Aaron Gwin did the impossible this weekend in Leogang, winning his second Downhill World Cup of the season despite breaking his chain just seconds into his finals run.
With his first pedal stroke out of the gate in Austria, the American’s chain snapped but he still managed to maintain his momentum and beat Connor Fearon and Remi Thirion to the top spot, with Rachel Atherton winning the women’s event.
It’s not the first time Gwin has been unlucky in Leogang. His brakes failed in 2012, and he picked up a flat tire last season on the first corner, but still managed to ride the entire track in style.
But this year the Specialized rider, who won the opening round in Lourdes, refused to let his misfortune cost him points and he produced one of the most impressive race runs the World Cup has even seen to steal victory by 0.045 seconds.
“I can’t believe it,” said Gwin. “First pedal out of the gate the chain snapped. I’ve never had that happen. Luckily there’s not much pedaling apart from that middle section. I just tried to put my head down and charge as hard as I could.
“It’s awesome. This season has been awesome. For some reason I have weird things happen to me here almost every year. But I said not today, if there’s air in the tires, we’re getting it down.”
Gwin's amazing run, which was similar to Neko Mulally's World Championship race in 2014, puts him well clear at the top of the series standings after rediscovering the dominance he showed on his way to World Cup overall victories in 2011 and 2012. He is almost 200 points clear of Loic Bruni in second.
The young Frenchman had topped qualifying at the first two rounds in Lourdes and Fort William but went down hard in Leogang and dropped in early on finals day.
He claimed the hot seat with most of the field still to race and held on until Australian rider, and Gwin’s Specialized teammate, Troy Brosnan came in almost three seconds faster.
World Cup Champion Josh Bryceland claimed his first-ever World Cup win in Austria last season but couldn’t beat Brosnan’s time and Greg Minnaar, winner in Fort William, came in less than half a second behind.
World Champion Gee Atherton couldn’t knock the Aussie off his perch but French rider Thirion stole the hot seat with just two riders remaining.
He wasn’t there for long however as Fearon beat the time by over a second and, when disaster struck for Gwin, the Australian looked on course for his first World Cup victory.
But despite riding without a chain, and facing strong winds, Gwin produced one of the most impressive runs in World Cup history, beating Fearon’s time by the smallest of margins.
In the women’s race, Rachel Atherton grabbed her second win in two weeks, seeing off competition from Tahnee Seagrave and Emmeline Ragot, to extend her lead at the top of the overall standings.
After a wild weekend in Scotland, conditions were tough again in Leogang with gusting winds and rain at the top of the course making it particularly difficult for the women.
World Champion Manon Carpenter has had a tough start to the season, including a massive crash in Fort William, and her bad luck continued in Leogang as she was disqualified for accidently leaving the course when landing the final jump – seemingly knocked off balance in mid-air by the wind.
Fellow Brit Seagrave impressed again however as she took the hot seat from Emilie Siegenthaler by seven seconds, moving into the lead with two riders to go.
Ragot came in just 0.153 seconds behind Seagrave but series leader and fastest qualifier Atherton denied her fellow Brit her first ever win with another dominant performance, winning by over three seconds.
Atherton’s first win in Leogang, just seven days after she won in Fort William, means she is now 85 points clear at the top of the overall standings, with Ragot in second and Seagrave in third.
“I enjoyed my race run, but the rest of the weekend I was a bit nervous,” she said. “It’s cool to know you have to go as fast as you can to know you’re in with a chance.
“It’s always good to go well in qualifying and that gives everyone a benchmark to aim for. It’s a long season and the points are good for the overall at the end of the year.”
The riders have a well-earned three week break before they return to action in July on a brand new track in Lenzerheide, Switzerland with both Gwin and Atherton in seemingly unstoppable form.