The races keep coming thick and fast, and we can’t get enough of it. After the cold, rain and mud of Slovenia racers have headed west to a lower altitude and some nicer weather in Portugal for the final two rounds of this year’s shortened Downhill World Cup Series. The INTENSE Factory Racing team of Aaron Gwin, Neko Mulally and Seth Sherlock have made the +2,500km journey from Maribor and are all set for today’s race.
Just like in Maribor, there will be one race today (Friday October 30th) and one on Sunday (November 1st). The two races take place on roughly the same track, but there are three different sections to mix things up a little. This is the first time that Portugal have held a World Cup Downhill race and it must be said that the track is universally loved by riders, “proper old-school downhill”.
The track can be roughly split into three main sections – a flat’ish top, a steep middle and then it flattens out again before the finish line drop. It has a bit of everything – it is wide with lots of line choices and it is a good mix of terrain, it’s a great test. Winding its way down through pine and eucalyptus trees at the top there are some well ridden and worn sections, but there are also plenty of new, fresh sections that have cut up. Ruts, off-camber traverses, holes, roots, stumps, rocks… everything is beginning to appear and some sections are getting blown-out as the track gets ridden in. It’s raw and loose. There are plenty of jumps too, and a big fading launcher into the finish arena that may see some ‘flat-landers’ once everyone is up to race speed.
At around four minutes long it is going to be very physical and energy sapping, a real test of a rider’s fitness, especially with the long flat sprint (30-40 seconds) towards the bottom. And don’t forget that racers have no real time to rest as they have to do it all again on Saturday and Sunday.
Qualifying for round 3 took place yesterday with the team all safely making it through to today’s finals. Junior rider Seth slotted into 10th position with a 4:17.010, Aaron qualified in 19th on a 4:06.938 and Neko in 31st on a 4:08.978.
Watch all the racing live on Red Bull TV (Friday October 30th). The Senior Women’s race starts at 13.30 CET (12.30 GMT), with the Elite Men’s at 13.45 CET (14.45 GMT).