Racing Roundup – UCI DH World Cup Rd 2 & Critérium Du Dauphiné

Aaron Gwin on course during the finals

UCI Downhill World Cup Round 2 – Val Di Sole, Italy

The Val Di Sole round of the Downhill World Cup served to illustrate once again the absolute dominance of Aaron Gwin. In a post race interview when Gwin was asked what it felt like putting together a run that was nearly 8 seconds faster than runner up Greg Minnaar; Gwin nonchalantly stated, “I felt like I was just sort of on autopilot the whole time… but, usually the good runs are sort of like that I guess.” To add insult to quite literal injury for some of the other riders that augured in during their race run; Gwin remarked, “the bottom minute I was just sort of riding along for the ride… The track was so rough I knew it was going to be hard and I just had to stay patient.” To put Gwin’s winning time in perspective, the difference between Gwin and Minnaar’s time was the same as the difference between Minnaar and 18th place finisher Nick Beer!

Gwin’s “patience” and precision stands in stark contrast to the wild riding style of current World Champ, Danny Hart who finished 6th with a relatively tame run. If Gwin’s remarks are genuine (and given his performance there is no reason to doubt that they are) then he has even more speed available in reserve. World Cup record holding legends Nico Vouilloz and Steve Peat can expect some very real threats to maintaining their names in the record books if Gwin can stay healthy.

Aaron Gwin wasn’t the only one to shine at WC round 2 however. Minnaar and Atherton put in solid runs with Minnaar making virtually no mistakes and Atherton only dabbing a couple of times mid-course. Marc Beaumont finished 4th with a solid performance in the rocky and powdery conditions that have favored the British rider in the past. Teammates Cameron Cole (5th) and Sam Blinkensop (8th) brought their “A game” to the race and a welcome return to form following difficult injuries.

In the women’s final, Rachel Atherton is back to her winning ways with a solid 5-second gap between her and 2nd place finisher Miriam Nicole. Atherton has been battling shoulder injuries over the past two years and continues to struggle. She quickly clutched her shoulder immediately following her run and appeared to fire off some choice words to dull the pain. Emiline Ragot was on track with a blisteringly fast and confident run that looked to be on track to produce a win given her second split time, but Ragot slowed during the final leg of the course and ended up 3rd for the day.

Critérium Du Dauphiné

In Pro Tour news the Critérium Du Dauphiné started on Sunday and the big guns hoping to win the Tour de France have come out firing. All except Andy Schleck who seems to be looking for his legs. The course this year is extra hilly, with category climbs on every stage except the stage 4 TT. However, only the last stage features a mountain top finish, so the overall is isn’t guaranteed to a climber.

Luke Durbridge (Oreca GreenEdge) won the opening Prologue besting Bradley Wiggens (Sky Procycling) by a few tenths of a second. Cadel Evans (BMC) has shown himself to be an opportunist and the last descent of Stage 1 gave him the perfect opportunity. He broke away from a charging peloton with Jérôme Coppel (Saur – Sojasun) and Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) and managed to hold off the peloton as well as his breakaway companions for the stage win. The big losers of the day were Andy Schleck who got dropped on the final climb and Sammy Sanchez who crashed early in the stage and is suspected to have broken ribs. Johan Brunyeel had this to say about his team captian’s performance, “I didn’t expect to see that scenario… I haven’t spoke to Andy yet, but what’s clear is there a lack of race rhythm. The only possible explanation is that it’s been a long time without competition and a lack of rhythm… It’s not a disaster, we have to make a balance at the end and see how he gets out of Dauphiné.”

Schleck now sits 3:34 back and Sanchez sits 24:19 back. Wiggens hangs on to GC over Evans by a second. Cadel Evans wears the Green Points jersey, Giovanni Bernaudeau (Team Europecar) leads the Mountains Classification, and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling) is the Best Young Rider.

Cadel won the stage on his trusty BMC SLR01 Team Machine. The Team Machine’s long, low, and slack geometry makes it an exceptional descender helping Evans to break out of the peloton on the windy descent into Saint-Vallier.