5 Things We Learned at Maribor DH World Cup 2019

Apr 30, 2019
by Ed Spratt  
Vali Holl once again up to her winning ways in the Junior Women s race.

The first round of the World Cup in Maribor provided some classic racing, here are five things we noticed from the sidelines:

1. Some teams have plenty of work to do for round 2

Despite all the off season shenanigans, it was the riders who stayed put that did best at this race. In fact, only two riders in the top ten and five in the top twenty had made off season team changes. Trek's new team fared the best with Charlie Harrison on the podium and Reece Wilson enjoying his best start to a season ever with a 12th.

Whether it is a case of riders getting used to the bikes or more training being needed, you can guarantee the riders who signed new contracts in the winter will want to make more of an impact in a month's time in Fort William.
AG engaging Apache helicopter mode in the finish area.

2. Mixed wheel sizes made an instant impact

With plenty of rumours during the off season about the potential for frankenwheeled bikes, it was always going to be interesting to see how many teams plumped for it and how they would fare come race day.

Danny Hart had previously taken second place at the iXS cup the week before, so we knew they were quick, but with Loic Bruni and Danny Hart taking the top two spots they clearly work well. That's two EWS races and one World Cup for the mixed wheels now, keep an eye out for a few more riders turning up at Fort William with some frakenbikes of their own.

3. Maribor delivered the goods

After a nine-year hiatus from the World Cup calendar, Maribor proved why it has always been a rider favourite. The top four men came down within a second of each other and just three seconds separated the top ten, making this the tightest race in Maribor's World Cup history. Yes, Kovarik and Peat may have been split by just 0.01 in 2002 but the rest of the podium was spread over 3.4 seconds.

Even qualifying was packed with drama as it took a number of scalps including Phil Atwill, Wyn Masters, Kade Edwards, Angel Suarez and notably Greg Minnaar. Greg Minnaar is one of the most consistent riders that the sport has ever seen but in Maribor, he would fail to qualify for finals for the first time in 20 years.
What a day for Charlie Harrison and the new Trek Factory DH program.

It's interesting to take a look at the iXS the week before as it turned out to be a great primer for the World Cup. The top three men and two of the top three women ended up on the podium in the World Cup, will those who elected to skip it be kicking themselves now? We'll have a similar situation in Fort William with a British Natoinal on May 12, so expect a lot of top riders to turn out for some practice.

4. The women's field looks super strong this year

Yes the top three may have been predictable in the women's race but this was one of the tightest races in years. The top ten were spread over just 12.3 seconds and you have to go back to Lenzerheide 2017 for the last women's race that was so tight, and that's on a much less technical track.

Marine Cabirou was on track to go fastest in qualifying before a crash in the final sector and even in the final there were fastest splits for Cabirou and Nina Hoffmann. There's plenty of pace in the women's field and we certainly won't be surprised when they start challenging for higher spots on the podium.
Fist bumps.

5. Another wave of young guns rising

Not long ago, Danny Hart was seen as the wild young talent on the World Cup scene but yesterday he was the oldest rider on the podium at 27. We saw two new faces next to him in the form of Matt Walker and Charlie Harrison with top 20s for Adam Rojcek, Reece Wilson, Laurie Greenland and Amaury Pierron, who were all born 1996 or later.

This isn't unique to the men's field either. Marine Cabirou and Nina Hoffmann both came up through the Junior women's series and are already podium contenders before the age of 25. In the juniors, Thibault Daprela got the fastest qualifying time of anyone and then got a time that would have put him in the top 30 for elites despite racing on a much wetter track on race day. Finally there's Vali Holl who would have finished eighth in elites, again on a much muddier track.
Matt Walker monster trucking through the rocks to round out the podium in 5th.



