Sunday evenings are usually reserved for relaxing after over-indulgent lunches or a spot of Godly karaeoke with Songs Of Praise. This Sunday however saw Mountain Bikers all over the world huddled around computer screens awaiting news from a certain Austrian hillside…
Schladming has quickly become one of the stand-out dates on the World Cup calender; it’s steep, super-technical and rain-clouds constantly loom. The last four races there had resulted in three wins to the now Specialized Monster Energy pilot Sam Hill.
On Sunday afternoon the Aussie made good of his fastest qualifying spot and broke the stripe over two seconds quicker than last years winner Sam Blenkinsop of Yeti. The win gave Hill the World Cup title at the end of a long and often eventful season after last winters big money move to Specialized.
The title race had come down to a three-way battle between Hill and the Santa Cruz Syndicate duo of newly-crowned World Champion Steve Peat and Greg Minnaar. Peat finished the day unusually off the podium in seventh to take third overall whilst his South African team-mate ended up third on the day and a close second overall.
Having lost out to Peat by five hundreths of a second at the World Championships in Canberra only a few weeks ago you can bet that another second place hurt Minnaar. “It’s kind of hard to lose the title when I had the most wins for the season,” he admitted, “I had a bad start, made some mistakes and lost my rhythm. I kept making small mistakes through the top until I was able to regroup halfway down. I was surprised that my time held up so long.”
Many peoples dark horse for the event, Hill’s team-mate Brendan Fairclough, came home a highly respectable fifth having been pipped to the post narrowly by Yeti’s US charger Aaron Gwin. The fourth would secure ninth spot overall (behind Fairclough’s eighth) and the end of an impressive debut full-season for Gwin.
Britain’s Danny Hart also wrapped up the Junior World Cup overall too having put the disappointment of missing out on the hotly contested World Championships.
As the sun-sets on yet another busy World Cup season it’s time to begin the long winter of video-trawling, transfer movements and prototype spy shots before it all kicks off again next Spring. Oh, we can’t wait…