The second round of the World Cup downhill series is wrapped up and it gave us a healthy dose of excitement and plenty of close racing. We saw the first Scot on a World Cup podium since Stu Thompson bagged a 4th at back at the Grouse Mountain, BC, race in 2003. Atop the men's podium was Frenchman Amaury Pierron for his first ever World Cup win, and Tahnee Seagrave returned to her victorious ways in the women's, making it four separate winners in the four elite races so far.
Let's look a little deeper at how they got there, and the weekend's other biggest winners and losers.
Sector AnalysisThe Track
Imagery courtesy of Red Bull Media House and Google. Split guesstimates by me.
The splits at Fort Bill were very unevenly spaced, with sector 2 being twice as long as sector 1 – it was actually equivalent to the entire race at Lošinj – and each sector one quarter as long thereafter. Track length was clearly going to be a factor here, and perhaps play to the strengths of different riders to the last race. Here's a rough time breakdown of each sector:
Sector 1: 1m
Sector 2: 2m
Sector 3: 25s
Sector 4: 35s
Sector 5: 25s
Sector 1: 1m
Sector 2: 2m30s
Sector 3: 30s
Sector 4: 40s
Sector 5: 30s
Wood: Boards and Trees
The minute-long Sector 1 contains the inimitable boardwalks and technical Pin Ball section.
Angel Suarez didn't quite achieve his goal of winning the first split
but he came close. He was beaten by only Luca Shaw, though by a decent margin. Sadly for both of them, despite their great opening sections, they finished 60th and 59th respectively.
Shaw was clearly on a tear up top, but his run was scuppered by a rear flat. Before that disaster, he was 0.8s ahead of 2nd place and put almost 1.5s in on eventual winner Pierron, who didn't have the best start but was possibly conserving energy for later in his race run.
Several other riders were possibly on the same conservation strategy and didn't look to have the strongest start, with Hart and Vergier down the order, and one notable omission from this top-20: eventual 4th place racer Reece Wilson.
In the women's field, right out the gate there's a clear difference between the top three, with the rest of the field 3 seconds back.
Of those, Katy Curd put in a strong sector for 4th here. Surprising to see Ravanel 5 seconds back in 10th at the split.
At twice the length as the already long sector before it, sector 2 had the greatest potential to gain or lose time. That certainly proved true with the largest time spread of the day and 3.5 seconds separating Amaury (split winner) and Taylor Vernon in 20th.
If you were going too hard up top then fatigue could start to set in. Perhaps Neko was correct that, in going for the win in sector 1, Angel would be too tired by the bottom of the course. Suarez says later in the video he was focusing on the exit, though, rather than it being fatigue or a lapse in concentration; plus his teammate Aaron Gwin, in a rare crash, went down at the exact same spot
The aforementioned energy strategy looks to be paying off by this point, with the eventual top three only separated by Danny Hart and Reece Wilson, the latter of which started to make his move in the sector with a similar story for the split.
With Atherton and Nicole both going down around the woods, Tahnee put a big chunk of time in on the whole field in Sector 2. Ravenal had started to make a push at this point, whereas Curd's strong start was perhaps already taking its toll. Hop, Skip and Jump
With 65-percent of the run behind them, riders had three short sectors to the finish. That's not to say there weren't time gains to be made; with an uphill after the woods and the flat-out motorway, there's still plenty of position switching to be done.
No change at sector 3 for the top two, but Hart only managing 15th opened the door for Brosnan to jump him and take 3rd, which he would hold to the finish.
Despite a crash and losing her chain out the gate, Rachel Atherton was right there in Sector 3, but Tahnee still reigned supreme. Ravanel had another good sector and holds her 5th place from Split 2. Save anything disastrous, Tahnee's 7 second lead at this point should be safe.
Sector 4 is where Brook Macdonald, with a "90-percent" healed collarbone, launched his attack, winning both this and the next sectors. Reece Wilson continued his flying run, putting up a 2nd here which bumped him from 6th to 4th for the split.
Gutierrez is a name we're used to seeing mentioned in sectors like this, and he's right there again, with 3rd here and 2nd in the next. Our top-three slip down the sector places here but only the time lost to Wilson matters, and they keep their grip on the top spots.
We start to see Gwin picking up some time again here as he tries to limit damage from his earlier crash in the woods.
Tracy Hannah had said she prefers the flat-out tracks to those slower janky technical ones. That shows here where she not only wins sector 4 but, more importantly, puts a chunk of time in to Ravanel who doesn't appear in the top-ten for the sector which is somewhat surprising given her EWS record. Hannah's powerful performance results in them trading places in the overall at the split and Tracey pinching that last podium spot. Note that this is the only sector Seagrave didn't win.
Amaury Pierron said that he liked the longer track
and not having to ride flat out the whole way. That seemed to prove true by the consistency of his first four sectors, but by sector 5 he was "smoked"
anyway and the legs could only manage a 26th placed time, losing over a second to the sector winner, Brook Macdonald. While Vergier and Brosnan were top-ten in sector 5 and took time out of Pierron, he had already done enough higher up to secure the win. Congratulations, Amaury!
Special mention here goes to Dakota Norton managing 10th for the sector, and going second fastest at the speed trap, without a chain
! Goes to show what you can do with the ol' "pump n tuck
Seagrave's domination continued by winning sector 5, while Hannah put in another strong result at the finish coming sector 2nd and cementing her podium spot ahead of Ravanel. Lacking a chain, it's perhaps no surprise Atherton doesn't feature in the top-ten for the sector, but she did enough to hold off Cabirou and keep 3rd place.
