Thunderous crowds, a treacherous track, an unforgiving clock and some high-speed racing, the Mercedes-Benz UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Leogang had it all. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend's racing in the Austrian Alps:
Leogang is ready for the World Championship in 2020
Leogang once again turned into the hotbed of downhill mountain biking last weekend, drawing in crowds from all over Europe. With a changed track, spectators were in for some real adrenaline-pumping action right out of the start gate. Thousands of fans lined the track, watching the world’s Downhill elite battle it out on the track appropriately called “The Speedster”. With the alpine sun hitting the track, the conditions were loose, dusty and fast and the cow bells and chain saws were out in force, creating an atmosphere unlike any other World Cup stop, from top to bottom and in the finish corral, showing that Leogang has what it takes to play host to the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Championships from September 4 to 6, 2020.
The French are on fire
The French are continuing their dominance as Loic Bruni (FRA) secures his second win this season and bounces back from his 8th place finish in Fort William, which was won by fellow Frenchman Amaury Pierron, making it three out of three for the French this season. After a less-than-ideal qualification run on Saturday, Bruni would find an extra gear on finals day – but it wasn’t until the very last rider was in the finish corral that his victory was safe. Coming out of the gate on fire, Bruni was up by 0.7 seconds at the first split and kept building his lead from there – making light work of the wood section and opening up the throttle on the motorway section, the fast Frenchie entered the woods with 2.5 seconds to spare, an advantage that was already solid, but that Bruni was still trying to push further. Crossing the finish line with a lead of 3.2 seconds, the last part of the track proved crucial for Bruni to take the win ahead of Greg Minnaar (RSA) and Troy Brosnan (AUS), who both could have taken the win if not for small mistakes on the track that cost them valuable thousandths of a second in the battle for first.
The GOAT is back
Following an injury-heavy 2018 season, not qualifying in Maribor, and finishing an atypical 6th in Fort William (having won there a historical 7 times), Greg Minnaar needed a podium spot, and what better way to do that than in Leogang, where he’s been on the podium 9 times (including this year), 5 of which were in the Top 3 and winning the World Championship title there in 2012. After winning the qualies on Saturday, Leogang knew it was in for a treat come Sunday. Coming out of the gate on fire and clinically dismantling the top part of the track, Minnaar entered the ‘Roots of Asitz’ less than a second behind Bruni. Minnaar found half a second in the roots, closing the gap to the Frenchman and the large crowd in Leogang knew it was coming down to a photo finish. Racing along the final section of the track and almost sending the final jump to flat, Minnaar crossed the line in second place, 0.3 seconds behind Bruni, proving that you should never count out “The GOAT”. It’s not every day that the Top 3 are separated by less than 0.8 seconds once all is said and done.
Nina Hoffmann climbing her way to the top
In only her second year racing on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup circuit, Nina Hoffmann (GER) is fast on her way to become the next household name among the Downhill racing elite. After finishing in third place in Fort William she now backed up her solid performance in qualies with a second-place finish in Leogang, right behind Tracey Hannah. Hoffmann would make quick work of Kate Weatherly’s (NZL) time – gaining a massive four seconds on the Kiwi on the upper section. Continuing to attack the track through the technical sections and pressing on the gas on the motorway, she held a massive lead coming into the final woods section, where she managed to find more time, passing the finish line almost seven seconds faster than Weatherly. With only Rachel Atherton and Tracey Hannah left at the start, she was sure of a Top 3 finish, but Rachel Atherton’s (GBR) crash at the top would see Hoffmann move up one more spot, giving her back to back podium appearances. Can she maintain her momentum in Andorra?
