Specialized tires, but looking beefy in anticipation of the weather... Mitch scared everyone in the champs on his 29er and shows all the promise of translating his riding abilities into results anytime now. A top 20 here rounded out a pick 'n' choose season of venues.

Gee sunny shred
  We all know Gee meant to steal it away here at Hafjell. He had this on lock in the dry qualifiers, but it's hard to believe the man from Wales came unstuck just because of the rain.

Sic Mic a true champion. Always positive even when the win has just slipped through his fingers. Your time is coming Mic.
  Sik Mick would have issues here too after his red hot, second place qualifier in the Aussie dust...

Sik Mik checking out the daily weather pattern to see how hard it will be raining during his run. Mik knew he could do well here and we all would have loved to see him put together a clean run.
  Mik saw it coming well ahead, but just couldn't stay between the tape in the mud.

Smith scoping the wet
  Historically he's not been the first thought, go-to guy in the damp, but Smith was about to make a name for himself in conditions close to home.

Mountain Dew
  Finals day and 'mountain dew' was all Red Bull TV could broadcast.

Innes Graham qualified first yesterday and so close today from taking his first world cup win.
  Fastest junior qualifier, Graham surveys a sea of white.

  Matt Beer traction testing on the speedway straight in his race run. Smith rode his finals power-slide out, but not everybody could suck it back in so gracefully...

Brannigan crash
  Brannigan was building for a return at the venue of his near first victory last year. But like so many he drowned in the mud.

Brosnan..Me bike gets muddy like Hill
  Brosnan was well in the running as well... but suffered with what Sam Hill always warned him about; a muddy bike.

Blenky Making moves on a muddy Norway track to fourth place.

Blenkinsop last turn.
  Blenkinsop has really transformed himself from wildcard of the steep to all-round, level-headed, master of stamina. He made big moves in the mud to land fourth place and what would lever him onto the overall podium after Austria.

Steve Smith

Smith into hotseat

Stevie coming through the line and getting the green.
  Steve Smith put the hammer down for what would be a lethal dose of perfect run. He pushed the Champery champ off the hot-seat and had no intention of sharing with the guys still stuck up the mountain. We saw the same savage, all-out, attack from him the month prior in Canada.

Loic pains
  Loic fell in the brown-pow zone of practice... Now a muddy trench from the Somme. You could see the pain and disappointment cutting deep.

Sic Mic a true champion. Always positive even when the win has just slipped through his fingers. Your time is coming Mic.

Mick n Stevie shake it out
  Mik's dive off the course left him with nothing but solid sportsmanship to show at the finish line.

Gee last woods entrance qualis
Gee Atherton with his head in sorrow as he crosses the line 8.4 seconds behind Stevie. Leogang will present itself with one epic battle between Gee and Stevie for the overall as Gee is still technically in the lead.
Winner winner
12th place face
  What could have been. Atherton gulps in the air as he copes with the brunt of impact from his mid-run tree check and the greater pain of a title let out the bag.

Danny and Neethles took one Giant step on the podium today...
  Riding Giants... Danny and Needles survived surfing the 50ft waves of mud.

Full spray ahead
Steve Smith trough Dirt TV
Still series leader

With a mustache soaking up the Brut for a second time, Smith had turned the tables and split the season dead in two. What began with Atherton firing on all cylinders ready to steamroll the season, the other side of Thirion's Round 3 win had swung around in the Canadian's favor. Although you could see Smith didn't plan to stop for a moment, Atherton still narrowly had the series in a headlock and you'd still count on him to snap its neck and take it home from Austria.

Who could tire of this view.
It there is one thing Leogang isn t lacking in It s epic views.
  Over the hills and far away.

Nailed it.
High altitude trophy cabinet
Leogang Austria World Cup
Stevie Smith
Bas Van Steenbergen diving into the first turn at Leogang.

The Leogang course received a hostile reception from most riders, but it quickly became clear this was a battle that would entertain if it were held in an underground car park. This was the kind of bare-knuckle match that Gwin had stamped out in two seasons of domination... Finally a true face-off, and the people were baying for blood. The views were breathtaking in any case, and by the time the riders had roughed things up, we were back on track for an alpine epic. Minnaar, the winner of the previous year at the champs was hurt and after qualifying just those 3 irrelevant points stood between another Stevie massacre or a deja Gee.

