As the 2009 overall winner, Sam Hill would normally have been the 2010 pre-season favorite but he had knee surgery in February and came into the season apparently feeling weak in training. His World Cup defense would come to an abrupt halt as he crashed in his race run in Maribor
(but still came fifth) and then crashed again in Fort William at round 2 and snapped three ligaments in his shoulder. The injury was bad enough to see him on the first plane home with almost a full season's worth of rehab to do.
This left Gee Atherton and Greg Minnaar to battle it out through the year. Greg won in Maribor and Leogang while Gee took the top step of the podium in Fort William, Champery and Windham, which was enough to secure the overall title. The only man to come between these two all year was Marc Beaumont, who picked up his second World Cup win in Val di Sole.
But of course, the World Championships very rarely follow the World Cup formbook. Mont Sainte Anne had been on the circuit for more than a decade at this point and was well known to riders but come race day, multiple showers passed through Mont Sainte Anne turning the top of the course into a bog and keeping the rocks slick all afternoon. The riders had practiced on a dry, dusty track all week and this was sure to shake things up.
Andrew Neethling set the first fast time that would hold up for 16 riders until Danny Hart, who was racing in his first year as an elite rider, came by and beat it with a super smooth run of 4:45.80, which would hold up for eighth.
Three riders later, Steve Smith wowed the home crowds to set the new fastest time of 4:40.56, some five seconds up on Hart's run. Steve Smith had only one World Cup podium to his name at that point but he upped his game and put in a stellar time despite racing with a separated AC joint and sliding on some wet rocks near the bottom of his run.
Sam Hill left the start gate just four riders later. A week before in Windham he'd finished 13th on a comeback race so wasn't really in anyone's crosshairs for the win, even he himself downplayed his chances. He told cyclingnews.com
"I've been sitting on the couch, and I didn't have the confidence. This morning's practice kind of bummed me out. I was really sloppy. When I was halfway down the track, the crowds were whisper-quiet, so I figured I was about 10 seconds back. No one was cheering."
But the time was good, good enough for the hotseat and the waiting game began. Justin Leov crashed on his run, Nick Beer flatted, and then Marc Beaumont, Brendan Fairclough, Aaron Gwin and Samuel Blenkinsop all saw Hill's time go by. Only Greg Minnaar could get close but he brushed a tree high up and didn't have the overall speed of Hill and Smith. However, he was fast enough for the bronze medal in 4:40.93.
This marked Hill's third win at Mont Sainte Anne but he was unable to capitalise on it in 2011 as the Rainbow Curse bit and he took another big crash midway through the season, which meant another surgery and a long time off the bike. He would prove himself the master in Quebec with another win in 2014 though, his penultimate in World Cup racing.
Check out a comparison of Sam Hill's and Stevie Smith's runs below: