By: Colin Meagher
Act five, and the fat lady has sung, and like all good Italian operas, World Cup DH #5 had it all: heroes, villains, and drama.
The heroes were Ragot and Beaumont, as well as Steve Smith of MS-Evil and Andrew Neethling of Trek World Racing. The villain—or I should say, the monster—was the track here at Val di Sole. The drama was who was gonna win this sucker.
Villains first. This track is a wheel wrecking, bike hammering, rider-beating ogre. It's destined to receive the kind of respect associated with the classic tracks known to all gravity racing mountain bike fans: Mount St Anne, Nevegal, Fort William… you get the drift.
Drama comes next. Sabrina Jonnier was a fan of this track. For whatever reason, the Frenchwoman could not find her stride on this beast.
"I do not like this track," was the matter of fact statement Jonnier made after the race. "It is very difficult for me."
It may have been difficult, but she still only came up +2.40 to Emmeline Ragot, locking up second place to a radiant Ragot.
"I did not have a mistake free run, that's for sure," said Ragot afterwards. "The track was so much rougher by this afternoon as compared to this morning. I found this to be a hard track, and I am very happy with a win."
The podium was Ragot, Jonnier (+2.40), Tracy Moseley (+6.50), Myriam Nicole (+12.79), and Floriane Pugin (+13.67)
Mark Beaumont hasn't had a win since Vigo, Spain, in 2007. In practice, you could tell the GT rider was feeling it, though. But coming down with the knowledge that Greg Minnaar is in the hotseat ain't an easy place to be. But the GT rider kept focus and went for the win—plate number one in the hot seat be damned. Split one had Slugger up by a second. Split two had him by a second and a half—the gap he'd take for the win.
"I walked the track with him yesterday, and he was just so dialed," remarked Mark Morrison, Beaumont's mechanic. "He was showing me his lines, and he was so prepared. He really deserved this win."
Men's podium: Beaumont, Minnaar (+1.40), Gee Atherton (+2.66), Andrew Neethling (+3.23), and Steve Smith (+4.13); first World Cup podium for both Neethling and Smith.
Heroes. Ragot and Beaumont; second World Cup win for both riders. With the confidence such a win instills, one has to wonder: can they maintain the momentum with a three week gap until the World Cup Finals in Windham, NY?
Speaking of the finals, and more specifically, the overall. No lead is truly safe for an overall World Cup win. Minnaar trails Gee Atherton by 7 points, Ragot lags behind Jonnier by only 175 points. With first two, it's neck and neck; with the ladies, Jonnier would have to DNF to not take the overall, but stranger things have happened.