Thursday Aug 06, 2015

Downhill World Cup 2015: Windham Preview

So far the 2015 Downhill World Cup season has been one of the most exciting yet. Records have been broken, along with chains, and in the men’s race there is still no obvious favourite for the title.

But the drama stepped up to a new level in Mont Sainte Anne last week, when just 0.2 seconds separated the top three, on a long and gnarly track, with Josh Bryceland coming out on top.

The women’s race has been more predictable, but no less exciting, with Rachel Atherton recording her fourth straight win. She could seal the overall victory in Windham this weekend, while a host of elite men will be hoping to take a big step closer to doing the same.

The Track

From the bustling party ski resort of Mont Sainte Anne the tour travels south, into New York state, where the quiet town of Windham awaits. The track is also very different from the one in Canada. It’s short, fast and flowy so race times could be even closer than last week, if that’s possible.

Constantly moving in and out of the trees the light might cause some difficulties but the track is rough and natural throughout – just the way the riders like it.

The History

Every man who has won a World Cup in Windham has gone on to win the World Cup title that year. Bryceland, Aaron Gwin and Gee Atherton are the three riders who have done just that since we first visited the American track in 2010. Gwin, the current tour leader, will be looking to repeat the feat.

Greg Minnaar went down in history when he won his 18th World Cup in Lenzerheide this season, but the number was almost reached three years ago in Windham. Steve Peat looked destined for his 18th victory in 2012 but a massive crash on the final drop left him stuck on 17. The spot has since been known as Peaty’s Plunge.

The Contenders

Elite Men’s

With just two races left, and just 70 points separating the top three riders, the title race could go down to the final split seconds of the season. However, Windham has been crucial in the past and a win for either Gwin, Loic Bruni or Minnaar would put them in pole position for the final round.

Bruni could potentially claim the overall victory without ever winning a World Cup, particularly if he keeps up his excellent qualifying record, and in form riders Troy Brosnan and Bryceland take points off his closest rivals.

Aaron Gwin is targeting his third win at the World Cup in Windham

Elite Women

Rachel Atherton is in unstoppable form this summer and could wrap up the World Cup title in Windham if she can mastermind a remarkable fifth victory in a row. The chasing pack has been well behind for most of the season but World Champion Manon Carpenter is slowly getting back to her best while, another Brit, Tahnee Seagrave is close to her first ever World Cup win.

Myriam Nicole also returned to the podium in Mont Sainte Anne after missing most of the season with an injury and there are still girls in the lineup who could spoil the party for Atherton.

Rachel Atherton last won in Windham in 2012, when she went on to win the overall title

The Verdict

Whatever happens it’s going to be another incredible race on the World Cup circuit. Tensions will be reaching boiling point for the men at the top of the hill with the overall standings still wide open but it seems like only a matter of time now before we watch Atherton steal the World Cup title back from Carpenter.

Bring on Windham!

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