Pardal lookin philosophical
  Francisco Pardal takes some think-time in the forest. The dark of the trees was where it got wildest.

Another first in qualies for Rachel. She s got this one wrapped up no matter what happens.
  Although a look back at the men's final, Ms. Atherton deserves a moment here for riding out of her league all season. Somehow when a repeat winner loses, their accomplishments jump out at you all the more. She seemed almost glad to lose here; it will give her the incentive to lift harder and pedal longer through the short winter days to come.

Into the abyss.
Cauvin wall ride
   This was ultimate bench-press for race runs as riders hit it harder than practice intensities could prepare them for. Cauvin hits the wall and holds form for 25th.

Neko Mulally has taken great strides this summer. He qualified seventh but a small mistake in the rock garden cost him the top ten he was hoping for in finals. Neko still finished in the top fifteen for the overall ranking making him the worlds fastest american.
  Neko's just coming up to speed, and that's quick. It was a great year for at least 50% of the young Trek squad.

Brosnan to bar on rim
Cushy Renthal grips. Great for the hands on those rougher tracks.
  Brosnan landed 7th in the standings. An awesome return for him after wrecking his spleen here in Austria last season. His secret? Extra cushy Renthal grips. So forgiving on those rougher tracks.

Steve Peat putting down a respectable 8th place against a big field of guys almost half his age. Yeah Peaty
  Steve Peat put down an 8th place against competitors under half his age. His 6th in Norway forged a strong finish to a tumultuous year. The king lives on.

Marcelo wrapping up an incredible season
  Gutierrez wrapping up an incredible season in front of the masses, just one rung off the podium.

Connor Fearon riding to a top 10 in Leogang.
  Connor Fearon's brilliant first year in elite is often shadowed by junior rival Bruni, but he got the credit he deserved riding to a top 10 in Leogang.

Ratboy whipping into the hot seat for a good chuck of finals. Good to see him get a podium spot after a long spell.
  Bryceland's an up and down kinda guy, but if he's feeling it there's no stopping him. He could be ripping out throats reliably any day now...

Sam Blenkinsop
  Sam Blenkinsop rode to 7th and sealed the final space on the overall podium. Always one of the raddest to watch, he's getting more dedicated to the cause every year.

Loic Bruni Powering home to second place in Leogang. He will surely be one to watch in 2014.
Loic Bruni

bigquotesThe race was awesome today from practice. I felt confident and great, probably the first time all season I had felt this way! I knew I could do good so I push a lot, I have come a long way since last year. I have trained really hard and worked a lot on the bike with the team. We had the perfect bike today with the 27.5s so I rode at the limit. In Norway I took a fall from really high, thinking I would do good, but I had a slow run and still crashed. Today I had nothing to lose so I just went really hard. For sure when I arrived on the scene up from juniors I was intimidated but I never could have expected this 4th overall so I'm very proud of myself, but I have to do better next year and keep progress at all the races! - Loic Bruni, Lapierre Gravity Republic

At the Atherton RV

bigquotes'Time to bloody go'... You've gotta be totally focused and on top of it. It's not an easy thing what we do... you learn how to deal with it. You learn how to race well... Gee Atherton

Gee low in the rocks
  Atherton smashed the top section with a 2:25.1 split, which would remain the most aggressive assault on the upper switch-backs. Things looked black and yellow.

Gee Atherton
  By the final turn Atherton's splits had fallen towards the average and Smith was just finishing his stretches at the top.

Gee boost
  If he couldn't out-do the guys not in the running how could he stop Smith? Gee launched huge, everything crossed, with the weight of all likelihood against him.

In the red
  The red light district... unfamiliar haunts to the straight-laced winner. Atherton shook hands with Loic, Josh, and Marcelo and took the uneasiest seat of his life, one to the side from the norm.

Brilliant scenery in Leogang.
  Two guys were left, only one with the momentum to tip the Atherton tank off the lawn.

Sik thumbs
Sik Mik punching in the second fastest qualifier to Stevie.
Comfortable viewing
  Are you sitting comfortably? Hannah roared into the arena just off Loic's time. Things weren't looking any brighter for Atherton.

