Amongst a world class field, Ryan Westley came fifth in the men’s C1 final, posting his best result of the season so far and bringing an exciting weekend of racing to a conclusion at the 2017 World Cup Final in La Seu d’Urgell, Spain.
However it hadn’t all gone Great Britain’s way today with Westley the only one of six paddlers progressing to the finals. It was the odd touch here and there that proved costly, amongst a high class field on a straightforward course that required precision paddling to maintain the balance between risk and reward.
In the women’s K1, Kimberley Woods paddled more confidently today to post her second clean run of the week. But in avoiding the errors, her time was nearly two seconds off the pace for the top ten finish required, coming 15th.
Mallory Franklin proved she had the speed to mix it with the best today, but three touches counted her out, including her unlucky gate seven which has proved troublesome most of the week and she had to settle for 21st place.
Fiona Pennie was hoping for better things having qualified through the heats in third place with an excellent run on Friday. But a solid run on the top half of the course came undone after the bottom drop with touches on gates 20 and 21 which saw her chances fall away to finish in 22nd spot.
The men’s C1 trio faced the same difficult challenge and it soon became obvious that only those who could go fast and clean, would go through. So it came down to Ryan Westley as GBs last paddler of the morning to do just that and secure ninth place and into the Final. There, he capitalised on his early starting position and raced well to post a competitive time of 95.61 seconds and take the lead, setting the mark for others to chase. He remained in medal contention until the final three boats came down the course with it taking some of the biggest names in the sport to nudge him down into fifth, his best result of the year so far.
Ryan said: “My season has been building pretty steadily throughout, with some good things at Europeans and the first three World Cups. I have just completed a really heavy training block and feel I have stepped my level up and made some good gains on the water and in the gym. We did a lot of high volume training on the river in Pau getting ready for the World Championships and it feels like home now.
“This is the last international race before the World Championships, it is a nice place to come and I was keen to do well here and build up a bit of confidence before Worlds.
“I am really happy that I delivered three clean runs and I can’t ask much more than that. If I was being critical maybe I could have found a little bit of time in that last run but if you had offered me fifth at the start I definitely would have taken it so I am very happy.
“My tactics are always to not hit any of the gates and be one of the people who messes up. It is all about racing within yourself and that seems to work out well for me. It was exceptionally important here as compared to the first three World Cups where the courses were really hard with some tough moves in them, here the course was fairly easy, racing in smaller water, so you couldn’t afford to pick up a touch which was really costly. My main aim was to stay clean and thankfully I managed it.”
Earlier, David Florence had a promising semi final run and was well on pace for a top ten finish, but a touch at the penultimate gate which he wasn't even aware of at the time changed his fortunes and he finished 16th.
Unfortunately it also wasn’t the best of days for Adam Burgess who was unable to replicate his clean run from the heats and three touches pushed him well down the field.
The British team has been off the racing circuit for a few weeks, choosing to focus on preparations for the World Championships, training on the course in Pau. Reflecting on the weekend, canoe slalom head coach Mark Ratcliffe said: “Obviously we were wanting more in terms of finals and medals, but what is most important is signs that things are going in the right direction ahead of the World Championships and I feel they are.
“This was a stepping stone race for us coming off a heavy block of training in Pau and it gets them in the mix of racing again with some elements that you can only get from racing, which are hard to replicate in training. So it’s been a good workout for the team in that respect, switching them on for this last couple of weeks until Worlds.
“Many congratulations to Ryan on his best race of the season so far and he consolidated on what he has done in the semi finals before, but this time he did it in the final too, which will give him great confidence ahead of the Pau.”
The World Championships get underway in Pau, France on Thursday 28 September until Sunday 1 October.