he men's downhill at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup was expected to be a battle between current leader Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing) and second-placed Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who was only 36 points back. Minnaar had qualified first and Gwin second, and the rider who won the final would don the leader's jersey. Unfortunately, Minnaar's crash derailed his attempt to take the jersey, while Gwin padded his lead with his third win of the season.
Czech national champion Matej Charvat set the early standard of 4:47, but riders following him steadily chipped away at it. Justin Leov (Trek World Racing) was the first to go under 4:40, and his time would be good enough for 10th at the end of the day.
Andrew Neethling (Giant) knocked a few tenths off Leov's time, but junior World Cup leader Troy Brosnan (Monster Energy/Specialized/Mad Catz) then took a significant 1.2 seconds off the lead. Brook MacDonald (MS Evil), one of the revelations of the season, then took a massive five and a half seconds off the leading time two riders later.
MacDonald's time held up through pre-race and local favourite Steve Smith (Devinci), Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International), Gee Atherton (Commencal) - who flatted - and Danny Hart (Giant) and Cameron Cole (Lapierre International). It took Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate), the third fastest qualifier, to finally remove MacDonald from the top spot, by five-hundredths of a second.
All that were left were Gwin and Minnaar. Gwin had a good, solid run, but less than half a second faster than Bryceland; not the spectacular gaps we have seen earlier in the season. Minnaar started strongly, setting the highest speed through the speed trap - the only rider to crack 60 kilometres an hour. At the first split he was less than a tenth of a second behind Gwin, but then disaster struck for the South African, when he hit a rock and crashed. While he was back on his bike quickly, the damage was done, and Minnaar would finish 18th, seceding an additional 137 points to Gwin in the World Cup race.
"I was on a good one, having a smooth fast top," said Minnaar, "so I backed off a bit at the bottom to continue the flow through, and somehow I got too close to a tree, got hooked on a rock and went over the bars. I'm pretty banged up right now, but hopefully I'll be back next week to keep the challenge going.
Gwin tried to put the pressure of the World Cup lead out of his mind for the final. "My qualifying run didn't go as well as I hoped it would, so I was focussed on not making any mistakes and riding like I knew I could. I know at this point that if I put a good one together I should be right up there, so I just focussed on doing that. Minus one massive mistake at the top, I think I did that, so it was good."
Gwin now has 868 points, followed by Minnaar with 695, and then Gee Atherton at 547. Brosnan leads the junior World Cup standings with 314 points.
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.