136 Comments

  • 123 10
 The top 3 bikes in the last race of 2018 were all 27.5, including Loic's and Danny's. Yeah, but they must have won this race because of the new front wheel.
  • 25 2
 Actually they ate their "shreddies" for breakfast. High in protein and speed.Automatic w's
  • 38 0
 Just too early to make any conclusions based on one race. Especially when the guys at the top are Hart and Bruni, two guys that are capable of winning any race at any time. If it were some guys who came out of no where one mixed wheel bikes while everyone else was on 29ers then it might be mite of a surprise.
  • 87 2
 Are you trying to say that fast guys are fast?
  • 84 10
 Can some top racer please do real life trolling and race 27,5” front and 29” rear? Please!
  • 11 2
 @WAKIdesigns: You hear it here first, but maybe Atwill will race a 27f/29r hardtail in Leogang
  • 7 3
 @sino428: We can conclude that it's about the rider, not the bike.
  • 4 2
 I was running 29F, 27.5R and now switched back to 27.5 F and R. If I still raced I would go back to the frankenbike as it was definitely quicker through the rough.
  • 3 4
 @WAKIdesigns: cant. too steep headangle. pussies
  • 13 1
 @WAKIdesigns: A proper troll now would be 27.5 front and 26 rear...
  • 14 0
 I‘m still waiting for 29f and 26r.
  • 5 0
 @ChazzMichaelMichaels: you laugh, but...
  • 1 1
 Well, somehow none of them decided to run the 27.5 front wheel...
  • 5 0
 And Danny is running 25mm rims.........
  • 4 1
 @Davec85: so does Loic.
  • 6 2
 @FuzzyL: Brosnon did.
  • 2 9
flag brappjuice (Apr 30, 2019 at 14:49) (Below Threshold)
 @chriskneeland stop talking.
  • 5 1
 Mark my words, the ticket in the future will be 30F/27.5Rear.
  • 1 0
 @squarewheel: pffft I was doing this in 2013 on my demo
  • 1 0
 What are the chances of seeing Sam Hill using a 29er front wheel before the season is out? I bet you if he doesn't race it, he will test it.
  • 3 1
 @lognar: Do you ever think some bikes are just not that great but they sign a guy who can make anything with 2 wheels look fast?
  • 3 0
 @squarewheel: That is called a 69 er!
  • 4 0
 @coyotecycleworks: I think I remember Specialized trying to do that with the old Demo. Twice.
  • 1 0
 @ChazzMichaelMichaels: tried that actually out last with my Demo 8 2014er. felt too flat headangle in front... (have a 2° angleset on it btw)
  • 1 0
 Not statistically significant data for determining whether wheels size makes anything faster.
  • 4 0
 @lognar:
Don't bring logic into internet discussions..
  • 1 0
 @lognar: I want to upvote you but you're at 69 right now and I don't want to be the one to ruin that.
  • 1 0
 @Boschinator damn someone ruined it before i could see
  • 1 0
 @jaame: He's been testing 29ers. And I think he raced one in the local enduro event this past weekend.
  • 2 0
 @BigAlfonz: he even called them g@y not so long ago.
  • 1 0
 @FuzzyL: Hill and Gwin right?
  • 1 0
 @coyotecycleworks: Right, those are the two I meant. The Demo basically ruined the DH WC career of one and even managed to put a dent in that of the other. Fun bike to ride, though.
  • 1 0
 Well, “ruined” might be a bit too much, but personally I think, Hill could have been the greatest downhiller of all time - had he not been at Speci at the wrong time.
  • 1 0
 @FuzzyL: Yeah I think if Hill had gone to Giant (another DW link like the Sunday) he would have had a few more WC wins.
  • 2 0
 @jaame: already happened bro
  • 31 6
 6. Secret Bar Heights don't always equal a podium
  • 1 1
 ??
  • 4 0
 I see what you did there
  • 32 8
 @franxxy: John Hall, Gwin's mechanic, babbled about how the bar height for Gwin's race bike was a secret. It's moronic.
  • 16 34
flag bman33 (Apr 30, 2019 at 10:12) (Below Threshold)
 Multiple WC wins, one of the fastest DH riders around and one of the most respected mechanics prove your comment 'moronic'
  • 15 3
 @bman33: by all means it was not moronic. It was silly. Thus it could have been a joke. I am sure Ben didn’t want an exact number. He is smart. It would be moronic to treat it seriously, no matter the number.
  • 3 0
 @WAKIdesigns: for sure it was tongue-in-cheek or maybe an inside joke. That said, I bet half the numbers many of these race mechanics tell the media are slightly off just to throw things off a bit
  • 7 9
 @bman33: I happened to meet both gentlemen, spent 30mins in their pits and heard them answer questions of some of the fans including mine about the tyres. It was... funny Smile over 3 world cups I’ve been to I asked a few questions to pros and it was... funny... especially bewildered face silenty screaming “I don’t know, why are you asking me”, then saying something and the face going “I don’t kno what I just said, I hope you are happy with the answer I don’t remember, please let me gooo”. I asked one dude: why are Mavic keeping rims narrow? Panic on his face, b b b because tyres are not made for wide rims! Mavic and I are trying to figure out - panic - em the best combo. What happens to tyres on too wide rims? Panic, dilated pupils, knobs are sliding. Makes weird gestures. Like a boutique owner in East Europe visited by a person not speaking the language. Yes yes, airport yes, gou v levo, you left, yes, highway yes