Another one bites the dust
Fast, loose, tight – the Leogang track had it all. The dusty conditions played their trick on many riders, and took out heavy hitters along the way – both Loris Vergier (FRA) and Rachel Atherton (GBR) were on what could have been a winning place before washing out in different sections of the track – Vergier near the bottom, Atherton close to the top. Just these two crashes alone have some serious repercussions on the Overall Standings – Vergier is outside of the Top Five looking in, with less than 30 points difference to Greg Minnaar (RSA). If we take a look at the Top 3 in the Men Elite, only 70 points separate them: Troy Brosnan (AUS) currently holds 520, Loic Bruni (FRA) has 515 and Amaury Pierron (FRA) is sitting in third with 450 points. Danny Hart (GBR) is currently sitting in 4th with 435 points. Can he hold off Greg Minnaar in Andorra? Meanwhile Tracey Hannah (AUS) has taken a 150 point lead on Rachel Atherton, while Germany’s Nina Hoffmann is only 25 points behind the Brit.
Re-watch the entire live-broadcast and all the highlights of the second round of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on-demand and anytime on redbull.tv. Get the latest on everything bike related on the Red Bull Bike Channel at redbull.tv/bike.
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FORT WILLIAM, SCOTLAND – Storms, rain, an unforgiving track, crashes and incredible runs, the Mercedes-Benz UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William had it all. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend's racing in the Scottish Highlands:
Storms, rain and a punishing track
After several years of fair weather and sunshine, the infamous Scottish weather struck back. Storms and heavy rain tormented riders and equipment throughout practice, qualifying and finals in what even the most seasoned locals amongst the large crowd braving the weather would describe as very wet. Contrary to most tracks, the majority of the 2.8km-/ 1.8mi long course actually becomes grippier in the wet, as the moisture binds the slippery and loose gravel found on the top half of the track. The wood section, which resembled a muddy bog, visibility problems due to rain and mud on rider’s lenses and high winds still made for uncomfortable and challenging conditions, which caught many riders out on the notoriously difficult track.
Loic Bruni (FRA), Finn Iles (CAN), Gee Atherton (GBR), Kade Edwards (GBR), Tahnée Seagrave (GBR) and Monika Hrastnik (SLO) all had heavy crashes in the days leading up to the finals, whereas Aaron Gwin (USA) and Reece Wilson (GBR) hit the ground / a tree hard in their race runs. While most walked away bruised and battered but still able to race, Hrastnik (concussion) and Seagrave (shoulder) weren’t so lucky and had to sit out, with the latter definitely missing the next World Cup in Leogang and likely also the following stops in Vallnord and Val di Sole.
The Junior Men and Junior Women fields are catching up to the two Dominators
Thibaut Daprela (FRA) and Vali Höll (AUT) have been dominating the Junior categories in the last year and are the big favorites in every single race, but in Fort William the grip of the two youngsters over their respective fields loosened. Höll enjoyed a perfect season in 2018 by winning every single race and qualifying since she started racing in the Junior category with times that even threatened the Elite podium. She started her 2019 campaign in similar fashion by winning both the qualifying and race in Maribor as well as the qualifying in Fort William. However, on race day, for the first time in over a year, the winner wasn’t Höll. Leading the race comfortably, two crashes in the middle wood section ended her unprecedented winning streak and saw her cross the line in second behind Anna Newkirk (USA), who took her first World Cup win. On the other hand, Daprela, who won five of the seven World Cups in 2018, placed 2nd in the remaining two and also won the 2019 season opener, came under threat by two riders racing their first-ever World Cup. Both Luke Mumford (GBR) and Patrick Laffey (CAN) gave the young Frenchman a good run for their money, finishing a mere 0.8 and 2.1 seconds behind Daprela and rewarding themselves with a second and third place finish in their World Cup premiere. Daprela and especially Höll, who will be racing in front of a home crowd in Leogang, will be eager to reassert their dominance at the next World Cup.