Unbelievable that in Hannah's two years off the scene he was totally bike-celibate... He quit. Now he's back 6th in the overall looking to take wins on any track. The full 'Sik comebak' just missed this time, but Cairns better be ready for his deadly smooth speed-tuck.

Stevie Smith

bigquotesI have things going through my head in the start gate, but then once I take my first pedal stroke all that stuff's gone and it's just charge and focus - Stevie Smith

Smith cornering high
Stevie Smith
Steve Smith
Steve Smith
Horror show
That dismount.
Steve Smith
Taking the overall
Steve Smith

bigquotesI'm speechless at the moment... just over the moon. These last few races have just gone better than I could ever dream off. I just won three World Cups in a row all on amazing tracks and I'm mind-blown right now! I was quite nervous before the race today, but way before the start on my warm-up it all went away, things got loose and I felt good. There was nobody at the top, just dead quiet. I was wondering if Gee might have made a mistake and was little back... They were gonna tell me if that happened, but when Nige my mechanic got the phone call but didn't say anything I knew he'd gone good and was top 5. I just want to keep racing my bike... going faster wherever I can, that's what I like doing it's amazing... so stoked right now! - Stevie Smith, Devinci Global Racing

M winners side

'Just charge and focus...' Stevie Smith, the champion 5 years in the making with trainer Todd Schumlik, finally rises to the top. 3rd at Fort William, 2nd at Val di Sole, 4th at Vallnord and taking wins at Mont St Anne, Hafjell & Leogang in a total clean sweep of late-season obliteration. Bronze would have been enough to take the title home, but he stomped a clean victory over everyone of 1.3 seconds just for good measure. 2013, year of the great mustached chainsaw massacre!

To the victor goes the shiny glass trophy.
Happy champ

All prep and dreams in ruins but still smiling for the critics.
  Hopes, dreams and prep chainsawed into pieces, but still getting there with a smile for the critics.

bigquotesMy run was ok, it wasn't great. I wasn't sharp enough or aggressive. It was the same as my last few races... the type of run I could have done a hundred times in practice. Those type of runs aren't going to win you a championship and today's shown that.

I started well but just didn't keep it up. It's a long course with a lot of the tech stuff at the bottom so you really have to attack all the way to the finish line and at the same time kind of juggle the line of pushing hard without crashing. If I'm honest it was Norway that's cost me this title and just one of those days I guess. We've got a bit of down time now. A World Cup season really takes it of you... every rider's got some injuries that they need to recover from and chill out for a bit, but we're gonna be getting back on the training ready for next season as soon as possible. I'm looking to step it up again next year for sure.
- Gee Atherton, Atherton Racing

Side podium
Mick n Josh podium
Loic 4th overall
Stevie can almost fit his head inside the massive beer glass the podium winner received.
Stevie has a lot of races to win to grow a beard such as this. He s got a solid start though. Winning the overall will ad about 30 girth to his facial hair.
  The sign of great competitor...knowing when you're beat. Smith defeated fair n square, last minute, at his own game...
Duck face GoPRo
  A kiss goodbye from the downhill Queen... all you need to know it's over, and just enough to make sure you're back for 2014.