They are all excellent at riding bikes and some are really good at answering question of their mechanics.
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: “The mechanics are best at the tech stuff and the riders are best at the riding stuff”, might have something to do with it ! I doubt many pro riders give a hoot about Mavic rim width !
  • 4 1
 @Matt115lamb: it was a Mavic sponsored rider in most of his kit saying Mavic so...
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: so should he know how many grams of sugar are in a can of red bull ! Most pro riders know as much tech stuff as you and me
  • 13 0
 @bman33: well 87% of numbers are made up on the spot
  • 3 5
 @Painhawk: John Hall takes things too seriously- its world cup dh not friggin NASA
  • 3 0
 @Painhawk: oh let me just say John Hall is a stud- he's just one serious mofo.
  • 1 0
 @Painhawk: funny, without even knowing l figured it had to be about Gwin.
  • 2 0
 @Matt115lamb: it was at the time when Mavic DH rim had 23mm internal width, compared to Flow Ex of Athertons at 25 , many more rims at 25 and the Crossmax STs were 21mm front and 19mm rear. So that was a rather legitimate question from someone he can ride a flat offcamber turn faster than me a berm.
  • 3 0
 @WAKIdesigns: expecting a top pro, who is expected to win on whatever bike he is paid to ride, to be a gear head, like yourself is like expecting a pro skater to understand the physics behind a kickflip.
  • 2 1
 @Rubberelli: Jesus, my intention with a simple question “what do you think of wide rims, you seem to be doing alright on narrow ones”
  • 2 1
 @WAKIdesigns: calm down lol
  • 15 1
 i love that this is a sport founded on fractions of second on the clock and largely people love all the tiny changes that teams make to save time getting down the hill...

...but don't you dare suggest that a bigger front wheel might be quicker!

#pickawheelsizeandyouknowtherest
  • 2 0
 Exactly
  • 12 1
 Pretty sure we would have had the same or similar turn out on the podium without the Franken wheels. I'm not against it by any means but if you can give yourself a slight edge on the competition even if it's a mental one doit
  • 6 0
 Seems like the case where A) these riders could be amazing on almost any high-end DH bike and B) the franken-wheeler might just the newest mental edge that these riders need to gain the confidence that allows them to ride and race like they do.