Men's Rank by Sector:
The sector heatmap gives us a great visualization to backup what we just noted about Pierron's final sector.
Was Wilson perhaps a little too conservative in the top? If he pushed a little harder than 25th up top, perhaps he could have sat in that hot seat even longer?
Without a clear problem in sector 3, Bruni could have claimed a few more precious points after missing the first race.
Speaking of problems, Hatton, Atherton, and Greenland were all in the black and clearly struggling in the final sector.
Men's Rank By Split:
Just like Gwin in Lošinj, once Pierron captured the lead after sector 2 he held it right to the end. The difference this time around is Vergier did the same thing with 2nd, and Troy was only one sector off doing the same with 3rd. Amazing consistency throughout the race by the top three.
After a conservative start, then pushing right through to 3rd at split 2, Danny Hart lost one position per split after that, eventually ending up, surely disappointing for him, 6th and just off the podium.
Brook Macdonald looks to have been on a slow-burner starting off 33rd but jumping several places each split to eventually get 11th, just 5 weeks after breaking his collarbone in at the first round. What an animal.
Nothing much needs to be said about Tahnee here. Yes, both Atherton and Pompon got dirty jerseys, but that's racing. Seagrave won all but one sector and impressively took the lead from the start and stayed there. Pompon, Atherton, and Cabirou only shuffled around after sector 1, then stayed put for the rest of the race.
However, I think the most interesting thing here is that the top-ten was decided after sector 4, and in fact had only one position change after sector 3, with Tracy managing to bump Ravenel off the podium. Admittedly, this is contributed to by fewer racers - 16 compared to 60 men - but still an interesting pattern.
Charting it out, there was little movement at the sharp-end after split 2, with only Brosnan knocking Wilson down one spot.
Similarly very little movement at the top of the women's field.
As suggested by @lRaphl
after Round 1, let's look at how the racers stack up against their qualifying efforts.
This chart shows us 18 out of the top-20 racers improved on race day by varying amounts. Only Danny Hart and Finn Iles fell short of their qualifying, and we saw that worrying bobble from Iles right before the Hoofer that explains his marginal drop. Hart would have been confident coming in to this race after winning the national race here a few weeks before and his qualifier showed that, but he couldn't match that pace in his final run.
Vergier and Brosnan both had the most marginal of improvements on race day and shockingly similar times to qualis.
The top-20 riders have a mean -3.61s time improvement between quali and finals. Looking across all 60 finalists, the average is 2.01s slower
, but that's largely attributed to Suarez's time
and his crash. Removing his result, we end up -0.62s to the good, and dropping the slowest five times we get a huge jump to an average -3.06s improvement. So looks like the evidence generally backs up the racers' claims that they "have a little bit left for finals," save a mechanical and keeping it rubber side down, though most racers also said in interviews that the track will likely be a bit quicker thanks to the overnight rain adding a bit of grip.
Here's a clearer representation of how time deltas for the top-20 riders stack up, or check out all 60 racers
Expectedly, Rachel and Myriam's race times were down on qualifying due to their crashes. Most of the rest had improvements, with Curd markedly so. Expectation
While we know privateer Reece Wilson had the ride of his life, who else performed much higher than maybe expected? We can take a look using finishing position with both qualifying position and UCI ranking. Perhaps unsurprisingly Pierron is also right up there on the list, behind only Wilson and the return of Sam Dale.
With his rare crash, Gwin comes in right at the bottom. Unsurprising given he holds #1
UCI ranking, so finishing anything other than 1st will be damaging here. Technically, Maes appears below him here but that's purely because he doesn't have a UCI ranking, which means he should probably be right at the top.
Not surprising to see Ravanel at the value-end of this chart, while, despite coming second, Pompon suffers similarly to Gwin from holding the #1
rank. Fantasy Value
Expectation? UCI Ranking? Sounds like the kinda thing that could be useful for your Fantasy Team
. Well, look at that, we can see here who gave you the best bang for buck by plotting (UCI) points against $PB (Pinkbike Dollars).
The Rainbow Stripes are not proving good value for money this week. Hopefully that turns around soon! Perfect Ride
Inspired again by Mark Shilton's blog
, I wanted to look at how riders stacked up against a "perfect ride": the lowest time of the day by adding up each best sector.
I will be expanding this analysis as the season progresses.
Quick Fire RoundSpeed Trap
Like last time, being fastest at the trap doesn't mean you win...
... but it does give you a better chance.
The same is true for the women, though the chainless Atherton couldn't do what Norton did in the men's field. Points
A nation wins more points if they are represented by more racers. Though Australia really let their side down in the women's race
Commencal Factory took team-of-the-day honors with podiums in the men's and women's races. Meanwhile, privateers took home a chunk of the points from both fields, with Wilson making up the majority of the men's, and by the looks of it, some of those women deserve to be representing teams. Age
Like round 1, GBR and FRA entered lots of racers throughout the age range, and many of them qualified. Canada have a strong emerging youth. Meanwhile, Germany had a bad weekend.
Young winners in both men's and women's races, and age/experience less of a factor this time around.
The later you start, the higher you place.
Everything here is available in a public GitHub repository with some notes on the process and instructions to run yourself: https://github.com/domwrap/mtbgeekstats
. If spreadsheets are more your thing, all my collated CSV files are available to download from that repo.
Data Sources: http://uci.ch/mountain-bike/ucievents/2018-mountain-bike-uci-mountain-bike-world-cup/162153118/widgets/live-timing-results-185534/ https://www.rootsandrain.com/race5898/2018-jun-3-mercedes-benz-uci-world-cup-2-fort-william/results/
Analysis by Dominic Wrapson. You can follow and find Dominic on his Instagram