New faces on the podium
On the women’s side of racing, the 2018 season was dominated by a battle between three riders who split up the World Cup wins between themselves – Myriam Nicole (FRA), Tahnée Seagrave and Rachel Atherton (GBR). A broken ankle sustained just before the start of the season saw Nicole sitting out the first races of the season, turning the anticipated three-way battle for the Overall Title into a British duel between Seagrave and Atherton. In Fort William, Seagrave, running the number one plate of the World Cup leader for the first time in her career following her win at the season opener in Maribor, crashed hard on her first practice run, injured her shoulder and was forced to sit out, leaving Atherton as the sole favorite with Tracey Hannah (AUS) looking like a distant second. Hannah was having none of it however, put down the fastest time in qualifying and showed up green throughout the first two-thirds of the finals. As Atherton nervously watched on from the hot seat, a small slip up just before the motorway saw Hannah’s lead diminish and she eventually crossed the line in second just outside of Atherton’s time. Behind Atherton and Hannah, German Nina Hoffmann made the most of her first trip to Fort William, showing a spectacular performance and rewarding herself with a third place and her first ever World Cup podium in what was only the sixth World Cup start of her career. Marine Cabirou (FRA) and Veronika Widmann (ITA) rounded out the podium in fourth and fifth.
The French continue their dominance
Amaury Pierron (FRA) catapulted himself to fame by winning his first World Cup in Fort William in 2018, kick-starting a spell of French Downhill domination on the way. Pierron backed up last year’s victory in Fort William with two more consecutive wins and the Overall World Cup title. Returning to the venue of his first World Cup victory, the conditions were the polar opposite of the dry and dusty track of the previous year. However, just like in previous races throughout the last year, it was once again the French who would make the most sense out of the difficult and demanding track. Heading into the finals as favorites after placing first and second in qualifying with a four second lead to third place, Loris Vergier (FRA) and Pierron didn’t disappoint. Following a fantastic run by the young gun Finn Iles (CAN), who was still bruised and battered by a crash sustained in practice, it was Australian Troy Brosnan, who sat in the hot seat with a time that looked unbeatable. A whooping 3.5 seconds clear of Iles and with only the two Frenchies left at the top, Brosnan watched on as Pierron attacked the top-section of the track hard. With splits showing up green and margins getting bigger, Pierron sprinted along the motorway, clearing the large jumps before shocking the crowd and viewers by nosediving towards the finish line at break-neck speed. To everybody’s surprise, including himself, he somehow miraculously managed to hold on, crossing the line a massive 3.5 seconds ahead of Brosnan. Vergier, the last rider left up top, gave it his all in a smooth, fast and composed run but in the end Brosnan’s and Pierron’s times were out of reach and he had to settle for third. Seven of the last eight World Cups have now been won by a French rider, will the French dominance continue in Austria this weekend?
The Overall Rankings are wide-open
With two widely different podiums in the first two races in all categories, the Overall Rankings are as close they can be. Going into the next race in Austria’s Leogang, Troy Brosnan leads the Elite men’s field with 350 points. Just 20 points behind the Australian lies defending Overall World Cup Champion and Fort William winner Amaury Pierron, followed by Maribor winner and defending World Champion Loic Bruni with 301 points and Danny Hart (GBR) with 292 points in fourth. On the women’s side of racing, Rachel Atherton has taken over the lead from injured Tahnée Seagrave. Just 30 points behind Atherton, Tracey Hannah moves up into second with 400 points, followed by Marine Cabirou and Nina Hoffmann with 290 and 285 points respectively.
Re-watch the entire live-broadcast and all the highlights of the second round of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on-demand and anytime on redbull.tv. Get the latest on everything bike related on the Red Bull Bike Channel at redbull.tv/bike.
Max is riding with RJ Ripper and had a lot of fun! Ride Hard!!
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ALBSTADT, GERMANY – MAY 21, 2019 – The first round of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz UCI Cross-Country Mountain Bike World Cup in Albstadt offered everything fans and spectators could hope for. Excitement, drama, surprises and incredibly close racing – and all of that in challenging weather and difficult conditions. Here are some of the highlights of the first Cross-Country World Cup of 2019:
Challenging track conditions make for exciting racing
There has been a lot of discussion about Albstadt’s track prior to the races. In 2018 heavy rainfall had a large impact on the course and turned the loamy ground in Albstadt into a barely rideable, slippery mess more akin to an ice rink than a mountain bike trail, leading to a number of crashes. As a result of last year’s extremely difficult conditions, the track was modified for 2019 in an attempt to make it more weather-proof. In practice this meant that several difficult sections were tamed and either stabilized with crushed sand and gravel or bridged with wooden elements. After work on the course was completed, the organizers faced criticism for making the already not very technical track too easy. However, come race time, heavy rainfall and very wet conditions made the track very challenging once again. The take-away from this weekend is, that the track is neither too easy, nor too hard - it’s selective.
