Taylor and Gee podium too!
In a dramatic finale to the 2014 season, three of the four GT Factory Racing riders podiumed today, while Marc Beaumont experienced a close encounter with a tree in the middle section, losing valuable time and finishing in 27th.
In the Overall Series Rankings, Rachel was 2nd to Manon Carpenter; Taylor 3rd to Loris Vergier and Luca Shaw; whilst Gee came in 5th place and Marc in 15th.
First up at Meribel were the Juniors.
Taylor had qualified in 3rd place and was lying 3rd in the overall rankings behind Luca Shaw and Loris Vergier. The track at Meribel is steep, technical and slippery – exactly the kind of challenge the riders have been begging for. What would young Taylor, buoyed with the confidence of his first World Cup win at last round Windham, bring today?
Ferran Jorba Pratts was in the hotseat as Taylor came out of the start gate. He made a mistake at the top, leaving him in 8th place for that sector, but by split 2 he had moved up to 2nd and crossed the line fastest by 0.5 seconds to take the hotseat! However, he was deposed on the next run by fellow Brit Laurie Greenland, and then Loris Vergier finished almost 4 seconds faster than Greenland - an outstanding performance which allowed him to overtake Luca Shaw (in 5th today) and take the Overall title. Taylor finished third in the Overall rankings – a truly remarkable result from a young rider who broke his back less than 60 weeks ago.
Taylor said: “I can’t believe the season is over so quickly – I’ve come a long way this year, thanks to Atherton Racing, GT Bicycles, Harris & Ross, my family, and everyone else who has helped me so much. Mistakes at the top cost me today but I know that number one spot is in reach!”
In the Women’s race, Tracey Hannah was in the hotseat when Emmeline Ragot delighted the home crowd by positively flying down the mountain. Emmeline was 4 seconds up at split 1, 10 seconds faster at split 2, and crossed the line in 3:46.524 - an astounding 8.743 seconds up on Hannah. But Manon and Rachel were still on the hill. Manon was fastest through the speed trap but couldn’t catch Ragot; she crossed the line in second place, enough to clinch her the Overall Series title.
Rachel had qualified first with a time of 3:52.116. As soon as she left the start gate it was clear that she was on a flier. Fast and precise through the top-section she was up at split one, fastest through the speed trap and fastest at split 2, crossing the line a convincing 3.4 seconds up on Ragot to take the win. The 250 points for 1st places in qualifying and finals was also enough for Rachel to overtake Ragot in the Overall rankings, Rachel moved to 2nd, 50 points short of fellow Brit Manon Carpenter and just 10 points ahead of Ragot - not a bad result considering the difficult start to Rachel’s 2014 season when she had to overcome a debilitating infection and a DSQ (with zero points for the round), after a bystander rushed to help her with a puncture at Fort William. Today’s win is Rachel’s 21st World Cup Trophy and saw her back on top form.
After the race Rachel said: “That was so nerve racking! Meribel is a proper ‘legit’ track and I knew that I’d make mistakes. I was trying to hold it back a bit at the top and save a bit of energy for the bottom section – I’m so stoked!”
In the Men’s race Marc had qualified 13th and Gee in 9th. Marc showed total commitment from the go, but as he came into the rock garden he lost his balance and hit a tree. The tree was wrapped so he was unhurt, but he lost momentum and vital seconds. He rode strongly through the rest of the course to cross the line in 15th but the damage was done. His eventual place today would be 27th - enough for 15th in the Overall. Marc said: “Well I’m gutted by that mistake – I was feeling strong and feeling good on the bike, but it wasn’t to be.”
Marcus Pekoll was in the hotseat when Gee came on course. Gee was fast. He rode effortlessly through the rock garden, carrying unbelievable speed to go up at split 1, then was up by -2.71 at split 2, crossing the line 2.77 ahead of Pekoll. Aaron Gwin and Remi Thirion couldn’t match Gee, but Sam Hill demonstrated his incredible speed to knock 1.1 second off Gee's time. Loic Bruni slotted into 2nd, then Josh Bryceland took 2nd from him and Matt Simmonds took 2nd from Josh - the top 5 riders within 1.1. of Sam Hill!
Gee said: “That was tight! But great fun on an awesome course. Congrats to Sam, and of course to Ratboy for the overall!”
Photo Credit: Sven Martin