This weekend marks the start of the UCI downhill racing season, kicking off in snowy Lourdes, France. The opening weekend of the season provides great entertainment, and a great opportunity for companies to show off their latest tech.
Downhill racing isn’t complicated, and maybe that’s why we all love it; it’s all about who can get from the top of the mountain to the bottom the fastest, but there’s much more to a race weekend than just bombing down a trail. Every world cup follows the same schedule:
- Thursday – Track walk
- Friday – Practice
- Saturday – Qualifying
- Sunday – Race day
During the track walk, riders get an idea of the features on the course, and will start to formulate their lines. Then during practice the riders will learn what works and what doesn’t, through trial and error, with many riders not even making it to the next stage.
Qualifying occurs on the Saturday of a race weekend, and determines firstly who actually gets to race in the finals, and then the order of the of racers in the final. Riders will complete their run in reverse qualifying order, meaning that the race is normally won by the last riders. However, in 2015 Aaron Gwin won after not even qualifying, so starting position definitely isn’t everything. In both qualifiers and the finals, racers only get one shot, so there’s no room for error.
This year, there are a number of riders who could take out the top spot in both the male and female categories, but riders to watch in both categories are:
Female – Rachel Atherton, Tahnee Seagrave, and Tracey Hannah
Male – Aaron Gwin, Gee Atherton, and Danny Hart
There’s so much more to a race weekend than just the race, with the thousands of people that gather providing companies with a perfect opportunity to release new products, and Lourdes 2017 is no exception. This year a number of new bikes and components were released, but the one that everyone is talking about is the new Santa Cruz 29er V10. The first modern version of a downhill 29er, this bike represents a new wave of downhill bikes. Easily the most hated wheel size of downhill riders, the bike and its riders are going to have to ride exceptionally well to sell the concept to other riders; that said, Lourdes is the ultimate proving ground.
You can watch all the action live from tomorrow, at Redbull’s website.