We’ve barely had a chance to catch our breath after the downhill World Championships from Leogang, but here we are again, with Round 1 of the 2020 UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup series from Slovenia. After over a year without racing it is now coming at us thick and fast… and we love it.
Last weekend’s World Championships in Austria will be one that many riders will want to forget. Leogang is traditionally known for being an easy, Bike Park style course, but for 2020 the organizers decided to mix things up a little, throwing in a horrendously steep, fresh and rooty final wooded section. This section alone humbled and frustrated the world’s best downhillers… but there were plenty of other places were it could go horribly wrong – the first off-camber section straight out of the start, the treacherous stump fields. Add into that mix rain and even snow on the upper parts of the track on race day and you had one hell of a challenge for the racers. Some riders loved it, some hated it, with many just wishing for it to be over!
“It was a rough day for us all. I was frustrated. I felt like I had a good run in me but it just didn’t happened. I had a decent top section, but I unclipped in the woods and couldn’t get my feet back in for the whole of the rest of the section. I was going so slow and it just wasn’t happening, but we shall live to fight another day.” Aaron Gwin
Aaron would finish in 26th, Neko 21st and Seth 22nd in the Juniors. We cannot take anything away from Camille Balanche, Reece Wilson, Lauryne Chappaz and Oisin O’Callaghan’s victories, they rode their own races, held it together and showed such talent and skill. We congratulate them all.
Luckily with this race season being turned on its head riders can’t dwell on what happened in Austria for too long. They are now in Maribor, Slovenia for rounds 1 and 2 of this year’s World Cup series – with round 1 today (Friday, Oct 16th) and round 2 a few of days later on Sunday (Oct 18th).
The two rounds will take place on slightly different courses – there are four places where the track splits and then rejoins itself, with Track 2 (Sunday) being a little bit more technical. Most sections are already well worn and compacted, with roots showing through, big compressions, natural doubles, and we should mention that both tracks feature Maribor’s infamous rock garden… a real test of bike and body. And it is fast, very fast.
There is no doubt that three races in eight days will really take its toll on riders… that amount of races in such a short space of time is unprecedented. Fitness is always important, but with little time for riders to rest and recuperate between races this year it is going to more important than ever. And let’s not forget the importance of mental strength in all of this, it is so key to success. You can be sure that the INTENSE Factory Race team are primed and prepared… racing is ON.
Qualifying for round 1 race took place yesterday, once again in torrential conditions with very heavy rain, but the team all safely made it through to finals. Junior rider Seth Sherlock slotted into 6th position with a 3:26.645, Aaron qualified in 19th on a 3:20.060 and Neko in 36th on a 3:24.091. Thankfully the weather looks a little better for today’s race.
Watch all the racing live on Red Bull TV (Friday October 16th). The Senior Women’s race starts at 11.30 CET (10.30am BST), with the Elite Men’s at 12.45 CET (11.45 BST).