In a dramatic ending to a bizarre World Cup season, Saracen's Matt Walker takes the overall.
As Europe is enveloped by a second wave of lockdowns, there was much doubt about the final two DH World Cup rounds.
Cool heads prevailed among the UCI, team managers and local organisers in Lousã, delivering a terrific end to the truncated 2020 season.
The double-header format once again compacted an intense schedule of racing into a single weekend, with some incredibly close finishes and bitter disappointments.
With a meaningful pedal section linking the Lousã course’s top and bottom sections, which ran just under 4 minutes for the best elite riders, fitness and power were always going to be crucial issues.
South Africa’s Greg Minnaar reinforced his reputation as perhaps the greatest DH racer of all time, managing to win his 22nd World Cup as the Portuguese UCI event got underway.
Age is only a number
The tall Santa Cruz Syndicate team rider looked typically smooth, but it was clear that Minnaar is not immune to risk, even at the age of 39. Boosting all the rolling momentum available from his XXL size V10 29er, Minnaar radically overjumped one of the Lousã track’s most intimidating doubles – and managed to simply keep powering on for the win.
His victory was a popular one and channelled a variety of outcomes into the final and fourth round, which features a slight alteration to the Lousã.
The two most prominent contenders for this season’s DH World Cup overall were Minnaar’s teammate, Loris Vergier, and Saracen’s Matt Walker.
Vergier had punctured during round three, costing him valuable points in the overall. When the timing chips had all relayed their final output data, Minnaar nearly managed a double in Portugal. But it was not to be.
Super Bruni saves the day – for the UK
Defending World Cup champion, Loic Bruni, would power his Specialized Demo home in first place. Minnaar trailed the Frenchman by only 0.170 seconds, whilst Matt Walker was third – good enough to take the season.
There is no question that Walker deserved his overall World Cup title, demonstrating startling consistency in a season of incomparable discretion. He finished fourth, third, second and third in the UCI’s 2020 schedule DH World Cup events, earning him the coveted overall title.
Vergier will be deeply disappointed by what transpired in Portugal. The Santa Cruz Syndicate riders were at a slight advantage in Lousã, with the team having executed extensive suspension testing camps there over the last few years. His loss to Walker, in the overall points race, calculated to a mere 1.5%.
An interesting technical feature of Bruni’s win, was the presence of what appeared to be a sophisticated compression lock-out
on his Ohlins fork shock. Although details remain sketchy, it appears that this electronic remote switch is actually attached to the shock. Could this add damping for more efficient pedalling as well as cope with the huge loads from landing the massive drop into the finish? We can only speculate at the moment, but whatever it is, it seems to be working.