Matt Simmonds took an impressive 19th place; Joe Smith was 35th; Matti Lehikoinen 58th and Lewis 61st. Al Bond, suffering with severe arm pump, didn't qualify for the finals. Meanwhile in the 4X race both Lukas and Michael Mechura were knocked out in the quarter finals.
Read on for Team Manager Nigel Page's weekend report:
The Val di Sole course couldn't have been any more of a contrast from round one in South Africa over two and a half months ago. From a pretty straightforward flat-out high speed course with a hell of a lot of pedalling, dropper seatposts and semi-slick fast rolling tyres, Val di Sole was altogether a different kettle of fish!
The track is very steep, technical and damn right difficult to ride from start to finish. You don't need the pedalling power and fitness needed in South Africa, but you need the stamina, strength, skills and courage to tackle this track at race speed. Just getting down it in one piece is hard enough, let alone racing down it! As well as the usual massive rocks, steep sections and huge roots, there was also about a foot of deep powder dust to ride, big rocks and huge holes that just sucked in your front wheel and made traction really difficult.
Get well soon, Cedric
The track claimed quite a few casualties in practice including the legendary Cedric Gracia who had a huge crash after clipping his rear brake hose on a rock (according to reports) and going into the new high speed steep section at the top of the course with no rear brake. Cedric sustained some horrific injuries to his upper leg and pelvis apparently, and has already had quite a few surgeries. Everyone on the team is thinking about him and wishes him a full recovery.
All the team Nukeproof Scalps were prepped with a bit of suspension tweaking; some raised front ends and some big grippy Schwalbe rubber fitted to the Mavic wheels.
All the team Nukeproof Scalps were prepped with a bit of suspension tweaking; some raised front ends and some big grippy Schwalbe rubber fitted to the Mavic wheels. The bikes held up great throughout practice and the race just proving we have a great bike for any track conditions.
Practice went well for the team riders with a few different approaches. Some starting off steady, learning the lines and slowly building up the pace for qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Lewis Buchanan on the other hand was soon up to full speed just loving riding the gnarly track!
Saturday afternoon came along and all the riders made it into the top 80 out of the 200 riders for Sunday's finals, apart from Al Bond who unfortunately struggled badly with arm pump and just couldn't ride the whole track at full speed which you need to do to qualify. Al was really disappointed but took it on the chin even with some banter from his team-mates. Al is one of the best bike riders around and he will be back to fight another day.
Sunday morning and race day came along with just a couple of warm up practice runs before the finals.
Matt Simmonds had a fantastic run posting a time of 3.26 to place him in the top 20 with a 19th for the day. The times around the top 20 are so close with everyone riding at an unbelievable pace. Well done Matt and we all know you have more for next week in Fort William.
Joe Smith put in another very fast solid ride with a great time placing him in 35th for the day. Not a bad position at all with all the very best riders in the world, but still a bit off what Joe is capable of and wants – it will come soon Joe!
Lewis, after riding so well all through practice, had a huge crash in the morning and was pretty beat up and sore for the race. He gave it his best shot but was just too sore and stiff to ride how he was in practice and ended up in 65th position.
Matti Lehikoinen rode a great race finishing in 58th. To ride that fast this early after all his injuries of late was something for us all to be proud of for him! I know Matti was disappointed especially after he placed eighth on the same track at last year's World Cup finals, but he should be really proud of himself.
Aaron Gwin: superhuman
Aaron Gwin from Trek World Racing showed everyone why he is the fastest rider in the world at the moment, winning the race by a massive seven seconds. Greg Minnaar, Gee Atherton, Marc Beaumont and Cam Cole all rounded off the podium with less than two seconds between them.
Watching the runs of the top 10 riders, it looked like it was not possible to ride any faster or harder! All the riders were totally on the limit pulling off moves on the bike that seemed to defy what's possible. Then Aaron Gwin was shown on-screen. The speed and control he raced with down the track was mind-blowing and showed everyone there is a new level of riding a bicycle down a mountain! He seems so much tougher and hungrier than the rest? Fair play Aaron, it was great to see!
Rachel Atherton took a well deserved win in the women's race ahead of French riders Myriam Nicole and Emmeline Ragot.
4X Pro Tour joins the downhill circus in Val di Sole
The third round of the 4X Pro Tour was held on the Saturday night in front of a huge Italian crowd
It was great to see and hang out with our two 4X riders Lukas and Michael Mechura. The third round of the 4X Pro Tour was held on the Saturday night in front of a huge Italian crowd. The race was done really well – fast and efficient – keeping the crowd entertained with exciting racing action throughout. Both Lukas and his younger brother Michael were riding well and really strong making it through to the quarter finals. Unfortunately both of them made small mistakes and got passed whilst in second place in their quarter finals, ending their chances of a podium position.
There was some great racing and the unbeatable-this-year Thomas Slavik took the win from current 4X World Champion Michael Prokop, with Britain's Scott Beaumont taking a well deserved third place finish.
It was a fantastic weekend of racing, one of the best I have seen in a while. Great track, great weather and some great food thanks to Podium Catering.
Many thanks to all our team sponsors for their continued support and we will be up at Fort William, Scotland, this coming weekend for the third round of the Rocky Roads UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup. Hope to see some of you there!