Image: Christophe Pallot/Meribel Tourisme
Britain’s Josh Bryceland and Manon Carpenter took the elite men’s and women’s UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill titles in a thrilling series finale in Meribel that saw the title race go to the wire.
Both riders finished third on the day, enough to secure the overall win, with Australia’s Sam Hill and Britain’s Rachel Atherton taking the race wins in the elite men’s and women’s categories.
Bryceland’s result, half a second behind Hill and 0.2 seconds behind fastest qualifier, Britain’s Matt Simmonds, was good enough to keep the 24-year-old atop the table with nearest rival Troy Brosnan off his game all weekend and third placed Aaron Gwin failing to challenge the Santa Cruz Syndicate rider from Cheshire.
On Friday’s qualifying session, despite a crash, Bryceland took second behind a storming Simmonds and looked set to take the race win and replicate his on-the-limit performance from the previous round in Windham.
However Bryceland kept it uncharacteristically conservative and slotted into second place with only Simmonds to go.
Simmonds backed up his qualifying ride with style, just 0.3 seconds shy of Hill when he crossed the line pushing Bryceland into third.
The result left Bryceland on 1187 points, with Gwin second on 1038 and Brosnan on 1025.
A strong ride from Gee Atherton saw him move into fifth on 813 points behind Hill on 1024.
After the race an ecstatic Bryceland spoke to Red Bull TV.
“I’ve gone over it so many times in my head. I was at the top and I was like ‘I’m cool with it, I’m good, just do your thing’.
“But I was so nervous and tight, wasn’t committing to my lines, so to get third – happy days.”
Earlier Manon Carpenter sealed the elite women’s title with third place behind Emmeline Ragot and race winner, world champion Rachel Atherton.
Carpenter was the penultimate rider to take to the course after Emmeline Ragot had laid down a storming ride to take the hot seat. But the Madison Saracen Factory Racing rider didn’t panic and produced a controlled ride to take third and with it the season-long title.
Outgoing world cup champion Rachel Atherton was last to go and put the problems of her early season behind her with a deceptively smooth ride to take the win and second place in the series, her return to form boding well ahead of the world championship in Norway in September.
A time of 3:52.116 from Atherton in the damp qualifying session was decimated in dry conditions of the finals, Atherton stopping the clock on 3:40.15. Ragot was 3.4 seconds back with Carpenter 6.1 seconds adrift.
The result meant Carpenter topped the final standings on 1360 points, just 50 points ahead of Rachel Atherton, with Emmeline Ragot third on 1300.
After collecting the world cup trophy Carpenter spoke to Red Bull TV.
"It was more than I set out for at the start of the year so I'm really happy,” she said.
"I'm really looking forward to the world champs.
"(The track) is amazing - one of the best tracks I've raced on - really like it, awesome place."
Britain’s Tahnee Seagrave backed-up her sixth place in qualifying with fifth in the final, 15 seconds down on Atherton’s time, enough to see the promising youngster take fifth in the overall standings.
There were two Britons on the podium in the junior men’s event, Trek World Racing’s Laurie Greenland second and GT Factory Racing’s Taylor Vernon third, with the win and world cup title going to Frenchman Loris Vergier.
The results were overshadowed by news of the death of Dutch rider Annefleur Kalvenhaar following a crash in the qualifying round of the cross-country-eliminator.
The 20-year-old was taken to hospital in Grenoble and put in intensive care but died on Saturday morning.
“I’m devastated to hear that the cycling family has lost one of its members at such a young age. Our deepest thoughts are with her family and friends,” said UCI president Brian Cookson.
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