All photos – credit Red Bull Content Pool
Where better to hold the finals for what has been an epic World Cup season, than the valley of the sun? The Italian resort is home to the Black Snake, the most brutal track on the World Cup circuit, so named because when the rain comes down the roots that litter the track turn black. According to Greg Minnaar, the 2022 edition of the track is the roughest it’s ever been, and he should know.
Come Saturday the much-feared stormy weather had thankfully stayed away. Gracey Hemstreet wrapped up the Junior Women’s category with another victory although she knew she had it in the bag when Phoebe Gale didn’t start.
1. Gracey Hemstreet 4:42.576
2. Izabela Yankova 4:46.210
3. Jenna Hastings 4:50.143
4. Valentina Roa Sanchez 4:52.840
5. Lisa Bouladou 4:57.047
It’s been a standout year for Junior Women this season and with so many of them moving up into Elite next season it’s going to be great seeing them find their feet and strengthen that category even further.
Junior Women – Final Standings
- Gracey Hemstreet 440
- Phoebe Gale 355
- Izabela Yankova 295
- Jenna Hastings 295
- Aimi Kenyon 240
Similarly, I can’t wait to see Jordan Williams and Jackson Goldstone going head-to-head in Elite Men next year. Williams posted an incredible seeding time, one second faster than Andreas Kolb who qualified fastest in Elite. The Madison Saracen rider won the race by 10 seconds and posted the fastest time of the day, although the Elite men did have a rain affected track. Goldstone was only 0.2 back at the final split before crashing out in the final corners.
1. Jordan Williams 3:35.941
2. Ryan Pinkerton 3:45.766
3. Remy Meier-Smith 3:50.305
4. Jackson Goldstone 3:50.786
5. Alix Francoz 3:53.079
Junior Men – Final Standings
- Jackson Goldstone 440
- Jordan Williams 386
- Lachlan Stevens-McNab 271
- Tegan Cruz 227
- Remy Meier- Smith 223
In seeding for the Elite Women’s race, series leader Camille just rolled out of the gate and pulled over, saving herself and her recently plated collarbone for her race run. Myriam Nicole picked up a flat and Vali Hoell took the win, but this counted for nothing other than psychological advantage and the pressure of going off last.
By the time the Elite Women started it was raining at the top but still dry at the bottom. Anna Newkirk was the early leader but with Balanche and Nicole going off early she probably knew she wouldn’t be in the hot seat for long. By Split 3 Balanche was 10 seconds up. Unsurprisingly she was taking the smoothest lines possible rather than the fastest, but she crossed the line 14.7 up with a 4:32.4, just outside Hoell’s fastest qualifier. Needing fourth or better to win the overall, gut feeling is it should be enough.
Without the pressure of the overall Myriam Nicole is going for the win and she’s 6.5 seconds up on Balanche by split 3. In contrast to Balanche she’s taking every inside line possible, and she crosses the line in 4:21.8, 10 seconds up on Balanche.
Nina Hoffmaan crashed in her seeding run and is next in the gate. She’s a danger woman for Balanche and she puts in a smooth run crossing the line in second. Mille Johnset had a big crash in practice the week and can’t dint the top 3. Melanie Chappaz has a good run but goes into fourth. By the time Italian National Champion Veronika Widmann takes Chappaz’s fourth place it’s stopped raining at the top, 4 to go. Jess Blewitt is just 9.1 back on Nicole at split 4 and has a fantastic bottom section crossing the line just 6.8 back pushing Balanche into fourth and simplifying matters; if Hoell wins she takes the overall, if she doesn’t, she won’t.
Eleonora Farina crashes near the top pushing hard on home soil. Balanche’s teammate Monika Hrastnik is next in the gate but she’s 13 back at split 3 crossing the line in 5th. It’s Nicole, Hoffmann, Blewitt, Balanche with just Hoell left. It’s raining at the top again, but it doesn’t appear to affect the new World Champion; she’s riding confidently but she’s back by 2.8 at split 2, sending the step down it’s increased to 3.8 at split 3. You can find 4 seconds on this track, but not 7 seconds as she loses more time between splits 3 and 4. Hoell can’t do it today, crossing the line in third, 6.2 back. Balanche hugs Nicole who in claiming victory in the race has handed her the overall; redemption in some way for 2021 when her own crash allowed Hoell to claim the title.
1. Myriam Nicole 4:21.804
2. Nina Hoffmann 4:25.873
3. Vali Hoell 4:28.039
4. Jess Blewitt 4:28.039
5. Camille Balanche 4:32.441
Balanche becomes the first Swiss woman to take the DH overall. Myriam Nicole’s win means she ends up second in the overall and Hoffmann’s second place moves her up into fourth.
