THE REPORT FROM THE WORLD CUP DOWNHILL RACES IN POLAND

Marine Cabirou and Ronan Dunne take the wins

News release, May 20, 2024

2024 WHOOP UCI MOUNTAIN BIKE WORLD SERIES | BIELSKO-BIAŁA

MARINE CABIROU AND RONAN DUNNE TAKE THE ELITE WINS IN POLAND, WHILE ASA VERMETTE AND HEATHER WILSON TAKE THE JUNIOR WINS

Marine Cabirou.

Marine Cabirou (Scott Downhill Factory) and Ronan Dunne (Mondraker Factory Racing) scored victories in the UCI Mountain Bike World Series in Bielsko-Biała, Poland. The Frenchwoman returned to winning ways after a disappointing start to the season in Fort William, while Dunne recorded his first-ever UCI Downhill World Cup win on the new Polish track. Meanwhile, Heather Wilson (Muc-Off Young Guns) and Asa Vermette (Framework Racing) made it two-for-two in the Women’s Juniors and Men’s Juniors.

The 2024 WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series made its Polish downhill debut this week as the best Gravity-fueled athletes took to the Bielsko-Biała track’s smorgasbord of jumps, roots and rock-filled forest sections.

After a heavy downpour in the morning, the sun came out in full force for the Elite UCI Downhill World Cup finals, but the conditions weren’t without their own difficulties. On the track’s drying exposed top sections, the dirt was breaking up because of the constant pounding of race rigs, while the wood sections remained damp, making tire choice extremely difficult.

It didn’t faze Marine Cabirou (Scott Downhill Factory) and Ronan Dunne (Mondraker Factory Racing), though, who used all their UCI World Cup experience to get to grips with the unknown course and push their bikes to the limits to take the wins.

 

CABIROU STORMS TO VICTORY WITH HÖLL CRASHING IN FIRST SECTOR

Marine Cabirou had a disappointing Fort William by her own high standards, finishing outside the podium places and leaving herself with a lot to do to challenge Valentina Höll (YT Mob) in the UCI World Cup overall championship. She appeared to have put the Scottish season opener behind her though, arriving in Poland as one of the most consistent riders on the Beskid Mountains’ course.

Vali Höll.

Third place in Saturday’s Qualifying and Semi-Finals was a sign that Cabirou wasn’t in Poland to make up the numbers and dropping in on her Finals run with just Tahnée Seagrave (Canyon CLLCTV FMD) and Höll to come, she knew she’d have to find more than three seconds on her Semi-Finals time to knock then-race leader Camille Balanche (Dorval AM Commencal) out of the hot seat.

After a steady top section, the 27-year-old grew in confidence throughout her run, laying down the power to set a blistering pace in the lower section that was good enough for top spot. Seagrave looked like she was on a heater, finding almost a second at the first intermediate split, but the resurgent Brit came unclipped from her pedals in the technical wood section, losing momentum and crossing the line fifth.

And then there was Höll. The 2023 UCI Downhill World Champion put a snapped chain in Qualifying behind her to set the fastest time in the Semi-Finals, with Aaron Gwin saying in live commentary that it was “hers to lose.” The 22-year-old set off incredibly powerfully from the start gate, but her run was over as quickly as it had started— a crash in the first sector sending her down hard. Last year’s overall series winner isn’t a quitter and was quickly back on her bike, but it was damage limitation rather than a miraculous recovery— the Austrian coming home in sixth.

Her win in Poland was Cabirou’s eighth UCI Downhill World Cup of her career, and speaking after the race, she said: “I’m super happy to win here on this new track in Poland. It’s crazy because the track has changed a lot all week. It was difficult to manage the race run because we had a lot of rain at the start of the afternoon, so I didn’t know if I could push or not, so I just tried to do my best. At the beginning, I saw that the track was kind of dry so I tried to push. I made a mistake but I think everybody made a mistake, so I just had a good run.”

DUNNE WINS FIRST UCI DOWNHILL WORLD CUP

Ronan Dunne.

Ronan Dunne (Mondraker Factory Racing) put in an assured, controlled performance to take his first-ever UCI Downhill World Cup win in Poland – the Irish 21-year-old piloting his prototype Mondraker down the course in his signature, knife-edge style.

It was another Irishman who was in the hot seat for most of the men’s final—Oisin O’Callaghan (YT Mob) fourth on the hill and laying down a marker that would be strong enough for 10th on the day.

Benoît Coulanges (Dorval AM Commencal) finally broke the 21-year-old’s dreams of a second UCI World Cup win. The Frenchman’s race run was the first to go inside the 2:57 barrier and enough to see him finish on the podium in fourth – an improvement on his 6th place in Fort William.

Coulanges’ time in the hot seat was short-lived, though. Enter Loïc Bruni (Specialized Gravity). The 2023 UCI Downhill World Cup overall series winner had kicked off his season with victory in Scotland and looked to have overcome a crash in yesterday’s Semi-Finals. He was 1.2 seconds up on Coulanges in the first split alone and would hold on to break the 2:55 barrier. But would it be enough for his 10th UCI Downhill World Cup win?

