The 25-year-old secured a top-five place in the sport’s 2021 standings after heading way out west to the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia for the final two rounds of the cup, held back to back over four days.
The trails through the state’s lonesome pines hosted the remaining hardy competitors looking to take home laurels not only for race wins but overall titles too.
The top three in the series – Thibault Daprela, Loris Vergier and Loic Bruni – all qualified badly for the first race and newly-crowned world champion Greg Minnaar went out after crashing into a tree.
Runaway series leader Daprela caught the edge of a rock and went straight over his handlebars as his front wheel collapsed under him, ruling him out of the race and opening the door for the chasing pack to pick up points.
Vergier, second on points, seized that chance with both hands and fired down three seconds ahead to set a benchmark, but Bruni, from position 12, proceeded to put in a run half a second faster.
From position nine, though, Wilson tucked in, relaxed and rode the rocks to come into the last sector only half a second behind, then, courtesy of a perfect series of jumps and tucks, pipped Bruni by three-hundredths of a second to take the hot seat.
As the final eight riders came down, fastest qualifier Finn Iles was only able to cross the line in fourth place, handing Wilson his maiden win of this year’s series and proving to any doubters that his world championship triumph last year was no fluke.
Once riders’ points were tallied up, Wilson jumped up to fourth in the standings, giving him a slim mathematical chance of snatching the overall title.
Round-six qualifying saw Daprela once again go over his bars and straight to hospital with a broken ankle, his series lead of 46 points looking vulnerable. Vergier finished fourth and Wilson ninth again, with Bruni topping the time sheets by 1.5 seconds.
Come the final race, Wilson set fastest times through every sector and coming out of the rocks, with all the hard work done, only had to negotiate the flats and jumps he’d looked comfortable on all week.
Just as he got on his pedals, though, his bike’s chain came off and he crossed the line in provisional third place and out of the title hunt.
That meant Bruni only had to finish in the top five to win overall but he ended up first by 0.4 seconds, with Daprela second on the podium, Vergier third, Troy Brosnan fourth and Wilson fifth.
Wilson said afterwards: “The final round didn’t go my way with an unfortunate mechanical, a bent chainring and my chain fell off before the sprint, but I salvaged a seventh, which I’m more than happy with. It’s an easy pill to swallow when it’s out of your hands.
“I never thought I’d be coming out of this year in fifth overall, and having talent like this stood next to me makes it all the sweeter.”