Barel bombs to messy downhill win

Sam Hill, Greg Minnaar round out World Cup podium

Three time UCI World Champion Fabien Barel (Subaru) announced his return from a knee injury by becoming the first non-Santa Cruz Syndicate rider of the year to win a World Cup. Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) took over the World Cup lead from his team-mate Steve Peat after the Englishman flatted on his run.

"I'm just back from this injury, I didn't expect a race like this,” said Barel. “I was just trying to put together a consistent run, and I still feel like I am struggling. It is just like a dream."

Markus Pekoll (Solid AClass Factory Team), the seventh rider off in the men’s race, was the first to enjoy the Hot Seat for any length of time, keeping the lead through a quarter of the field before Nathan Rankin (Iron Horse-Kenda-Playbiker) finally bumped him out of the lead. However Rankin had only a short time at the top before a succession of riders started cutting the fastest time by tenths or hundredths of a second.

One rider who, surprisingly, didn't take the lead was Chris Kovarik (Chain Reaction), who finished well off the pace.

It took Matti Lehikoinen (MS Evil) to finally make a significant cut in the leading time, with his 3:08.81 the first time to beat UCI World Champion Gee Atherton's (Animal Commencal) best qualifying time. Lehikoinen's time began to look particularly good as rider after rider in the top 25 came close to, but could not beat it.

Fabien Pedemanaud (Scott 11) eventually managed to knock two-tenths of a second off, but his reign was short-lived, with Barel starting two spots behind him. Finally, with 13 riders remaining, it was Barel's turn. The Frenchman, in only his second race back after dislocating his patella before the World Cup opener, left the start house with a brace for support. Hoping to save his season, Barel has finished seven weeks of intensive therapy and strengthening exercises, so that he can compete and not require surgery until the end of the season.

Barel is clearly on a superb run, three seconds ahead by the first time split, five seconds ahead at the second, and 5.28 seconds faster by the finishline. He was also the first rider to surpass 50 kilometres an hour at the speed trap near the bottom of the course.

There were still some big names to go, but it was starting to look like this might be Barel's day after Minnaar could get no closer than two seconds of Barel’s time. The biggest threat was likely to be two-time Maribor champion Sam Hill (Monster Energy-Specialized), and he did indeed start strong, clipping over and a second and a half off of Barel's time for the first split. But then he started to slow in the lower half of the course, only three-hundredths ahead at the second time trap, and finishing 71-hundredths down at the finish, bumping Minnaar to third.

Peat, who qualified third fastest, was the next to look like he had a real shot at dislodging Barel, when he also went faster at the first split. But the English rider suffered a rear flat in the second half of the course and did well to finish 38th, 12.61 seconds down.

There were two riders remaining - Justin Leov (Trek World Racing), who was fast enough to slot into fourth, and the final rider, Atherton. Atherton was ahead at the first time split and only five-hundredths slower at the second. This looked to be a very tight finish, until disaster struck in the final wooded section, when Atherton hit the outside edge of a rutted turn and crashed, losing precious seconds and dropping back to finish 12th.

Peat's flat cost him dearly, dropping him 79 points behind his team mate Minnaar's 914 points in the overall standings, while Hill moves up from fifth to third, 125 points behind Minnaar. Atherton, the former third placed rider in the series, is 13 points points behind Hill, while Mick Hannah (GT Bicycles), who missed his first podium of the season, dropped to fifth at 723 points.

The World Cup now takes its first extended break of the season, for five weeks, before resuming with a pair of triples in Mont Ste Anne and Bromont, Canada.