Elite Women – Final Standings
- Camille Balanche 1465
- Myriam Nicole 1405
- Vali Hoell 1386
- Nina Hoffmann 1133
- Eleonora Farina 1021
In Elite Men, Finn Iles not starting his seeding run meant the overall title went to Amaury Pierron. Pierron had only needed one point so in some ways this was the best thing that could happen; as we’d seen with the Women’s, the overall can overshadow the race.
Andreas Kolb qualified fastest for the first time. Over 9 seconds covered the top 10 and 60thplace was 20 seconds back; big gaps!
Matteo Iniguiez was the early leader with a 3:51.9 and by the time the top 30 men start there’s another rain shower, James MacDermid goes down hard on the open top section, as does Hugo Frixtalon. Luca Shaw pushes hard and gets to within 3 seconds of Iniguiez’s time, but sections of the track are greasy. Thankfully, it’s only a shower though and by the time we reach the protected riders it stops. Troy Brosnan is the first of those. 2.8 back at split 2 but he also pulls time back in the dry sections further down the track, crossing the line in fourth. Danny Hart doesn’t mind a bit of rain and won his second world champs title on this track but he’s also 2.8 back at Split 2. Trying different lines to those who’ve gone before it doesn’t work out and he crosses the line 5.9 back.
After a big crash in practice Greg Minnaar isn’t racing. Bernard Kerr is though and the three times Hardline winner excels on a tough track. Currently in the form of his life Kerr rides the top section like it’s dry, pushing hard and taking risks. He’s 6.2 up by Split 4, 7.1 by the end; it’s a massive run just 3 seconds outside Kolb’s fastest qualifier. Henry Kerr (no relation) is up on Bernard before losing the front in the final corner. It will be a long offseason for him wondering what could’ve been. Oliver Zwar takes second but is still 6.5 back on Kerr; what a season for the Swede though. Remi Thirion likes it steep and technical but he’s 3.9 back by split 2; he only loses just over another second though and crosses the line in second. Next in the gate is Amaury Pierron. Could he be only the second rider to take 5 wins in one season? No! He goes down on the top section. The dream crusher won’t be crushing dreams this weekend. Into the Top 10, Kerr leads by over 5 seconds…
David Trummer can’t get close and picks up a rear flat. Riding on a broken foot Laurie Greenland has an issue between splits 1 and 2. It’s noticeable that Charlie Hatton is taking the straightest lines possible and he’s within a second by split 3. He crosses the line in second just 2.2 back and it’s a taster for what we might see from his teammate Kolb.
New World Champion Loic Bruni has never won at Val di Sole and despite being quickest at the top and getting wild in the middle that won’t be changing today. Perhaps the enormity of last week has taken its toll as he seems to run out of gas, crossing the line in third.
The sun’s out for Thibaut Daprela. Again, he’s faster at the first split but not risking as much as Kerr did although he crosses the line with a rear flat. It’s clear Aaron Gwin is not holding back as he lays down a wild run. Green by nearly second at split 2, down to 0.5 at split 4 but he holds on to take the lead. It’s vintage Gwin, he’s back!
Benoit Coulanges carries decent speed and goes into third 0.8 back; 3 to go. Is it possible to look smooth and aggressive? Dak Norton tries his best too, the American barely puts a pedal stroke in but is green at split 3 but only by 0.2. He extends to 1.3 at split 4 and holds that to the bottom. It’s an Intense 1,2, an American 1,2, with 2 to go.
It hasn’t gone well for his compatriots with whom he shared the World Champs podium last weekend, but Loris Vergier is going so fast. 1.6 up at split 2 he’s pushing the limits, taking insides, and he extends that advantage to 3.1 at the bottom. His 3:39.7 is good enough to be a World Cup winning run but can Kolb go faster? The Austrian is taking amazingly creative lines but losing time and he can’t get close to Vergier, but he does take second.
1. Loris Vergier 3:39.774
2. Andreas Kolb 3:42.782
3. Dakotah Norton 3:42.903
4. Aaron Gwin 3:44.265
5. Bernard Kerr 3:44.806
That win, his seventh World Cup victory elevated Vergier into second in the overall. Kolb also climbed one position and Kerr jumped up into fifth.
Elite Men – Final Standings
- Amaury Pierron 1253
- Loris Vergier 1008
- Finn Iles 996
- Andreas Kolb 826
- Bernard Kerr 755
After that, the riders and the bikes will be looking forward to a rest, well those that aren’t heading to Red Bull Hardline anyway…
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