Once again American Aaron Gwin was on the top step of the Elite Men’s DH podium.
By Jay de Jesus, photo by Jon Pratt
Fireworks, heartbreak, triumph and pain. Thus was the action in the Elite Women’s race as American Georgia Gould (Luna Chix) was well on her way to her first World Cup victory, on home soil no less, when she flatted late in the last lap and got passed in the last turn, just 50 yards from the finish. In the Elite men’s race, American Todd Wells threw down a career best 4th place finish, and Junior US Team member Kate Courtney punched through a solid international field to put the stars and bars on the top step of the podium in the Junior Women’s race.
The Windham World Cup Weekend drew to a close with nailbiting crescendo of emotion, heartbreak, drama and yet another home-soil victory for American World Cup current points leader and defending champion Aaron Gwin.
Throughout the weekend, racers and fans worldwide were treated to another phenomenal display of hometown hospitality, summer Catskill scenic beauty and a festival worthy of the World Cup credential. 20,000-plus spectators were treated to three packed days of riding, racing, outdoor parties and live music, and international cycling culture. Many heros were created and inspiration passed on as the stars of the sport mingled amongst the crowd, led skills clinics, signed autographs, and raced their hearts out. The world was treated to live racing coverage throughout, with live broadcast of the World Cup Downhill and Elite Cross Country Olympic events.
Closing with the popular Elite Downhill competition, the fastest riders on earth plumeted down the rough and chopped-up course which broke apart under the incredibly dry conditions. Windham is one of the fastest courses on the circuit, and the rock gardens mid-course were treacherous and deep, changing on a nearly per-rider basis. They eliminated several top riders, including American hopefull Jill Kintner in the Finals. The added jumps at the bottom of the course were both a spectator bonus and a final lung-searing challenge challenge for the racers. The finish step-down double was a 58-foot booter to the sweet spot, which necessitated a flat-out power sprint to the line.
At the bottom of the course the crowd swelled as more spectators descended the mountain, hoping to catch the last few riders in the final race of the weekend. The lead would change hands several times, right up to the 2nd fastest qualifier as Canadian Steve Smith pushed his way to a possible first ever World Cup win. There was a thunderous roar from above as Gwin launched on course and descended each section, the loud partisan crowd at the bottom keeping track on the jumbotron. Split times were announced and Gwin was indeed in the lead approaching the finish. It was positively electrifying as Aaron blasted into view hitting the largest jumps at the fastest speed, and Windham erupted as he posted the fastest time overall! It was Gwindemonium, and an incredible finish to an incredible weekend.
Thank you Windham, for a job well done — we hope to see you all at Gwindham again next year.