Results
1Fabien Barel (Fra) Subaru Mountain Bike Pro Team0:03:03 
2Samuel Hill (Aus) Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Catz0:00:01 
3Greg Minnaar (RSA) Santa Cruz Syndicate0:00:02 
4Justin Leov (NZl) Trek World Racing0:00:04 
5Brendan Fairclough (GBr) Monster Energy / Specialized / Mad Catz0:00:05 
6Fabien Pedemanaud (Fra) Scott 110:00:05 
7Steve Smith (Can) MS Evil Racing0:00:05 
8Matti Lehikoinen (Fin) MS Evil Racing0:00:05 
9Mitchell Delfs (Aus) Kenda Morewood0:00:06 
10Andrew Neethling (RSA) Trek World Racing0:00:06 
11Samuel Blenkinsop (NZl) Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team0:00:06 
12Gee Atherton (GBr) Animal Commencal0:00:07 
13Rhys Willemse (Aus)0:00:07 
14Aaron Gwin (USA) Yeti Fox Shox Factory Race Team0:00:07 
15Bernat Guardia Pascual (Spa) Massi0:00:07 
16Luke Strobel (USA) Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles0:00:08 
17Nick Beer (Swi) Scott 110:00:08 
18Damien Spagnolo (Fra) Subaru Mountain Bike Pro Team0:00:08 
19Michael Hannah (Aus) GT Bicycles0:00:08 
20Mickael Pascal (Fra) MSC Bikes0:00:09 
21Pierre Charles Georges (Fra) Solid Aclass Factory Team0:00:09 
22Filip Polc (Svk) MS Evil Racing0:00:09 
23Lorenzo Suding (Ita) Dytech DH0:00:09 
24Cameron Cole (NZl) Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain Bicycles0:00:09 
25Josh Bryceland (GBr) Santa Cruz Syndicate0:00:10 
26Joe Barnes (GBr)0:00:10 
27Joris Bigoni (Fra)0:00:10 
28Aurélien Giordanengo (Fra)0:00:10 
29Nathan Rankin (NZl) Iron Horse-Kenda-Playbiker0:00:11 
30Markus Pekoll (Aut) Solid Aclass Factory Team0:00:11 
31Toni Berg (Fin)0:00:11 
32Maxime Remy (Fra) Suspension Center0:00:11 
33Robin Wallner (Swe)0:00:12 
34Duncan Riffle (USA) Duncan Riffle Racing0:00:12 
35Danny Hart (GBr) Lapierre Powered By Saab Salomon0:00:12 
35Matthew Simmonds (GBr) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense  
37Rémi Thirion (Fra) Team Sunn0:00:12 
38Steve Peat (GBr) Santa Cruz Syndicate0:00:13 
39David Vazquez Lopez (Spa) Lapierre Powered By Saab Salomon0:00:13 
40Aari Barrett (NZl) Scott 110:00:13 
41Will Rischbieth (Aus)0:00:13 
42Thomas Braithwaite (GBr)0:00:14 
43Antonio Ferreiro Pajuelo (Spa) XMS-Devinci World Cup Team0:00:14 
44Bernard Kerr (GBr)0:00:14 
45Dan Stanbridge (GBr)0:00:14 
46Benny Strasser (Ger)0:00:14 
46Chris Kovarik (Aus) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense  
48Nico Vink (Bel)0:00:14 
49Matthew Scoles (NZl)0:00:15 
50Jared Rando (Aus) Giant Mountain Bike Team0:00:15 
51Dominik Gspan (Swi)0:00:16 
52Joseph Smith (GBr) Kona0:00:16 
53Sam Dale (GBr)0:00:16 
54Herman Olund (Swe)0:00:16 
55Ruaridh Cunningham (GBr) Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense0:00:17 
56Cesar Rojo (Spa)0:00:17 
57Joshua Button (Aus)0:00:17 
58Ben Reid (Irl) Just Reid Race Team0:00:17 
59Harry Heath (GBr)0:00:18 
60Marcel Beer (Swi)0:00:18 
61Vlastimil Hyncica (Cze)0:00:19 
62Fabien Cousinie (Fra)0:00:19 
63Martin Mikulenka (Cze)0:00:19 
64Rémy Charrier (Fra) Team Sunn0:00:19 
65Carlo Gambirasio (Ita) Surfing Shop0:00:19 
66Romain Paulhan (Fra)0:00:20 
67Roman Roschi (Swi)0:00:20 
68Daniel Wolfe (Irl)0:00:20 
69Marco Milivinti (Ita) Dytech DH0:00:20 
70Ben Cathro (GBr)0:00:21 
71Shaun O'connor (Aus) Iron Horse-Kenda-Playbiker0:00:21 
72Mario Sieder (Aut) Solid Aclass Factory Team0:00:21 
73Nejc Rutar (Slo) MBK Orbea0:00:22 
74Espen Johnsen (Nor)0:00:22 
75Rick Balbierer (Ger)0:00:22 
76Ralph Jones (GBr)0:00:23 
77Kieran Bennett (NZl) X-Fusion-Intense0:00:24 
78Mathieu Gallean (Fra) Team Sunn0:00:24 
79David Eme (Fra)0:00:25 
80Ziga Pandur (Slo)0:00:25 
81Erik Irmisch (Ger)0:00:31 
82Will Longden (GBr)0:01:40 
83Mathias Haas (Aut)0:02:23 
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