Thanks to its two long and steep climbs, the Albstadt track punishes riders even for the smallest lack of stamina. The descends on the other hand are extremely slippery when wet, which once again led to a number of spectacular crashes by the likes of Kate Courtney (USA) and Lars Forster (SUI), thankfully without causing any major injuries. In summary, the track looks to rightfully be part of the World Cup – not least thanks to the thousands of excited fans, who, even in the worst of conditions, carried the riders up the climbs with their cheers.
Exciting Short-Track races: van der Poel continues dominance – Courtney surprises
The 2018 season saw the introduction of a new discipline – Cross-Country Short Track (XCC). An addition that was welcomed by fans, as it intensifies the battle for the Overall World Cup Title and serves as a great start to a weekend of action-packed racing. The thousands of fans in Germany’s Albstadt were treated to two exciting and close battles on Friday night. On the women’s side, the first XCC Word Cup race of the season saw the Top 10 entering the final lap within just 4 seconds of each other. In the end, Kate Courtney managed to edge out Jolanda Neff (SUI) and Kathrin Stirnemann (SUI) by one second to take her very first XCC World Cup win. Like the women’s race, the men’s race was only decided on the last lap. Mathieu van der Poel (NED) showed his explosive power and within seconds overtook several riders on his way to the front, stretching the field in the process. Only a few could follow van der Poel, but none could match him on the sprint to the finish line, in which he beat Lars Forster and Nino Schurter (SUI) for the win. At the end of the day, the XCC races provided the goods once again and left the crowds excited for Sunday’s main event.
Swiss dominance continues – in an unexpected order
A Swiss rider wins the men’s XCO race in Albstadt and four more score a Top 10 result. One could think, the race took its expected course. After all, Nino Schurter had achieved a perfect season in 2017 and won four of seven rounds, the Overall Title and the UCI World Championships in 2018. That’s however not what happened this weekend. The Swiss rider on top of the podium wasn’t Nino Schurter, it was Mathias Flueckiger, who won his second World Cup after winning in Mont-Sainte-Anne in 2018. Flueckiger took the lead in the second lap and held on to it throughout the race, crossing the line 32 seconds ahead of Mathieu van der Poel in second place. Scott-SRAM teammates Schurter and Forster set an incredibly high pace right at the beginning of the race, fragmenting the field early on. Both, however, had to pay the price for their incredibly high pace as the race continued. Schurter managed to hang on to a 6th-place finish but Forster, in peak-form, fell victim to the treacherous, slippery conditions and had to pull out of the race with a heavily bruised knee and foot after his third crash and will unfortunately miss the next round in Nove Mesto. With Flueckiger on top of the podium and fellow countrymen Vogel, Schurter, Reto Indergand and Andri Frischknecht finishing in 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th respectively, the Swiss however still enjoyed a dominant performance.
A perfect weekend for Kate Courtney
Celebrating a perfect start to the season, Kate Courtney won Sunday’s XCO after already winning the XCC on Friday. In what is only her second season in the Elite category, Courtney has now won her very first XCC and XCO-World Cup races within a single weekend. Last season the young American only appeared on the podium of one XCC race with a third place in Vallnord, whilst not making the Top 5 at any of the XCO World Cup stops. At the UCI World Championships in Lenzerheide, Courtney however showed her potential and incredible talent by taking a surprising, yet deserved victory. It appears, the young American has carried the momentum of winning the Gold Medal over into 2019. In Friday’s XCC Courtney was amongst the lead group throughout the race before attacking from third place in the final lap and fending off Jolanda Neff and Kathrin Stirnemann (SUI) in the sprint to the line, winning her first XCC World Cup in the process. Courtney’s performance in the XCO two days later was even more impressive. Not even a crash in the second lap could keep her from demonstrating an absolute show of strength. Courtney and Neff had already distanced the field on the start loop, before the young American left the reigning World Cup Champion behind on the second climb. Following that attack, Courtney comfortably controlled the race from the front and eventually crossed the line to win her first XCO World Cup. What a perfect weekend and start to the season for the young American.
