There is no better than adversity.Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss,contains its own seed, its own lesson on how
to improve your performance the next time.
The show rolls on to the historic Mont-Sainte-Anne track in Canada this weekend, hot on the heels of the nail-biting finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland a few weeks ago. The rest in-between means riders should be refreshed and ready to race this grand old classic.In Lenzerheide, we saw the weather kick up extreme conditions; heavy thunderstorms the night before the race meant the track conditions on race day went from one extreme to another as the washed out mountainside soaked up the blistering Alpine sun.For the Elite Women, it was mixed fortunes for those making the most of Rachel Atherton’s road-to-recovery after her shoulder injury a few races back. In contention were the usual suspects, but after Tahnée Seagrave washed out her front wheel lower down the track, it was Swiss rider Emilie Siegenthaler who put down an impressive time to set the bar for the remaining field. Australian Tracey Hannah couldn’t improve on Siegenthaler’s run, but Myriam Nicole could. Atherton was the lone rider at the top of the hill; the last one down the track. It’s a position we’ve seen her in countless times, but could she make the most of the fresh, short track and keep the injury at bay? It seemed it was going to be that way, but nearing the bottom, Atherton seemed to slow against Nicole’s time and crossed the line 0.5 seconds back. Close, but not close enough, and judging by her Instagram post shortly afterward, Atherton was content with the ‘baby-steps’ progress that sees her progressively returning to form at every round.The Elite Men’s race would be equally dramatic. Laurie Greenland had set the pace and it seemed no one could improve on it—both "Sik Mik" Hannah and Loris Vergier came undone on the now incredibly dusty and fast track - until fellow countryman and teammate Danny Hart crossed the finish line. With a few riders to go, the atmosphere around the track was dialled to 11. After Hart, it was Bruni’s turn, but his usual comfortable and calculated composure seemed ruffled, which told its own story when he crossed the line with a time he’d probably rather forget. Greg Minnaar was next up, and it was like we’ve seen before, a lesson in sublime precision, grace, and speed. Minnaar rocketed straight to the hot seat with two riders to go. Second in qualifying the day before was Australian Troy Brosnan. Still on the charge after his first World Cup win, Brosnan wasn’t that far off the pace of Minnaar; +0.162 seconds in fact, and slotted in between Minnaar and Hart with one rider to go.
So here we are again. Gwin on track, looking like he’s got a pocket time machine lighting up the sectors in green, but suddenly… What? Not another mechanical! After years of domination on this Swiss mountain, the track bit back. Gwin had punctured on one of the freshly exposed rocks and crossed the line in a lowly 51st place.
It seems that for every curveball thrown at him, Gwin gets up and keeps on going. From broken chains to busted tires, the young American dusts off the adversity and focuses on the next challenge with humility. Here lie lessons of courage, conviction, and fortitude in the face of an ever challenging field.
Mont-Sainte-Anne is to World Cup Downhill fans, what Westminster Abbey is to tourists visiting London. If you want to know the history behind competitive racing and get to live and breathe it, then this is the destination. Mont-Sainte-Anne is where the best riders love to charge and make their mark. It’s where crowns are placed atop the heads of kings and queens of racing, and where you’ll find racers paying their respects to fallen heroes.Mont-Sainte-Anne has been on the racing calendar for a very, very long time. This weekend will mark the 25th consecutive year it will have hosted a UCI Downhill round (two World Champs and the rest World Cups). Over that time we’ve seen new tracks like Lenzerheide, Leogang and others trying to figure out how to be pure to the sport, whilst Mont-Sainte-Anne has evolved, yet grown old with grace, often setting the direction for how downhill racing tracks should be. It’s a favorite of many riders; it’s fast, it’s long, it’s rough, and it draws super fans from across North America, so the atmosphere is always fantastic.With a mix of wide open spaces and dark and rock-infested tree sections, riders are racing down one of the longest tracks on the calendar. There’s no respite, but that’s what makes this venue one of the best there is.
In the Elite Women’s race, there were no surprises, Rachel Atherton continued her domination taking her back-to-back win tally to 12. At Mont-Sainte-Anne she won in style too, taking over 11 seconds out of Tracey Hannah’s time, as well as being caught doing 73kph in the speed trap. It’s worth noting that Tracey had two sizeable crashes during the week, and one of those crashes had resulted in the Australian sporting a black eye come race day. Despite her determination and pure Aussie grit, Hannah would have to wait a little while longer to take the top step away from Atherton. Close on Hannah’s heels was Tahnée Seagrave who had a tricky run down because she was wanting to secure a trouble-free, maximum points haul after crashing badly the day before.
Last year was a rollercoaster of a race in the Elite Men’s category. Loïc Bruni, who had qualified down the field the previous day due to a puncture, managed a blistering run come race day, especially in the last half of the course. Bruni occupied the hot seat for a good while and somewhat surprisingly, looked close to being unseated by a ferocious run from Adam Brayton. Sadly Brayton’s wildness would get the better of him eventually, and he crashed, squashing his chances of challenging Bruni’s time. Greg Minnaar fumbled in one of the rock gardens, and Troy, despite reeling-in Bruni’s time sector by sector, just wasn’t fast enough.The penultimate rider down the hill was Danny Hart. With an astounding victory at the last round, Hart looked determined to take another win, and sure enough, his run was just over a second faster than Bruni’s, crossing the line with a time of 3:59.754. The last man down the hill was Aaron Gwin. With his eyes on the prize—if he could take the win and beat Hart he would have the series overall secured for the year—Gwin put in a stormer, but smaller errors here and there meant he couldn’t put a perfect run down, his efforts bringing him in +0.669 slower than Hart but ahead of Bruni. Gwin would have to take the fight for the series win to the next stop, but we know how that story ended.
There’s a small charge for those wanting to watch the race. Prices start from $10 CAD for an Adult pass, $8 CAD for 7–17 year olds, and it’s free for those 6 years old or under, season pass holders or Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré residents. Family tickets are $16 CAD.
Pinkbike will be providing you with the best daily coverage from our team of photographers in Mont-Sainte-Anne this week, from photo epics from the track walk on Wednesday, practice on Thursday, qualifying on Friday, and finals on Saturday, as well as a tech news and WynTV throughout the weekend.For the Elite Women and Elite Men finals, you can watch the action live on Red Bull TV, or via a local broadcaster (e.g. The Bike Channel in the UK) from 13:00 local time/EDT on Saturday 5th August (19:00 CEST // 18:00 BST // 10:00 PDT // 03:00 AEST – Sunday // 05:00 NZST – Sunday).