Saturday’s surprise qualifier Lachlan Stevens-McNab (Union – Forged by Steel City Media) appeared to be backing up his strong Semi-Finals run, gapping Bruni deep into the fourth intermediate split until he was brought crashing back down to earth with a front wheel washout on an innocuous piece of track.

The 20-year-old New Zealand national champion had shown that there was time to be made on Bruni’s time, though, which Dunne exploited to the max. The Irishman laid down a final run where he was fastest in three out of four intermediate splits (and second-fastest in the other), narrowly beating Bruni by .064 seconds [less than 1/10th of a second].

The three riders left on the hill didn’t have an answer to Dunne’s dominant run – Luca Shaw (Canyon CLLCTV Factory Team) finishing sixth, Loris Vergier (Trek Factory Racing Gravity) rescuing third despite dabbing his foot down, and team-mate Dakotah Norton (Mondraker Factory Racing) down in 31st after sliding out at the top of the first sector on a wet patch.

Speaking after his win, Ronan Dunne said: “I was loving the track in Poland. The crowd was insane. It’s the second [UCI Downhill World Cup] with the new team. It’s been perfect and I had myself in the mindset of either I was going for a helicopter trip, or I was coming down in first. We didn’t take the helicopter trip, but we took the win. Usually, I don’t look at the times, but this time I was. I saw the time that Bruni put down and I thought ‘OK, we’re going for it, we’re not messing around.’ I was ready to fight someone. It paid off.”

Overall series leader Loïc Bruni said: “I’m pretty happy with the result. I don’t think I deserved more because my weekend wasn’t so good. Some of the boys were riding better than me. I’m happy with second. I didn’t think it would be possible to go top three. The run was good, the bike was good, and everything is really nice so hopefully we can carry the momentum. I’m really happy for Ronan. It’s so good to see.

WILSON AND VERMETTE RETAIN THEIR 100% RECORDS

While the Elites had scorching sun, it was a different story for the Juniors, with rain midway through proceedings making for wet and wild conditions on course.

In the Women’s Juniors, Heather Wilson (Muc-Off Young Guns) used all of her experience of growing up on Scotland’s sodden tracks to take her second win of the season, edging out Erice Van Leuven (Commencal Les Orres) by 0.069 seconds, while Sasha Earnest (Trek Factory Racing Gravity) finished third.

Speaking after her win, Heather Wilson said: “I can’t believe it. At the top I was just laughing, and I wasn’t feeling nervous. I was like ‘OK, I’m just going to have fun and try and ride my bike’. It was so loose, and I was really enjoying it. It was so fun. The whole track everywhere is so blown out. It’s so physical.”

The Men’s Juniors was a far more clear-cut affair, Asa Vermette (Frameworks Racing) dominating from the second intermediate split onwards to win by almost four seconds. Mylann Falquet (Goodman Santa Cruz) was the next most consistent rider, with Dane Jewett (Pivot Factory Racing) completing the top three.

Speaking after his race win, Asa Vermette said: “It was a loose run. I honestly didn’t think it was going to be the best run. I was sliding all over the place in the woods. I just kept pedaling to the bottom. In my qualis I did crash, so maybe it was good that it wasn’t pouring rain like before. But it was a good run.”

STANDINGS AFTER THE UCI DOWNHILL WORLD CUP ROUND IN BIELSKO-BIAŁA:

UCI Downhill World Cup | Women Elite
1. Valentina Höll (YT Mob) – 560
2. Tahnée Seagrave (Canyon CLLCTV FMD) – 550
3. Camille Balanche (Dorval AM Commencal) – 540
4. Nina Hoffman (Santa Cruz Syndicate) – 506
5. Marine Cabirou (Scott Downhill Factory) – 490

UCI Downhill World Cup | Men Elite
1. Loic Bruni (Specialized Gravity) – 627
2. Ronan Dunne (Mondraker Factory Racing) – 467
3. Loris Vergier (Trek Factory Racing Gravity) – 454
4. Luca Shaw (Canyon CLLCTV Factory Team) – 447
5. Troy Brosnan (Canyon CLLCTV Factory Team) – 441

UCI Downhill World Cup | Women Juniors
1. Heather Wilson (Muc-Off Young Guns) – 120
2. Sacha Earnest (Kiwidh) – 95
3. Erice Van Leuven (Commencal Les Orres) – 85
4. Eliana Hulsebosch (Union – Forged by Steel City Media) – 85
5. Matilda Melton (Transition Factory Racing) – 70

UCI Downhill World Cup | Men Juniors
1. Asa Vermette (Frameworks Racing) – 120
2. Luke Wayman (The Gravity Cartel – Rogue Racing) – 80
3. Dane Jewett (Pivot Factory Racing) – 80
4. Daniel Parfitt (BNC Racing) – 73
5. Till Alran (Commencal/Muc-Off by Riding Addiction) – 54

The third rounds of the UCI Downhill World Cup and the UCI Enduro and E-Enduro World Cups will take place in Saalfelden Leogang – Salzburgerland, Austria on June 7-9, while the Endurance championships resume next weekend (May 24-26) in Nové Město Na Moravě, Czech Republic.

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