...or, it really is that amazing and we will all be claiming to reap the same benefits in a year or two on our trail and DH bikes.
  • 3 1
 I don’t think so. It was so close, every little thing helped.
  • 5 2
 @marseer: maybe it’s that all the guys on full 29er have handicap themselves and really 27.5” all round or frankenbike are both superior to full 29er*

*on the right course.
  • 1 0
 It definitely takes the right bike for a rider to do their very best.
  • 10 1
 In relation to number 5, it's looking like the old guard is slowing down. Gwinn had a "good" race which in the past normally means an automatic win, but without making any huge mistakes, he still didn't even end up on the podium. Haven't seen that from him ever honestly. Minnaar also didn't qualify for the first time ever, yes it was because a crash, but it's not a good sign.
  • 8 1
 In the case of Gwin, he may just have had a bad day; or maybe the writing was on the wall already at the end of last season, especially at Worlds. By the way, he has to win Worlds once, it would be outrageous if he didn't. As for Greg, I'd be super happy if he were able to win another race (or two) before a retirement that's inevitably in the not too distant future. Let's see how Fort William plays out for him.
  • 11 0
 Minaar also wasnt protected for the first time in a long time.
  • 3 0
 @fjm35: Agreed, I really want Gwin to be able to win a World Champs before he retires to really cement his legacy. It will be interesting to see how Minnaar does, he was still on the podium last year before getting injured and could go back to that or keep racing for a while with a few podiums few and far between like Gee.
  • 1 1
 @paulskibum: True! But that also goes to show that for 2 seasons in a row now (so far) he's having trouble staying healthy and making it to the podium.
  • 1 5
 @fjm35: He rides too soft and easy. Charlie Harrison, Hart, Bruni...you have to go hard or don't expect to win. No more relaxed smooth winning runs.
  • 3 0
 He was on the podium on his 27.5 but not on a 29 er ? Just wondering @tgent:
  • 2 0
 Sixth is not a bad day for an elite racer on new bike and new team. Most require a few races [sometimes longer] to become comfortable. You can tell, as neither the L or XL felt quite correct for him, and he was conservative from the beginning...opting out of the iXS, cutting the timing runs short etc. If anything, he did better than expected. I think Minnaar was just a fluke combined with not being protected.
  • 3 5
 @motard5: Gwin won lots of first races of the season.... new bikes for Bruni and Hart as well. I bet Gwin won't win another one. He's riding too conservative.
  • 3 0
 When Gwin went to YT he said the bike felt dialed from the very first ride. Now with Intense, he cant decide on a L or XL which means his bike is not dialed in yet. I wouldnt be surprised if Intense is making an in between size just for Gwin.
  • 7 0
 @ceegeegee: Yes, hasn't been on the podium since switching to 29 I believe, but he was also injured all of last year. The only race that I would say is a fair test is this one and he still got 6th on a brand new bike.

