Britain’s Seagrave, America’s Gwin top UCI World Cup DH podiums in Austria
Special to the Daily
Young British rider Tahnée Seagrave won her maiden UCI Mountain Bike World Cup race in Leogang, Austria, this past Sunday, as American Aaron Gwin opened his 2017 downhill account in style.
In the women’s race, much of the pre-race focus was on series leader Tracey Hannah. The Australian had won her first race in five years at the previous round in Fort William, Scotland, and topped the leaderboard after Saturday’s qualifying session.
Seagrave, though, was out to make good on both a disappointing home race and the absence of the 2016 World Cup champion Rachel Atherton, who was missing due to a dislocated shoulder sustained in the Highlands of Fort William, Scotland, from June 3-4.
Twenty-one-year-old Seagrave took on the tricky track from the outset and crossed the line in a time of 3 minutes, 36.082 seconds to displace the incumbent hot-seat occupier, France’s Myriam Nicole.
Seagrave’s run melded risk with outright pace, and after finishing, all she could do was wait on Hannah. As the splits clicked by it was clear that it was going to be close and the crowd at the finish held their collective breath. The Aussie crossed the line just 0.693 seconds back from Seagrave, who was immediately embraced by her family and the team that had helped her learn her trade in Morzine, France.
“I have been waiting so long to get a win,” Seagrave said. “I knew I could make up time. Tracey is so fast and has been on a roll so I knew I had to give it my all. I had a couple of mistakes and I was pedaling really hard — it was so close. To finally get it is just a relief more than anything. I will keep fighting.”
Hannah, who sits in second on the UCI DH female leaderboard behind the injured Atherton, wasn’t disappointed by the neck-and-neck finish. Seagrave is currently third.
“Obviously I was going for the win after winning in qualifying,” Hannah said. “The track changed a bit and you just have to see how you go. I am pretty happy with second in the end. … Near the bottom, there is one wet corner where I laid on the back wheel and I thought I was down — complete opposite to Fort William. Good to get another race out the way.”
Hat trick for Gwin
In the men’s race, two fast Frenchmen were missing: Remi Thirion was recovering in a Salzburg hospital after having a massive crash during qualifying, whilst Loïc Bruni had sustained a nasty hematoma on his thigh.
The action arrived thick and fast with one of the stars of the previous round, Jack Moir, landing in the hot seat despite a crash towards the top of the track. Britain’s Bernard Kerr was the next occupant. He would be rewarded for his stellar run with fifth place when all was said and done.
Frenchman Loris Vergier promptly smashed the day’s fastest time and it stood the test of his teammate and current points leader, Greg Minnaar, which left only one man at the top: Gwin.
The Californian pro was not only on the hunt for his 17th career win, but also a remarkable hat trick in Leogang — the first of which he won without a chain. His run looked unusually ragged but scintillatingly fast, and Vergier was left to look on as Gwin crossed the line 1.435 seconds quicker than him in a repeat of 2016.
“It’s been about a year since my last win, so much fun,” Gwin said. “I made some mistakes on the top. Stoked to get down without a crash.”
The win bumped Gwin to No. 5 in the UCI DH male rankings, while Minnaar fell to third behind Great Britain’s Danny Hart in first and Australian Troy Brosnan in second.
“I was a little bummed after last weekend, but these guys are riding awesome,” Gwin continued. “I wanted to cross the line and be happy with my run. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.”
Crucially, the win puts the 29-year-old back into contention in the overall standings after the disappointment of a rain-soaked round one in Lourdes. The series continues July 1-2 in Vallnord, Andorra.
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