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.
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.
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.
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.
|The 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 |
|'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 |
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.
|I 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|
|I'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|
'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!
|My 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