Dutch cycling phenomenon takes World Cup lead
Following numerous victories in Cyclo-Cross and at the Spring Classics on the road, Mathieu van der Poel demonstrated his strong form on a mountain bike. The Dutchman played his cards especially well in Friday’s XCC. Keeping in touch with the leading group, van der Poel started the race inconspicuous until he put the hammer down in Lap 7 and rapidly pulled away from everyone. Only Schurter and Henrique Avancini (BRA) managed to follow, but neither had a chance when ‘MVDP’ launched his second attack shortly before the finish line. Two days later, van der Poel looked equally strong on the Olympic distance. Following the high pace of Schurter and Forster at the start of the race, the Dutchman wisely decided to fall back to the chase group to conserve energy and crossed the line in 12th after lap 2. Having recovered slightly, van der Poel started to increase the pace again and crossed the line in 6th the very next lap. After two thirds of the race, he was already in third. Giving it all he had in the final lap, van der Poel caught and overtook Jordan Sarrou (FRA) and crossed the line in second, 32 seconds behind Flueckiger. Thanks to his victory in XCC and strong show in XCO, van der Poel left Albstadt with 325 World Cup points and, for the first time, wearing the leader’s jersey.
There’s barely any time to breath and recover from the opening round of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Cross-Country Mountain Bike World Cup in Albstadt as the season heats up and the second round is set to start this weekend in Nové Město, Czech Republic. An estimated 30,000 fans are expected to line the technically demanding track in the biathlon stadium of the Czech mountain bike Mecca. Can Nino Schurter (SUI) strike back after his 6th place in Albstadt? Can Mathias Flueckiger (SUI) and Kate Courtney (USA) repeat their success from the opening round? Can Mathieu van der Poel (NED) win his first XCO World Cup? How is the form of favorites Jolanda Neff (SUI) and Annika Langvad (DEN)?
The second round of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Cross-Country Mountain Bike World Cup live from Nové Město, Czech Republic on Friday, May 24 and Sunday, May 26 only on Red Bull TV!
FREERIDING IN XINJIANG - CHINA
A bunch of friends where traveling to the western part of China, to the Flaming Mountains. To do some freeriding and have fun together!!
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NINGHAI ENDURO - CHINA
SDG JR PRO KIT - REVIEW
PHOTO RECAP ENDURO - BANGLADESH
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Rutz and Maderegger Win in the Mud
It was only the second race of the EDC season, but it turned out to be one of the hardest. Despite the really extreme conditions, which forced the organizers to push the finals forward to Saturday instead of Sunday, Lea Rutz and Kevin Maderegger delivered impressive runs and took the titles in the Elite categories.
Kranjska Gora already hosted its fifth iXS European Donwhill Cup in a row this year and again more than 200 riders from 25 nations made their way to Slovenia for the second of the six EDC races in 2019. They were provided with all of Kranjska Gora’s familiar flair, breathtaking views and some high-class racing.
However, the weather forecast had been far from perfect right from the start and predicted rain for all three days paired with really low temperatures on Sunday. Everyone who is familiar with the track immediately knew that conditions like these would complicate things immensely. While the last preparations fortunately took place under more suitable conditions, the weather got worse and worse during the week so that the riders were already confronted with the full extent of what was waiting for them this weekend in Friday’s track walk.
Compared to 2018 there have been only a few smaller changes to the track with a new stone field. But after its complete makeover last year the stage was still set for an exciting and demanding race – especially under the current weather situation: the surface was slippery, the roots downright evil and most of the people involved probably had rather spent their weekend somewhere inside. But nonetheless the first training session was scheduled for Friday, so everyone was trying hard to adjust to the overall conditions and find themselves some fast but steady lines.
As the weather and the forecast for the next two days kept getting worse the organizers finally decided to push the race forward to Saturday, before it would start snowing and temperatures would get lower still. And since it is always ‘safety first’, it was the right – and the only – decision to be made. This left Saturday with a really packed schedule, starting with an early training session, immediately followed by the qualifications and the finals in the afternoon.
