Both Winners Battled Injuries
Thibaut Daprela looking frustrated after crashing on Day 1 in Les Gets. Photos submitted by Thomas Dupret.
Both Thibaut Daprela and Tahnee Seagrave battled injury to take the wins on Saturday. Less than a week before the race Thibaut Daprela was being airlifted from a French Cup race
with a battered face and a tongue that had to be stitched back together. He spent the week subsisting on chicken and rice milkshakes
and then crashed again on the first day of training. His stitches were apparently coming loose during his race run but he battled through to beat the conditions and his competitors for a first Elite win that we're convinced won't be his last.
Tahnee Seagrave was also struggling coming into the race weekend. It sounds like she had all but written off the chances of a win before the weekend and ended up surprising even herself. A neck injury picked up just before Leogang has meant a lack of bike time for Tahnee and the Les Gets track was far from the easy re-introduction she'll have been hoping for. However, like most of the women racing, Tahnee overcame her demons with the track and was able to prove her pace with a run that will without doubt be a huge confidence boost for the rest of the year.
Thibaut Daprela Bossed the Wet Conditions
Thibaut Daprela wasn't just riding through his own pain barrier but also the torrid conditions. It's probably fair to say that the conditions worsened from Brook MacDonald onwards but Thibaut's run was still done in far from optimal conditions.
Despite coming down in the wet, Daprela's time was just two seconds off Loris Vergier's dry winning time in qualifying
, he was also head and shoulders above the riders who dropped in around him - the five riders before him finished 13th, 26th, 41st, 51st and 5th, while the five riders after him finished 59th, 36th, 40th, 46th and 61st, so it's clear he was on heater
, rain or not.
Yes, there will be a lot of riders taking a philosophical look at the weekend, whether those who were gifted some overall points by the deluge or top qualifiers who will rue losing their opportunity to take a podium but unfortunately unpredictable mountain weather is a big part of mountain sports. Credit where credit is due, the UCI and Red Bull have done as much as possible to avoid afternoon Alpine storms such as re-jigging the race schedules in 2018 and introducing the protected rider system, but sometimes, there's not much you can do when a big storm is due to roll in just after lunchtime.
Yes, it can sometimes be disappointing to not see the world's top riders battle it out in identical conditions but equally watching riders such as Coulanges, Minnaar, Kerr and Wilson skillfully slither down the waterlogged course was equally as exciting to watch.
A graph showing riders starting vs finishing position. Any riders whose line goes lower did better than their starting position. Of the top 25 riders, only Ronan Dunne, Mark Wallace, Matt Walker, Greg Minnaar and Thibaut Daprela achieved this.
French jump builders don't mess around
For the second year in a row, the builders in Les Gets provided the riders with some seriously intimidating airtime. In 2019, the finish line fly off left Rachel Atherton with a ruptured Achilles' Tendon
and this year the new track provided some more aerial challenges for riders. The step down near the top of the course claimed a number of victims including Marine Cabirou
, who had to pull out after her front wheel washed out on the take-off and she missed the landing.
On race day, there were crashes all over the mountain but the biggest and most discussed must surely be Reece Wilson's on the river gap
. This booter got rutted up throughout the week then the rain on race day softened it up between training and racing. Reece hit it at full throttle but ended up being bucked and thrown over the bars. A dab of brakes may have saved Reece Wilson's visor but that's usually the last thing on a rider's mind in a race run.
We loved the tech and wide taping on offer on the new track but riders also need to feel safe to push their limits the whole way down a track. In future, we'd love to see jumps designed to survive a whole weekend of racing with clean and predictable entries and exits that cater to all the different race categories to keep the racing safe as well as great to watch.
French Crowds Make Races
With the crowds back at the races in Les Gets, it felt like we were watching a 'proper' World Cup for the first time since 2019 and there is no better crowd to welcome back first than the rabid French. With chainsaws, flares and finish area invasions they showed us exactly what we've been missing due to COVID and we're hoping for more of the same at the rest of the races this year.
At the Enduro World Series in Val di Fassa last week we also praised the pit atmosphere
, comparing it to the World Cup pits parites of old. Well, if the few clips that made it to social media
are anything to go by, that party culture hasn't gone anywhere from dh either.Jackson Goldstone Follows in Finn Iles and Vali Holl's Footsteps
We've spent a lot of time hyping up Daprela's run in this piece but he actually wasn't the fastest rider of the day, that honour goes to Jackson Goldstone. The first year junior posted a 3:26.950, which is not only 7 seconds faster than Daprela's time but also 5 seconds faster than Vergier's qualifying time. It goes without saying that the conditions were obviously different between the runs but there's no denying Goldstone put down one hell of a run.
Since the introduction of the junior classes, only two riders have posted the best times for their gender while racing in the junior ranks. Vali Holl did it twice in 2019 and Finn Iles did it at the rain-affected Mont Sainte Anne race in 2017. In repeating this feat, Goldstone confirms his potential to be one of the world's fastest racers.
Keep an eye out for Phoebe Gale too. The young British racer is under the tutelage of Tahnee Seagrave on the Canyon Collective FMD team and took the win in her second ever World Cup. Her time of 4:21 would have seen her place seventh in the women’s race, just behind Eleonora Farina and ahead of Vali Holl. Britain has a long pedigree of fast women racers and Phoebe Gale may be next in line to carry that on.