South African legend Greg Minnaar produced a vintage performance to bank his 22nd UCI Mountain Bike World Cup victory in Lousã on Friday as Myriam Nicole edged out compatriot Marine Cabirou to keep the women's title race delicately poised. 

After the first Maribor double-header of the unique 2020 season, the Downhill World Cup field and smaller-than-usual circus landed in Portugal for another week of intense action on a brand new track hailed as "proper downhill".

After topping qualifying, Nicole was the woman to beat having won the Portuguese Cup three times with world champion Camille Balanche out early on race day. She posted a time of 3m36.813s, however last-round winner Nina Hoffmann beat it followed by Cabirou who then cut a huge five seconds off the German's mark.

Briton Tahnée Seagrave was next, but neither she nor Tracey Hannah could do better until Nicole sent down a phenomenal run to win by 4.397 seconds. France's Nicole, 30, said: "I am really stoked, it feels like a big release. I have a good strategy on this kind of track. I felt comfortable in the technical part."

Cabirou admitted: "I tried to push more today, a bit more aggressive. The track changed a lot because the grip is a bit slippery in the morning, then dry now. It is not easy."

In the men's Frenchman Loris Vergier started out favourite in the men's race after his two wins in Maribor and fastest qualifying with American Aaron Gwin the early leader. Fellow American Dakotah Norton finished just 0.011 seconds off, but it was France's Loïc Bruni who topped the timesheets ahead of Minnaar's superb masterclass.

American Luca Shaw's mistake put him out of contention, however Briton Matt Walker looked on course to beat Minnaar until he lost late momentum. With Vergier suffering an agonising puncture, Minnaar wrapped up a record 22nd World Cup win!

Minnaar, 38, revealed: "I had a great ride down. It is one of those bittersweet wins when one of your biggest rivals - who is also your teammate and good friend and is leading the World Cup - punctures on the way down. I feel real sorry for Loris. I was pretty tired going into today, so I am glad I had the legs to push through it."

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup men's Lousã result
1. Greg Minnaar RSA 3m55.239s
2. Matt Walker GBR +1.833s
3. Loïc Bruni FRA +1.960s
4. Aaron Gwin USA +3.062s
5. Dakotah Norton USA +3.073s

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup women's Lousã result
1. Myriam Nicole FRA 4m26.325s
2. Marine Cabirou FRA +4.397s
3. Tahnée Seagrave GBR +5.075s
4. Tracey Hannah AUS +8.290s
5. Nina Hoffmann GER +9.264s

FINAL ROUND

Marine Cabirou produced a dominant performance to claim victory at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup final round in Lousã on Sunday, while Great Britain's Matt Walker took the overall title in the men’s race despite Loïc Bruni returning to winning ways. Given the 2020 season was taking place across 4 weeks, fatigue was expected to play a part in Lousã. However, there were no signs of exhaustion during a thrilling day of racing.

After her sensational qualifying and finals run in round three on Friday, Myriam Nicole was seen as the women to beat. Despite suffering a bloodied nose during qualifying, Nicole produced another fantastic run to set a time to beat of 4m28.982s.

Nina Hoffman then set down a new marker and seemed to be heading to victory as Tracey Hannah, in the final race of her illustrious career, pushed too hard and came off the bike with the finish line in sight. Cabirou was next up and the French rider threw down some serious style and tidy lines as she bettered Hoffman’s time by a staggering 1.702 seconds.

British rider Tahnée Seagrave, who finished in third place on Friday and was showing signs of getting back to her best, was up at the first split but eventually had to settle for third place, with Cabirou taking the win and snatching the overall lead from Nicole. Cabirou, 23, said: “I knew I needed to win today to take the overall so I gave it everything I had. I was a bit aggressive and I made some mistakes but it was a good run, I had fun and it’s just amazing to win.”

In the men’s race it looked as though the rain and wind would play havoc with the final riders. Instead the big guns delivered in thrilling fashion. First to lay down a serious marker was British rider Philip Atwill who, after a couple of barren years, showed that he was back to being a serious contender for titles.

Jamie Edmondson was next up and he sliced two tenths off the time of Atwill. With the rain now arriving it seemed as though the Brit could be heading for victory. Neither David Trummer or Finn Iles could get close to Edmondson’s time and suddenly there were just three riders remaining.

Next up was Matt Walker, the 21-year-old Brit with the World Cup leader’s jersey and plenty of pressure on his shoulders. Walker showed no signs of nerves though and produced an aggressive run that was enough to take the lead. Fresh off his sublime victory on Friday, the penultimate man at the start gate was Greg Minnaar. The South African was super smooth and that translated into serious speed as he took the lead with an incredible run.

Last up was Loïc Bruni who produced a sensational finish to the day. The Frenchman was behind after the second split but made a small adjustment while heading down the long pedal section and claimed the win by 0.457 seconds. A fitting finale to a sensational season, Bruni returned to winning ways, but it was not enough to deny Walker being crowned the overall 2020 World Cup champion.

Walker said: “I came into the race and I had already surpassed my expectations for the year. The run was tricky and conditions were a bit sketchy so I gave it everything and to come across the line and get old the news I’d won the overall was incredible. It’s so hard to put into words, I’ve realised a dream here today.”

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup women's Lousã result
1. Marine Cabirou (FRA)
2. Nina Hoffmann (GER) +1.702
3. Tahnée Seagrave (GBR) +2.409
4. Myriam Nicole (FRA) +4.982
5. Monika Hrastnik (SLO) +5.684

Overall result
1. Marine Cabirou (FRA)
2. Myriam Nicole (FRA)
3. Tahnée Seagrave (GBR)
4. Tracey Hannah (AUS)
5. Nina Hoffmann (GER)

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup men's Lousã result
1. Loic Bruni (FRA)
2. Greg Minnaar (RSA) +0.170
3. Matt Walker (GBR) +1.415
4. Jamie Edmonson (GBR) +2.044
5. Phillip Atwill (GBR) +2.065

Overall result
1. Matt Walker (GBR)
2. Loic Bruni (FRA)
3. Greg Minnaar (RSA)
4. Loris Vergier (FRA)
5. Thibaut Depréla (FRA)