Saturday confronted the riders with cold and wet conditions, but with this schedule there was simply no time to complain. At least St. Peter seemed to be a little more sympathetic towards the riders and so it stopped raining at 8 am for the time being. After one last short training session the qualifications started, leaving Lea Rutz (SUI - iXS Gravity Union) and Matthias Hafner (GER - Bikepark Albstadt) as the fastest riders of the Elite categories.
After a short break it was already time for the finals, opened by the Masters category in which Frank Hedwig (GER - RAD-ART) delivered the best time of 3.20,282 minutes, followed by Tomás Brozik (CZE - TJ Dobrany) and Willi Lützeler (GER - Cube).
Kine Haugom (NOR - Drammen Cykleklubb), who had just arrived late the night before, dominated the U17 female category despite missing out on Friday’s training session. In the U17 male category Nuno Zuzarte Reis (POR - Commençal) set the fastest time with 3.20,432 minutes, which already brought him his second title after he succeeded in Maribor two weeks ago. Actually he can look back on several successful races during the last few years, especially in the Specialized Rookies Cup and the iXS International Rookies Championships – so this is obviously a name to remember. While Nicolas Baechler (SUI - Idirt Racing Team) finished in second, Robin Novotny (Ofbike Scott Team) completed the podium in third place. After this weekend it is safe to say that if you can cope with conditions like these, you don’t have to be afraid of other tracks in the future, so this weekend’s efforts really payed off especially for the youngest athletes!
In the Elite Women category Lea Rutz confirmed her result of the qualification run and won the race with a time of 4.05,850 and a more than clear 26-second gap towards second place Alessia Messiaggia (ITA - Team Zanolini Bike). Silja Fröhlich (GER - RC 50 Erlangen) finished in third place which is her first Elite podium – congratulations!
The U19 category delivered some real racing action: more than 30 riders fought for the title and with a track that got drier by the minute, the times got faster respectively. At the end of the day it was Onni Rainio (FIN - Saracen SportSource) who finished the 2 kilometers fastest, setting a time of 3.08,543 minutes that would even have landed him in third place on the Elite Men podium, while Hannes Lehmann (GER - MRC Saracen Racing Team) and Marko Niemiz (SLO -Sinter Brakes Team) completed the U19 podium in second and third place.
By the time the Superfinal were about to begin, it had started raining again and it got harder and harder to see amid the clouds especially on the upper section of the track. The Elite Men riders one after the other failed to reach the U19 best time, until Brage Vestavik (NOR - MS Mondraker) came close. Finally it was Kevin Maderegger who finished with a time of 3.04,926 minutes, 5 seconds faster than Vestavik and setting a new best time of the day.
In the meantime, the clouds seemed to get lower still, slowly but surely closing in on the finish line, but by then there were only six more riders to go. But it was not until the second but last one, that someone came close to Maderegger’s best time again. Constantin Ruetsch (SUI - iXS Gravity Union) finished in 3.06,642 minutes, placing himself between Maderegger and Vestavik. After that, all eyes were on Hafner, who had finished fastest in the qualifications but ended up in fourth place in the finals. So at the end of the day, Kevin Maderegger took the title, with Constantin Ruetsch in second and Brage Vestavik in third place.
Despite the bad weather, we will miss Kranjska Gora, but we are also looking forward to the next two stops of the iXS Downhill Cups on German ground that will take us to the Bike Festival in Willingen first, before we make our way to the iXS Dirt Masters Festival in Winterberg. The EDC won’t continue until the end of June, when we will meet again (in a hopefully sunnier setting) in Italy in Abetone.
