Sam Hill Takes 3rd at Round 3 of UCI World Cup in Andorra
MTB - Vallnord, Andorra
Despite impressive times in qualifying, Matt Simmonds and Joe Smith struggled to carry their form into the finals, finishing 28th and 62nd, respectively.
The track in Vallnord was a newly built one this year for the World Cup. It was super steep, natural, technical and long! A proper downhillers' track and one of the favourites for the more skilful bike riders, which suited Sam.
Team Manager Nigel Page takes us through the action:
Qualifying went really well with Matt Simmonds in 24th, Joe Smith 20th and Sam Hill placed first. The fans and the whole mountain bike world it seemed went crazy as everyone was stoked to see Sam Hill back at the top. With a few hours practice on Saturday for the top 80 qualifiers Sam, Joe and Matt were flying in the dusty, loose conditions.
Sunday morning practice came along and with it the rain, making the track super slippery in places. Both Sam and Joe had big crashes and Joe was struggling to walk after landing on a sharp rock on his hip. Sam tweaked his knee pretty bad also, so it wasn't the best start to race day. The lads got patched up thanks to Martin the masseur and rested up before the finals in the late afternoon. Sam even went back to his hotel room for a sleep. I picked Sam up to take him back to the top of the mountain to get ready for his race run and he was like a new man. The sun had been out all day and the track had dried up. He was ready for his run and a lot happier than in the morning practice.
Matt Simmonds was off first and had a great first split – the fourth fastest of the race – but started to tighten up and ride a bit slower than he needed to go to place where he should be. Matt was a little disappointed to finish the day in 28th but still a very solid result for the team.
Joe Smith was up next and had been riding so fast all through practice, coming off a great second place last week at the National Championships, but unfortunately Joe went down hard on a technical section in the middle of the course resulting in him banging his already sore hip and needing a few stitches in his thumb. Joe was just pushing hard for a top 10 result that we all know he had the speed for this week. Hard luck mate.
The race came to a halt as we witnessed Cam Cole have a stomach churning crash going over the bars and pile driving his head straight into the ground. The race was stopped for half an hour or so as the rescue teams got Cam air-lifted off the track. Healing vibes to Cam from all of us on the team.
As the world’s fastest riders came down Remi Thirion from France, racing for the Commencal factory team who are based in Vallnord, put in an amazing run especially on the steepest bottom section to go into the hot seat and then Gee Atherton who is undefeated this year in the World Cup was on track but was unable to beat Remi's time. Then it was the second placed qualifier and current World Champion, Greg Minnaar. He also was unable to knock Remi off the top spot.
As my heart rate was going through the roof and I was physically shaking with nerves, myself and Sam's wife, Bridget, watched the big TV screen as Sam left the start hut. The crowd were going metal as it seemed everyone wanted Sam to win.
He hit the first split time on the flatter section on pace only a fraction of a second slower than the fastest riders. We watched as Sam attacked the track like only Sam Hill can and as he came into the second split he was fastest by 0.1 of a second. At this point thousands of people were screaming his name, the noise was unreal.
There were people with Sam Hill banners, boards and his name written on their bodies! As Sam came into the final steep sections he was looking loose and wild! Foot-out drifting in places but still flat out. The course had deteriorated so much from this morning’s practice and lines that Sam was using were not there anymore so he was making it up as he was going. When he crossed the line it wasn't quite to be as he went third, just 1.7 seconds off the win and 0.4 seconds from second.
This was an amazing result for the team and Sam. The first world cup podium for Nukeproof, our first podium for the team since 2008 and a great return to form for ‘Lord Hill’.
Good work mate, we are all so proud of you and a win is on the way!
With first place qualifying points and third in the finals, Sam moves up to fifth now in the overall World Cup rankings even with his crash at round two in Italy.
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