Windham racing recap

Words by Jay de Jesus

XC Photos by Max Hautaniemi

DH Photos by Jay de Jesus

Saturday – Cross Country

Light rain during the overnight created absolutely phenomenal conditions under blue-bird skies. Racing was intense amongst an international field of men and women. Action started early with the U-23 future stars of the sport, and Italian Gerhard Kerschbaumer won convincingly (after passing the lead moto!). Womens Elite featured a racing clinic by Julie Bresset (France/BH-Suntour) and Catherine Pendrel (CAN/Luna Pro Team). Men’s Elite was an absolute slugfest amongst the World Cup leaders, trading blows flat-out on the punchy Windham climbs. Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE/Specialized) won, with Nino Schurter (SUI/Scott-Swisspower) nipping Christoph Sauser (SUI/Specialized) at the line. Howard Grotts (US National Team) gave the US a proud victory in Junior men, followed by child prodigy Andri Frischknect (SUI/Scott-Swisspower) on his birthday weekend.

During DH Qualifying, American hopeful and World Cup points leader Aaron Gwin (USA/Trek World Racing) showed his true speed on a fast track – up at all of the splits and a 5 second lead over second place Gee Atherton (GBR/Commencal). Gwin looks calm, composed and ready to take home a historic World Cup US win. In the women’s field, Floriane Pugin (FRA/Scott 11) posted a slim lead over Rachel Atherton (GBR/Commencal) and World Cup leader and veteran Tracey Moseley (GBR/Trek World Racing). The young guns are again poised to swarm the podium this weekend, possibly signaling the inevitable changing of the guard in both men’s and women’s Elite DH.

Aside from racing, the total atmosphere of the Windham World Cup is phenomenal. The downtown street party and amateur racing (which you cannot get at European World Cup events) create a packed weekend and a great experience amongst the Catskill Mountain summer splendor. Town is abuzz with an international flair of teams and support and local charm, the intensity of the weekend ablaze in the abundant mid-summer sunshine. The Windham World Cup is an experience!

Sunday – Downhill

Gwin brings home the win! Downhill competition at Windham brought the World Cup to an amazing crescendo to close out the weekend, and truly changes the name of the town.

Under thunderous applause and on a brutally fast course with axle-deep ruts and huge compression hits, American and UCI DH World Cup points’ leader Aaron Gwin (USA/Trek World Racing) dominated on home soil. During training Gwin held his cards tight, practicing minimally yet posting blistering times while leaving many searching for his lines. In the finals, times were falling faster as the course dried, until last year’s near-winner Steve Peat (GBR/Santa Cruz Syndicate) blasted a 2:26.37-minute run. Peat’s time would hold though to the last ride of the day. Up top the crowd was deafening as Gwin blazed by fastest at split 1, then split 2. The mountain absolutely erupted when Aaron crossed the line with a crushing 2:24:03. This brings Aaron’s World Cup overall title hopes ever so close to coming true.

Rachel Atherton (GBR/Commencal) convincingly won the women’s Downhill posting fastest times at each split and a 2:50:29 overall time, followed closely by Floriane Pugin (FRA/Scott 11) at 2:51 37 and Tracey Moseley (GBR/Trek World Racing) at 2:52:70. All three remain locked in a virtual dead heat for the World Cup overall title with only two rounds remaining.

With the US round and North American leg of the UCI MTB World Cup complete, the tour moves on to France and Czechoslovakia before the Finals in Italy. Perhaps next year, when the World Cup tour returns, they’ll have renamed the town Gwindham…