It has been a night out for some of the riders getting free tickets to a big music festival taking place in a walking distance from the castle. But even staying at the hotel could have meant a rough night replaying the gnarly course of Bratislava City Downhill in their heads. The track walk that took place the day before raised second thoughts for many riders and with just a couple of hours to get a few practice laps in, tensions were running high up on the high start ramp in the middle of a castle perched above the capital of Slovakia. Big names from nearly every gravity discipline took on the short course running down the castle hill, through the narrow streets littered with uneven sets of stairs and wooden obstacles requiring a bit of bike handling finesse. The riders that took the top steps in the end came as a bit of surprise. But let’s not ruin the surprise...
This tiny reminder appeared on the drop overnight just to make sure everybody’s memory still served right. However, by the time you see this sign clearly enough, there won’t be much to do to avoid the inevitable – trying to hit the transition as precisely as possible and avoid feeling the orange pads too intimately.
Matti only brought his enduro bike – the bike he dons lycra on regularly, as he pointed out over a grin. He didn’t feel 100% confident on the smaller bike and as a result, double-checked the most difficult obstacles. Matti played it safe on this lip sending the riders into a massive triple set of stairs by taking an inside line. But then again, so did almost half of the start field.
Tracey Hannah wasn’t sure if she would ride on race day, but after a couple words with Filip, the course was taped extra wide for her to bypass the hardest of obstacles. She took her time on the smaller jumps as well, but after a couple of practice laps, she kept up with the big boys like the tough girl she is.
Fabien Cousinié aero tucks on the launch ramp for his second practice run, just minutes before disaster struck and his trip to the hospital. The day was over for the handsome Frenchman, but luckily he was ok."Second run of the morning, I was trying to jump a couple of stairs together, and I went over the bars. I think nothing’s broken, but I need to check the ligaments in my ankle. It was a bit overexcited early morning riding."
– Fabien Cousinié
| The fourcross legend Michal Prokop whipped out his 6 inch 29er yesterday, but today he stood on top of the start ramp on his full suspension fourcross bike. After a couple of practice runs he packed all his gear and decided to call it a day.|
| Another Czech fourcrosser, Kamil Tatarkovic, decided not to ride either. The old buddies chatted sitting on the castle walls as the action unfolded beneath them.|
The first practice run was enough to fill the space in front of the mechanics‘ tent full of unrideable machines.
| Snapped chains, smashed chainrings, kinked wheels, missing spokes. The bikes saw it all during the practice runs.|
| Austin Warren was just one of many who kept the guys from Suspension Clinic busy truing wheels more than once during the morning.|
| Tomas Slavik kept referring to his 4-inch full suspension bike he brought to the venue as a jackhammer, making jokes, that if that feels like too much travel, he also has his hardtail bike on duty. Fate had caught up with him however, as he snapped the linkages clean in two during one of the first practice runs and had to resort to the unsprung hardtail. On which he has won the qualifying...|
| Doing a nose wheelie was one of the ways of tackling the wallride, and Martin Knapec, rising Slovak World Cup hope, showed proficiency in this technique every ride.|
| Higher, lower, barely tagging, or trying to push the wallride through the castle wall. The timber structures had their fair share of abuse through the day, but they all held up flawlessly.|
Racing in a true privateer fashion was Gergö Palla, a young Hungarian ripper on an Ironhorse Sunday with a beater build. Launching the stairs a bit too far to flat sent him tumbling down. Luckily, he got up, and so did his bike after some TLC from the mechanics.
| The riders tried out heaps of lines doubling alternative sets of steps. Michal Marosi launches into a steep corner in the tight castle stairs section.|
| Brendan Fairclough, an avid off-season dirtjumper, showing flawless form on the sketchy wallride, that would be better suited in a slopestyle course than on a high-speed downhill track.|
| Filip caused quite a stir wearing two rotating cameras on his head in the urban races earlier this year, and Bratislava was no different. The video from the event will be following shortly.|
| Michal Marosi reflecting (geddit?) on the massive freeriding experience he has gathered over the years. Seeing him pull a perfectly flat table on the drop in his final run, this moment of reminiscence has probably paid off.|
| The turn for the wallride after the master drop called for strong brakes and good flat cornering skills. Local rider Lukas Ucen rails the beaten cobblestones hard.|
| Brendan mashing the pedals hard hitting the speed trap and heading for the 40-foot gap.|
| The crowd is always drawn to the biggest obstacles and the 13-foot drop to a steep landing was no exception. Walker sends it.|
Trying to capture a shot without any GoPro’s on a stick or smartphones being waved mid-air proved to be a challenge for all the photographers with cameras bigger than the size of their palm. And since Instagram added a video option recently, all future urban downhill coverage is doomed.
