The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup concluded over the weekend and Americans were all over the podiums in Val di Sole, Italy. Howard Grotts and Lea Davison, both of Specialized Racing, secured bronze medals in the World Cup overall in their respective cross-country categories. The fearless Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing) added another elite men’s World Cup downhill title to his palmares as well.
Gwin had a comfortable lead in the World Cup overall entering the final round in Italy, but his lead was not enough to clinch the title before the final run. By the time Gwin rolled to the starting gate for his race run, the overall was a lock, his closest competitor crashing on his run and not contesting the top times.
Even with the title a lock, Gwin didn’t hold back on the rough, rutted course. He set a blistering time all the way down the mountain, winning by 1.589 seconds over Bruni Loic (Lapierre Gravity Republic) of France with a time of 3:31.922.
The win is Gwin’s third World Cup downhill victory of the year after he won the rounds in Leogang, Austria, and Windam, New York, the former with no chain. This year’s overall World Cup title will also be his third after back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
Kate Courtney (Specialized Racing) continued her solid year at the under-23 level finishing fifth, 2:43 behind winner Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo). Along with the race win, Rissveds also captured the overall title, Courtney finished fourth in the overall.
Grotts, another under-23, continued his breakout season with a podium in Italy. The current cross-country elite men’s national champion finished 1:41 back of Great Britain’s Grant Ferguson (Betch.NL Superior Brentjens). Titouuan Carod (Scott Creuse Oxygene Gueret) finished in second and earned enough points to claim the overall title.
After racing a full World Cup schedule in 2015, Grotts finished with 295 points, good enough for third overall behind Carod and second-place finisher Pablo Rodriguez.
In the elite women’s race, Davison rode strong to finish in seventh place, 1:57 behind winner Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing). Her ride gave her enough points to finish on the podium in the World Cup overall by a merely four points. Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli) and Gunn-Rita Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) finished first and second in the overall standings, respectively.
Georgia Gould (Luna), Erin Huck (Scott-3Rox), and Chloe Woodruff finished 18th, 19th, and 20th, respectively. Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven) was not far behind, finishing 26th.
Stephen Ettinger (Sho-Air-Cannondale) put in a strong ride ahead of the world championships in the elite men’s race. The race was dominated by the top-two riders in the world, Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) and current world champion Julien Absalon (BMC).
Schurter bested Absalon in the end, a fierce last-lap attack gapping Absalon. The duo finished one-two in the overall standings, with Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) in third.
The World Cup mountain bike circuit may be finished, but the racing is not. The UCI Mountain Bike World Championships will be held August 31-September 6 in Vallnord, Andorra. The racing should be interesting as the course sits at roughly 6,000 feet above sea level. With solid results this past weekend, it is likely that Americans will do well at this year’s world championships.