Borders downhiller Reece makes his best ever World Cup start
The UCI Downhill World Cup series, with a sprinkling of Borders riders in various categories, finally got under way last weekend at the picturepostcard resort of Leogang in Austria.
Having already lost the first two rounds of his category to the ongoing pandemic, Reece Wilson, of Gordon, was just happy to get on track to show off the World Champion’s Rainbow jersey he won in spectacular fashion there last autumn.
It was the first time he was able to compete since getting a concussion injury at Maribor, Slovenia, just a week after his big win, reports Robin Wilson, so he was determined to show it was no fluke.
Few countries, apart from France and the USA, had even allowed any national racing and, with a few of the top riders switching teams, the form book was truly out of the window.
The big news was the return of Frenchman Amaury Pierron, who dominated in 2018 before a back injury sidelined him for two seasons.
Wilson and the Trek Factory had spent the winter testing and developing their first all-new bike for almost a decade and were joined in the team by another fast Frenchman, Loris Vergier.
On arrival in Austria, all the teams were expecting the normal dry, hard-packed surface, which Leogang is famous for in summer. But it was rain showers, wind and mud – not quite the quagmire of last year – and the
happiest man in town was Wilson.
But, by race day, the sun had come out and all the practice runs in the mud,meant nothing. The open sections were dry and dusty but the wooded areas remained sticky, rutted mud with treacherous slippery roots and rocks, and everyone knew a clean run through the trees was make or break.
With riders setting off in reverse order of qualifying time, Pierron, from P21, who finally toppled long-time leader Laurie Greenland off the hot seat with a superb top section, then losing only one second advantage in the woods to him to set up a dream comeback.
Wilson, from P13, lost a second at the top but blitzed the woods to post the fastest sector time of the day and set up a grandstand finish, eventually missing out by four tenths of a second.
Nobody else got ahead of the top two until Pierron’s young teammate, Thibault Daprela, from P3, stunned everyone, going over three seconds faster at the top and, with some wild riding in the roots, hung on to the lead by a mere two tenths at the line.
Ex-champion Danny Hart, at P2, now riding for the Cube factory, couldn’t quite match the top four and, with less than a second covering them, it was left to Aussie nearly man Troy Brosnan on the Canyon bike from P1.
Fastest by almost seven seconds in the wet qualifying the day before, the dry top section saw him two seconds behind Daprela but a fast, clean run in the ruts brought him to the line 1.2 seconds to the good to record his first win since 2007.
That left Wilson, on the new Trek, in fourth overall, sandwiched between three Frenchmen, all Commencal mounted, and by far his best ever start to World Cup campaign.
For the limited number of spectators present, it was an absolute treat and everyone now has their fingers crossed that the next round, across the Alps in Les Gets, France, will go ahead as planned on the first weekend