1. We're in one of the most competitive eras of downhill
With five winners in six races in the Elite Men's field and four in the women's field, we're in one of the most competitive eras in downhill racing history. You have to go all the way back to the Golden Age of 2004 to find more individual elite downhill World Cup winners in a season when there were victories for Chausson, Moseley, Saner, Jonnier, Gros, Minnaar, Peat, Gee Atherton, Vasquez and Barel in a six-round series.
As I've adequately demonstrated in my woeful Pinkbike Predictions articles this year
(I really do try and get them right, I promise), this season has been one of the hardest to call in recent years with established French fliers facing challenges from up-and-coming hotshots and resurgent veterans throughout the year in both series. Snowshoe perfectly demonstrated this with two riders who struggled early in the season and were all but written off this time a fortnight ago coming from nowhere to take the title. It's exciting, it's brilliant and downhill is in the healthiest state it has been for years.2. World Cup DH isn't your average testing grounds
From Santa Cruz frames
to Schwalbe ProCore
, sometimes the World Cups throw up some very high-profile failures. These past few weeks, it has been Enve's turn.
It definitely doesn't look great for a brand to see a rider's title chance explode because of failure in its product, but judging a brand on individual failures at World Cups isn’t reasonable - being reborn as Amaury Pierron’s bike would be reincarnation hell. Between tire casings, tire pressure, wheel build quality, spoke tension, terrain, line choice, etc, the stack up of factors makes the blame game near futile. But we’re not a reasonable bunch, and after several failures in a row, a narrative starts being built.
Enve has built its carbon wheel business on hard mode. Made in USA. Stratospheric prices. A polarized fanbase that can’t decide if their wheels are too stiff or not stiff enough, high profile test failures
but at the same time, in the past decade they’ve earned 3 world championships, an elite men’s DH overall win, and podiumed at 79% of all the DH races they’ve entered. Not insignificant.
It costs a lot of money to go racing. Putting your equipment under the best riders in the world isn’t cheap. We hope Enve and brands like them don’t retreat from World Cup DH racing for fear of bad publicity. It’s already tempting enough for brands to buy endless streams of paid-for “reviews” from YouTube influencers. Whether it’s Rampage or racing, our sport delivers untold punishment to equipment, and every brand that puts their hat in the ring deserves respect. 3. Snowshoe holds some magic
It's apparently good luck to hold an acorn in your pocket in West Virginia, but Loic Bruni and Vali Holl must have been hoarding them like squirrels the way the results filtered out last weekend. Snowshoe has only twice hosted the World Cup circus, but both times we've been treated to some blockbuster racing with unpredictable results and intense finales. It's tempting to say there's magic in the air in West Virginia but, like most things supernatural, there's probably a more rational explanation lurking beneath the surface.
To start with, Snowshoe has hosted the season finale both times - the culmination of a year-long campaign is always going to reach a crescendo of drama that has been simmering through the year. Secondly, North American races are a rare thing at the moment and bring with them a host of uncommon challenges for racers - smaller pits, different time zones and new routines and food. The track is also a bit flatter than others on the circuit and being physical, precision and holding speed are more important than anywhere else. Different racers work best in different conditions, so it's no surprise that the results get shaken up whenever we come to this incredible venue.4. One of Canada's most successful race weeks
Canada may be the modern home of mountain biking, but that has rarely translated into downhill domination. Of course, there have been stand-out moments - Stevie Smith's race and series wins and Miranda Miller's World Championships are the obvious ones from recent years - but across both men's categories in Snowshoe, riders showed that the future of downhill could involve an awful lot of maple leaves.
Two Canadian men have never stood on the same Elite World Cup podium before, but that all changed on Wednesday when Mark Wallace and Finn Iles finished fourth and fifth following Finn's first place qualifier. Plus in the juniors, we saw a new wave of talent coming through. Jackson Goldstone rounded off his stellar debut season by claiming the overall at a canter and then Commencal Muc Off's Tristan Lemire picked up his first top 3 as he starts to find his feet at the highest level.