The course designer and event organiser Filip Polc rode "only“ to fifth place. Making sure everything ran smoothly during the course of the two days was much higher on the agenda.
| The rather pointless huck to flat right before the finish line saw many wheels lose a few of their spokes in the practice runs, but squeezing past it with bar-ends brushing against the painted walls proved to be an even bigger challenge. All the fastest guys chose this line anyways.|
Ed Masters, a Kiwi privateer, Wyn Masters‘ brother, a quite rapidly rising star on the World Cup circuit, and the Batman in his off-season. Donning an open black leather jacket for his race runs, riding a black Zerode G2, and looking dangerously fast.
| Matt Walker travels through Europe along with other New Zealanders Ed Masters and Tom Matthews in a rusty old beat up van, but here he demonstrates the steepness of the wallride kicker that sent many of the riders towards the planks in all kinds of awkward angles.|
| It takes mad skills to ride down urban downhill courses, and even madder ones to concentrate on a photorealistic painting while riders thunder by jumping into the stairs thirty miles an hour. This bearded chap seemed to have the madder set of skill covered.|
| Austin Warren, young ripper from the US, pumping the transition in a true BMX fashion he is known for, losing his urban downhill virginity.|
Bernard Kerr of United Kingdom is showing great form on 2013’s WC races and this race was no exception. Third place for the young UK lad and just over a second behind Marcelo after railing every corner just like this off-camber one on the main terrace of the castle.
Equality matters – Ed Masters making use of the Holocaust Memorial wall and sending out a powerful message. Intentionally.
| The riders had an option of scrubbing the jump and landing in the stairs right after the take-off, or going big and sending it into the second set. Bernard Kerr went for the latter in his race run that brought him third place with his front tyre exploding spectacularly right on the finish line.|
Marcelo, third rider to the last down the track, staying low on the 40-foot wooden gap in the speed section that saw many of the riders push out massive whips for the crowd. He smashed everyone’s time by a good measure, but there were still two riders waiting their turn in the courtyard.Marcelo's Helmet Cam Footage
| The prize money was high enough to make the hot seat shiver with anxiety as the last man on top, Tomas Slavik, sprinted towards the first split.|
| The top qualifier riding the only hardtail crossed the finish line in fourth after almost a big mistake in the first corner. The victory was Marcelo's to keep.|
| Ladies and gentlemen, your champions. Left to right: Tomas Slavik, Matt Walker, Marcelo Gutierrez, Bernard Kerr and Filip Polc|
"So excited. I knew it was gonna be hard, especially since it’s a one minute race. I was looking for the top spot, but I also knew it was a big risk because it’s the middle of the season. But beating all those guys with some good names there, I am very excited and looking forward to the urban world series.“ – Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas, 1st place
So happy. Me and the boys just came here for a bit of a trip, for it to be a really good experience. You see all these urban races and it is definitely something you wanna give a go. So we came here, gave it a go, and had a pretty good weekend so far. And it’s only gonna get better. And it’s only gonna get better. The prizemoney is gonna help so much, cause us three bought a van for a thousand pounds and that’s our home for the next three months and we’re on a pretty shoestring budget, so it’s gonna help a long way and get us where we wanna be, I guess." – Matt Walker, 2nd place
"Pretty happy, I braked a little bit too much in the last stairs, so I lost my time there, but such a fun event, such a sick day, and I loved everything, love to do it again. I would like to thank my sponsors – Pivot Cycles, Race Face, WTB, Schwalbe, Spank, Replay, X-Fusion and One Industries. Thanks so much, because without them, none of us could be here. Sponsors make it happen!“ – Bernard Kerr, 3rd place
"It was a different kind of pressure on the start, nothing I am used to. I did a big mistake in the very first corner where I slipped and lost it all. I pushed as hard as I could afterwards, I would say I made up for a lot of that lost time, but the boys pushed too, and I missed the box just by a few hundreths of a second. So on one hand, I am a bit disappointed after winning the qualifying, but on the other hand, riding a hardtail, even the fourth place is an incredible achievement."- Tomas Slavik, 4th place
"I was looking forward to racing in my home country, and I was also looking forward to winning it as well. But this is how it all went down today, and we’ll see how it plays out next time. I hope everybody and even more of you will come next year too, and we’ll build even bigger jumps, so it’s more fun!“- Filip Polc, 5th place, event organiser
The sun sets down over the course of Bratislava City Downhill and it’s time for the obstacles and misspelled staff passes to retire. Hopefully only for a year. See you in 2014! But not just in Slovakia, but during a whole world-wide series of urban downhill races.
Oh, and that top tube sticker of Marcelo you read about in the track walk article? Here’s what he had to say about it... "It’s my pre-start routine. It’s the last five minutes before my start time, so I know what to do. From zero to two, I do something, then from two to three I do something else – I won’t tell you what, though. The last minutes before the race I smile and I say to me: 'Hey, you gonna have a good time, pin it, enjoy it, have fun!' And then boom, things happen!“
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