  • + 71
 at least he didnt win a giant gold water bottle like the fmb..
  • - 7
flag denis-biker-lol (Oct 2, 2013 at 17:09) (Below Threshold)
 Baha everyone on the podium is happy to be their but gee
  • + 26
 got a feeling smith will do it all again next season
  • + 6
 i hope so, i really want it to see victories for him next year too! Smile
  • + 10
 I think next season will see a pitched battle between Atherton, Smith and, dare I say it, Gwin. Those three are looking at claiming the top spot again with other danger men (Bruni, Bryceland, Hannah, MacDonald and such like) looking to throw themselves into the fray whenever they can.
  • + 6
 forgot sam hill
  • + 1
 NO HILL? Shame
  • + 16
 I'm really psyched for Stevie and the rest of the men for a killer season. However... Two photos? Two photos of one woman? That's all we have for the estrogen-fueled competition between Hafjell and Leogang? Pffffffft. There were some epic crashes, a lot of women giving their all and plenty of disappointment from the ladies' side as well. Not featuring at least a bit of that is a cop-out. Gatto's flat in qualis at Norway? Kintner's 3rd in qualis and 4th at Leogang? What about Manon? Nothing in the summary of the season?
  • + 1
 It was a recap of the mens races...
  • + 4
 Obviously, but where does it say it's an exclusive write up? It doesn't, one simply would hope for a bit more coverage. And folks wonder why women don't race... We do, sites just refuse to cover it. It's supposed to be a recap of Leogang + Hafjell. It mentions Rachel, but last time I checked, there are still 3 spots on the women's podium. There's still an overall title, and those women are still riding as hard as they can. So.... What's up, PB?
  • + 0
 Hopefully they will also do a write up of the women's race. If there were two pictures of Stevie in that people would be complaining about men's coverage in the women's section.
  • + 5
 There's not a 'men's section' and a 'women's section'. It's 'mountain biking' and 'world cup racing'.
  • + 2
 totally agree with you ambatt....
  • + 10
 I feel for Atherton...he looks salted!
  • + 0
 Hahaha, word. Hug it out man, hug it out
  • + 1
 The first pic says it all. Maybe he's just pissed off he has to wear that banana suit?
  • + 7
 Just a quality write-up, thanks to all involved and thanks to RedBull for the coverage all season.
  • + 8
 i want those women
  • + 4
 Next year looks to be a very competitive season. Looking forward to: the rise of Bruni, the resurgence of Gwin, a lighter carbon GT Fury plus a fitter Gee, and an even better Stevie.
  • + 5
 Don't forget a hungry Hannah, Blenki, Brosnan, Macdonald, Hill, Hart, Villegas, Fearon, etc, etc, etc... So stoked already
  • + 5
 Respect for Gee he accepts where he might have went wrong and looks to get better.
  • + 2
 Great photo's! Great summary of the Men's. SS was consistent and steady.... Gee lost it somehow - not sure if through confidence crash, or fitness... either way - he needs to forget about it and move forward! For the fans - best year ever! right to the very last race! roll on 2014!
  • + 5
 simply a great season of world cup dh racing. next, some rainbow stripes for mr.smith.
  • + 3
 A real bummer that out of the 121 beautiful photos in this final chapter than there are only 2 photos of a woman. One photo of Rachel actually riding and one of her taking a photo. Two photos guys. Ouch.
  • + 4
 Super stoked the S.S. won it this year, but I'm hoping Sam Hill comes back with a vengeance and takes it all.
  • + 1
 The last two races were epic spectating. So stoked to see some change-up on the podium - Needles. Blenki, Mick, and epic runs from Loic Bruni and Danny Hart in the last round. Thanks for the commentary this season, be back for more next summer!
  • + 1
 While not completely explaining the lack of women/junior shots, it is my understanding that the UCI schedules the separate women/junior practice in such a way that it makes it extremely difficult for the media to cover it (between pits, XC, etc). As a result, most of the women/junior riding coverage comes from qualies, and gets used in the event coverage throughout the season; thus the lack of leftovers like these. So, perhaps a petition for more women/junior coverage should be made towards the UCI for better practice times.
  • + 3
 Brosnan's cushy Renthal grips? Here's your product of the year pinkbike!
  • + 1
 Why is Gee always pouting like a little kid that dropped his ice cream when he doesn't win. Time to grow up. I get that he is bummed, but c'mon - be a gracious loser.
  • + 1
 Name gt fury is like a self-fulfilling prophecy can change the "victory" could change something
  • + 1
 hate to say but l think hill has lost the eye off the tiger still respect abslute legend.
  • + 1
 Danny Hart through the trees!!, Pinned !!....A needle (Haha)!, near the top of this thread.........Awesome photo
  • + 2
 Awesome pics, great write up!
  • + 1
 That dog near the top. I want it.
  • + 1
 Where's the women's coverage - this is the 21st century!
  • + 1
 Nice recap. Congrats again Steve Smith!
  • + 1
 The photo of nick beer roosting is sick!
  • + 0
 Black Box S.S. is so cool you are #1 ___________0^0___________
  • + 1
 the shining!!!
  • + 1
 Wonderful !!!
  • - 2
 Afterbang... What? this isn't

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