The final race of the series and the overall was down to nothing more than a coin toss. With barely any points in the overall both Gee Atherton and Steve Smith would have to put down solid runs in both qualifying and finals, bar injury, to take out the series overall. Whilst Atherton had a solid season opener with wins in the first two round, Smith showed equal consistency in the later stages of the season with wins in Mont St Anne and Hafjell and was clearly everyone’s pick for the win.
As practice got underway, the feedback was much the same as in previous years, bike park-ie with a few new added features. Unfortunately this was enough to see some of the big wigs go down with Danny Hart having a particularly bad over the bars ending in one broke and one cracked wrist.
Sunday dawned and the juniors were up first. Despite carrying the overall leaders jersey in the opening couple of rounds, Dean Lucas’s last few rounds have not been as kind with results, meaning it was a podium or nothing for the young star if he wanted to push up through the rankings. Finishing up in 12th it was not to be on the day but Lucas still managed to bring home 4th in the overall. With another year up his sleeve, this kid is destined to go even higher.
The Elite Womens overall was decided weeks ago with Rachel Atherton stealing nearly every win this season bar a blip a Mont St Anne where Emmeline Ragot stole the thunder. All looked to be on track once again for Atherton qualifying in first but it was not to be so in finals, with Ragot storming to a win just .5 ahead of Atherton. Manon Carpenter slotted into third whilst Jill Kintner fell on her first podium of the season.
Aussie Tracey Hannah finished a brave 8th in Leogang after two seasons of injury and operations she will be looking to come back stronger and fitter next year.
It would all come down to the last rider, the last run of the world cup season as Steve Smith having qualified first. Atherton coming down just before had managed to slot into third, would Smith be able to do it? Flying down on an unbeatable run, the lights of the timing board splashed green for the win, Steve Smith dismount was one of the finest in years, one of pure elation, whip throwing the bike. Congratulations Steve Smith on becoming the World Cup series winner for 2013!
The rest of the podium was full of movers and shakers with Loic Bruni finally putting down a reliable run to finish second and Mr consistency this year, Mick Hannah claiming another podium in third. If Hannah can maintain the momentum through the “off season” he is sure to be finding the top step next year. Connor Fearon put in the run he’s been searching for all year, coming in at number 10, whilst old friendly rival, Troy Brosnan pushed a little higher in 8th. However Brosnan was mainly just happy to walk away from Leogang in one piece, with previous race visits there tending to cut his season short. Unfortunately Sam Hill was unable to put in a result after an off track excursion saw him breaking the beam in qualifying and missing racing.
So another season of World Cup Downhill is over and it was hectic! Close calls, tight points, fast racing and more let’s hope the next is equally as good.
Photos : Tim Bardsley-Smith