I'm not saying that Gwin or Minnaar are done and won't be winning anymore, I just think Gwin in particular is starting to show signs that he can't dominate like he used to. My bet is both will still win at least a couple more WC's.
  • 1 0
 @jaydawg69: There is likely a little difference being on a completely new bike, brand, team, etc than a rider simply being on a prototype from the brand/team he has been on for a few years. That's likely a case where he was part of the development and testing of that bike. All I know is that I wouldn't count Gwin out of anything after one race.
  • 2 0
 @jaydawg69: Easiest bet ever. 1K that Gwin will win again? Also, Bruni and Hart are on the same bike brands, same teams...big difference.
  • 2 0
 I think Gwin is just sensitive to bike fitting amd setup. When he moved to sepcialized he wasnt doing that great on the demo it had quite short chainstays. When they redid it with longer stays and fitted his bike better he did well. On YT he clicked with the bike rightaway , he didn't look great when he rode the new yt 29er. Maybe 29ers dont suit him . Or maybe its just a sizing issue and he cant find his zone. Looking at the reach on the large yt geo chart it seems closer to the xl on the intense. Why dont all mtb have 1.5 headsets so you can fine tune the fit using reach adjust headsets like the v10 has. Would be nive to have a changeable backend too, I speculate on 2020 dh bikes will have changeable rear dropouts to switch from. 27.5 to 29. Anyway i like the idea of frankenbikes on technical tracks. I think gwin will win in fort william next week. He has been up by big margins in the past and had bad luck. This year i think he will get it right.
  • 1 0
 @ronan: Most bikes now at least longer travel bikes should have adjustable stays. It was common a few years ago and just makes sense, manufactures have gone after shortest possible stays and clean looks. And to arse with chainstay length per size, put adjustable stays across the range and let the rider decide
  • 1 0
 Don't count out Gwin just yet. Maribor's track had a lot of different lines for pretty much the whole length. He said it himself that he probably chose couple of lines because they felt fast when in reality were slower. Some parts of the track deteriorated faster, some slower then expected. I'm sure there was a bit of luck involved for all the riders in the line choices.
  • 6 1
 With regard to item #1: For what it's worth, all four riders on TFR have raced Treks in prior seasons. Given, this program is entirely new; but everyone is familiar with the equipment.
  • 6 2
 Yeah...but...with all the hate Paul Aston heaped on the Session- kind of vindicated now isn't it? Maybe not quite- but it proves PA was not as great as many liked to believe.
  • 8 3
 "frakenbikes"...two different wheel sizes isn't new, why y'all still trying to make it a thing?
  • 6 4
 Because if it sticks, I betcha 2021 product lines will include it from the factory. Why sell bikes in just sooo outdated 650b and asslicking 29er when you can literally reach into parts bin, mix and match, call it a new thing and sell it in numbers as the latest trend that will for sure make you go faster? Power of marketing, same as I saw guy in my local bikeshop trying to push a sale of a 29er on 160cm tall/short guy using words like "nimble, maneuverable"...
  • 19 1
 Marketing is a key some is BS, some is true. However, top two podiums (the winner a massive 29" skeptic) on the mix wheel among a field of super fast guys. In addition, at that level, micro improvements do actually work when your comp is as good as you. The top five was within 1.5 seconds and top ten was almost as tight. Could anyone win on any bike? Sure. That said, if the mix wheel, or even 29, was a hindrance, their results would suffer.
Ride what you want, Rock and Fox and Maxxis have 26", 27.5" and 29" in their current brand new 2019 inventory right now as well as several rim manufactures. Racing teams racing almost anything have always evolved and played with different approaches. Enjoy the super tight racing and near free world class coverage. Absolutely nothing you saw Sunday prevents you from riding and enjoying whatever bikes you have in your shed right now any less. The bitching and whining on this site is starting to sound like a political site. It's comical almost. I will await my downvotes
  • 3 5
 @bman33: Now if only frame manufacturers still made 26" and 27.5" frames to go with those forks and wheels.
  • 5 0
 @chriskneeland: Numerous 27.5 models out there right now, brand new. I just bought a new 27.5 DH frame and a new 27.5 trail bike last year. 26" is mostly DJ and kids bikes. However, unless you are riding an ancient bike, finding forks, wheels, tires ,bearings, etc. is pretty quick to find parts needed to keep them rolling. In addition...tons of smoking deals on 26" out there. Shit changes.....sometime for better, sometimes no. I have ridden MTB since 1994 (BMX from the early 80's till recently). Bikes are light years better than they ever have been. I ride 27.5 and will be for the foreseeable future so I am not a 29" only guy. Slope style and DJ, 26" is still out there for a reason....
  • 4 2
 @bman33: But imagine how amazing a 26" bike like a Session Park, Carbon Operator, Tues, or a Supreme V3 would be with modern reach numbers.
  • 2 0
 @chriskneeland: Giant makes the Trance Jr. and it comes stock, totally designed, around 26” wheels. You should check it out. Depending how tall you are, it could fit you until you’re 14 or 15 years old. Just imagine all the holes you could get stuck in on that thing!
  • 3 0
 @chriskneeland:
The good thing is you can put 26 inch wheels in 27,5 forks and frames. I see no problem. Geo tweeks can be done with offset headset and bushings. Switching metric and non metric shocks to adjust the travel and ride hight. There are even offset bb's to shorten or lengthen chainstays and adjusting bb hight. So much is possible is you really want it
  • 4 2
 @emptybox: The drop between a 27.5 and 26 is 20mm. No offset or flip chips is going to make that up.
  • 4 1
 @chriskneeland: My 27.5 DH smokes every 26 DH I ever owed. Just as playful zero restrictions compared to my 26" DH bikes. I have a 26" if I want to ride jumps near me. I've ridden 29. Not a huge fan. But nothing about 27.5 is a negative over 26
  • 1 0
 @bman33: My 26" Operator is the most nimble DH bike I've ever ridden. I can't imagine finding another bike that handles like this in a bigger wheel size. Hopefully I'll have the same luck when I do inevitably size up to 27.5.
  • 5 0
 its literally what dirt bikes have been doing for decades
  • 4 0
 bring back the 24/26 BigHit!!!!!!
  • 2 0
 @chriskneeland: The drop between 27" and 26" is actually only about 13mm and if you're pumping up your 26" tires harder for freeriding it'll be even less. Stiffer suspension too and you'll be sitting at the same height as a soft 27" setup. I bet this rides alright: www.instagram.com/p/Bu1fvmulMg5
  • 2 0
 @dannyboybiker: did the 26" wheel thing on my 27 5 HT. It works great esp on a HT. BB is at 320mm. Almost never get pedal strikes. Such a fun descender.
  • 6 0
 I bet Amaury Pierron drinks Perrier
  • 6 2
 Probably ought to wait a few races to draw any conclusions on the mixed wheel sizes.
  • 4 0
 Calling it now, there is going to be a new wheel size in between 27 & 29”
  • 2 1
 28.25 ftw!!!!!
  • 7 0
 @SeanC1: dont you mean 27.99?
  • 2 1
 @zyoungson:
27.5 is Enduro
27.99 is OverMountain
28.25 is DownMountain.