The Replay and Highlights of the first Round of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2019 on Red Bull TV
5 Things We Have Learned from Maribor
What a start to the World Cup season! The Mercedes-Benz UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Maribor delivered high speeds, drama, plenty of action and some of the closest mountain bike racing ever seen. Here are some of the highlights of the first World Cup of 2019:
Weather, drama and a great track – Maribor delivers the goods
Nine years after the last World Cup race in Maribor, the immensely popular Slovenian venue played host to the first race of the 2019 World Cup season and what an opening round it was. The rider-favourite ‘Black Line’ challenged riders with relentless roots, a fearsome, long rock garden and most of all, incredibly high speeds. After a week of sunshine and warm temperatures, the weather forecast for the weekend looked gloomy and true to the forecast the heavens opened just in time for qualifications, turning the track into a slippery ice rink and providing a healthy dose of drama. The slick track claimed countless victims in qualification, most notably Greg Minnaar (RSA), who after a crash didn’t qualify for the first-time in 20 years, but by Sunday the Sun prevailed to everyone’s surprise and riders were greeted by a drying track and thousands of Slovenian fans.
Incredibly tight racing
Spurred on by the noise of the thousands of fans lining the drying track, the first World Cup of the year saw some of the tightest racing in world cup history. After a mediocre qualification run, Danny Hart (GBR) took to the track early and enjoyed a long stint on the hot seat and watched rider after rider come close, but just failing to beat his time. It wasn’t until 2018 UCI World Champion Loic Bruni (FRA) blasted out of the start gate that split times showed up green. Bruni eventually beat Hart by less than 0.5 seconds and nervously watched the last eight riders come down. In the end, in an absolute nail-biter of a final and one of the closest races to date, the Top 4 men were separated by less than one second and the Top 10 by a mere three seconds.
Seagrave and Atherton battle it out at the top, close fight for the podium
After Myriam Nicole’s (FRA) injury prior to the start of the season, many expected the race in Maribor to start with a battle between British riders Tahnée Seagrave and Rachel Atherton. In qualifications, it was however Tracey Hannah (AUS) who came out on top nearly 2.5 seconds ahead of Atherton in second and over four seconds ahead of Seagrave. On finals day though, the anticipated battle of the Brits was truly on with Atherton and Seagrave riding in a league of their own. In the end, Seagrave narrowly edged out Atherton to take the win and, for the first time, the leaders jersey. While Seagrave and Atherton may have lived up to expectations, the rest of field has however crept very noticeably closer, with Hannah in third only 2.6 seconds off the winning time and the Top 6 all within six seconds.
The young guns are on the charge
After years of dominance by veterans like Aaron Gwin (USA), Greg Minnaar or Rachel Atherton, Maribor saw a true surge of the next generation. In the Men’s Top 10, seven riders were 25 or younger, while the Women’s Top 6 saw only two riders older than 25. The unofficial award of ‘break-out ride of early 2019’ has to go to 21-year-old Charlie Harrison (USA) and second-year Elite rider Matt Walker (GBR) though. Both showed fantastic pace and finished in 4th and 5th place respectively. Will the charge of the young riders continue at the next round in Fort William or can the veterans strike back again?
Three wheel size options on the podium
The debate over which wheel size is faster has been raging on and off for several years. After most of the men’s field settled on 29ers by 2018, a rule-change by the UCI allowing different wheel-sizes on the same bike has thrown another option into the mix for 2019. Maribor was the first World Cup in which the new rule came into effect and, adding fuel to the wheel size debate straight away, Loic Bruni and Danny Hart took first and second place on bikes running 29-inch wheels in the front and 27.5 in the back. Third place however went to Troy Brosnan on all 27.5 and 4th and 5th finishers Harrison and Walker ran 29ers. Will more teams jump on a 29/27.5 combination throughout the season given the early success? Is there a ‘better’ wheel size or does it come down to personal preference? One thing is for sure, the heated debate will continue.
Missed the incredible action from Maribor? Fear not! You can re-watch the entire live-broadcast and all the highlights of the first stop of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup on-demand and anytime on Red Bull TV!
The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup kicks off tomorrow in Maribor - Slovenia
Watch it live on Red Bull TV
Schedule for April 28th:
Women's DH finals:
Japan / Seoul 19:30
Phillippens / Indonesia / China / Vietnam / Singapore 18:30
Men's DH finals:
Japan / Seoul 20:45
Phillippens / Indonesia / China / Vietnam / Singapore 19:45
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