Dubbed as one of the toughest tracks out there, the Val di Sole course had undergone some small changes for the final round of the 2017 Downhill World Cup. With a couple of new sections and some manmade berms thrown in for good measure, it was still as tough as ever, heading straight down the hill over some of the most challenging terrain seen on the circuit. The riders rejoiced in its technicality, and it provided a stage for one rollercoaster ride.
In the Junior Men’s race, Canada’s Finn Iles had already wrapped up the series title at the previous round in his homeland but that didn’t stop him going full bore and beating Britain’s Matt Walker to the win. Finn’s time would have put him 11th in the Elite Men’s category, so next year, when he makes the step up to the big boys’ race, he’s likely to cause a stir! France’s Sylvain Cougoureux rounded out the podium, in third place.
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France’s Myriam Nicole came in second on the gnarly track, with Australia’s Tracey Hannah in third and Britain’s Rachel Atherton close behind in fourth place. Myriam’s result was good enough to win her the series title.
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The Elite Men’s race was next level and it went down to the wire, with America’s Aaron Gwin, South Africa’s Greg Minnaar and Australia’s Troy Brosnan all competing for the series win. After the qualifying runs, only four places and several seconds separated the trio.
It was Troy who rode first, with a ballsy run that put him in third place at the line. This was still enough to potentially win the overall – but only if Minnaar and Gwin didn’t finish the race.
Greg set off like a man on a mission, and was in the lead by split number two. But, in a massive blow for the South African, he caught a rock with his back tyre, puncturing it and exploding the rim. The Val di Sole race track wasn’t kind to Minnaar, who, earlier in the weekend, had snapped his frame in half after it hit a wooden trail marker post.
That meant only one man could challenge Troy for the series title – Aaron Gwin. Like a man possessed, he hurtled down the track within touch of the win all the way. Although Aaron only needed to finish the race to score enough points to beat Troy, he put it all on the line and went for gold. Crossing the line, he comfortably took the win and the series title, wrapping up one of the most exciting seasons of racing to date.
Features Editor Alex calls the mellow rolling hills of Dorset home, but before he started on MBUK, he lived in The French Alpine town of Morzine for seven years. Here he developed a scary ability to make the steepest and gnarliest trails look like a walk in the park. Occasionally his speed caught up with him, resulting in several bone crunching crashes at World Cup downhill level. Since hanging up his racing shoes Al regularly clocks up a massive weekly mileage on his trail bike, so is one of our hardiest testers.