Maybe ask Richard Cunningham, he's usually the one thats the most current on these riding terms.
  • 4 0
 Love to see so many young riders!!
  • 4 0
 I’m I the only one that thinks Gwin looks slower on the 29 ???
  • 1 0
 He looks rapid on a 27” maybe the 29 is less suited to his style?
  • 1 0
 the bigger wheels do rotate slightly slower
  • 2 0
 @zyoungson: @zyoungson: I'm a fan, but something's up. He does appear slower (and times show it to be true). He's on a new bike, which despite all his praise for to the press will take some adjustment. Still it was very evident last year too -- the 29 Tues didn't do him any favors and he seemed a different rider to his former self trying to come back from injury.

He stated a preference for 29" trail bikes, and his style, if anything, is just muscle straight through everything, so one would think the 29 would be MORE suited to his style???
  • 1 0
 @Climbtech: The thing is he is strong enough to ride straight lines in a 27”, so can make use of the smaller wheels in other areas?
  • 4 2
 You forgot to mention that those Atherton custom bikes the internet was raving about sure didn't seem to make much of a difference [zips up fire suit now]
  • 3 0
 Gwin and Rachel Atherton made off season changes.
  • 7 4
 The more I read these comments the more i hate mtbing...
  • 6 1
 sell your bike
  • 1 2
 It's only 1 win on a 29/27.5 bike in 2019 and everyone is saying it's the fastest. But if you look back, every single win was on a 26 inch bike between 1999 and 2009. 26 is the most proven wheel size in terms of wins....wonder if we should jump back on that band wagon instead?
  • 2 0
 Frankenbikes should persuade ca 50% of the 29er haters init
  • 1 0
 My mate Randy used a 700c rear and 24" front smoked this track with a sub 3min run but his bar height was 8" stack :-)
  • 1 0
 Question, can anyone help me out on a Trek session 9.9_27.5 can you be able to use a front 29 on the front.
  • 1 0
 Is nobody talking about the yeti seen flying down the trail with a set of 40s up front?
  • 2 0
 coils win medals
  • 1 0
 WELL, I got a new rear brake in the mail today.
  • 1 0
 Why is it called "Frankenbike"? I am from Franken in Bavaria
  • 1 1
 Let’s see what Pinkbike promotes now ? Line my pockets $
  • 1 1
 24 rear, 29er front...looks like a winner! Can you say moto!
  • 1 0
 The first foes mixer .
  • 1 1
 6. Timed training results matter.
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