Double Headers Should Stay but Tweaks are Needed Thibaut Daprela Makes the Best Start Ever for a Graduating Junior
The double header weekend in Maribor was a great pilot and kudos should go to the UCI for pulling it together in a short space of time under difficult circumstances. The contrasting conditions gave us two fascinating races and the tape changes were smart enough to vary up the racing between the broadcasts. It makes sense for the fans, the TV and the teams to pack in more racing to a season and we hope it's something that continues in the future.
As with anything like this though, there were some teething issues. Most notably number plates weren't changed between races, which meant the series leaders weren't given the opportunity to strap their well-earned number 1s to their bikes. The prize money was also split between the two races. Racers don't earn their keep from prize money but they should be rewarded for winning a World Cup in a double-header just the same as any other.
Thibaut Daprela burst into the elite ranks with aplomb in Maribor. As the latest of Nico Vouilloz's Nice-based prodigies, he made short work of the field in his time as a junior and has now carried over that pace to the elites.
With a third-placed finish on Friday, he produced the best-ever result from a junior rider graduating up to elites for their first race since the inception of the junior category in 2013. It's also the joint best result of a first-year elite in that time too, tied with Loris Vergier who also got a third in Windham in 2015. However, it took Vergier six races to reach that level whereas Daprela did it on his elite debut.
Daprela proved his 11th place at World Champs the week before was no fluke and he backed it up with a second-place qualifier and another top ten for the second race on Sunday. He now sits third in the overall rankings and will be hoping for more of the same in Lousa.The Commencal Supreme is the Bike to Beat in Wet Conditions
The Supreme has been one of the most decorated bikes in the history of downhill (you can read a history of its success here
) and that lineage is still being carried on today. After winning half of the available medals at the downhill World Championships through Balanche, Nicole, Hrastnik, Thirion, Chappaz and Slack, the Supreme continued to collect podiums in Maribor. There weren't any wins this time but the bike achieved success across all the categories including trips to the podiums for Ella Erickson, Myriam Nicole, Monika Hrastnik, Dan Slack, Remi Thirion and Thibaut Daprela on Friday's wet race.
The V10 came back strong in race 2 with both Hoffmann and Vergier piloting it to victory and there were also strong results for Greg Minnaar and Luca Shaw as the Syndicate won the best team award. Of course, the bike is just one part of the puzzle but it's clear that the riders on the Supremes were flying in the stickest of conditions.Brook MacDonald's Awesome Recovery Continues and Remi Thirion is Back
Brook MacDonald's astonishing recovery continued in Maribor as he continues to re-find his feet at World Cup speeds. Brook's 63rd place finish in Leogang was a triumph in itself but in Maribor, he recorded a 39th place in race 1 despite a crash on the long right-hander then went even better with a 23rd place finish in race 2. Brook has shown incredible force of will to get himself back to his point and we can only see him continuing to improve as his recovery goes on.
It was also great to see Remi Thirion back at the sharp end of things. Thirion broke his back at Leogang on a jump that was later reshaped as it was deemed unsafe. He returned to racing at the start of 2018 and has been slowly building form ever since. He's a wet weather master and his second place on Friday was his second-best ever result in World Cups. It also backed up his bronze medal picked up in similar conditions in Leogang. It's great to see this incredibly skilled rider back near the top after a horrific injury.Bike Noises in the Live Feed Sounded Great
Crowds are a huge part of World Cup racing and it hasn't been quite the same without them. The finish area celebrations have been muted without the roaring crowds and the tracks seem eerily silent as the riders careen through them in search of the fastest time.
The one benefit we do get from the lack of a crowd is that the microphones are able to pick up the sounds of the bikes. We certainly wouldn't trade in the crowd noises but hearing the patter-patter-patter of a perfectly set up downhill bike as it glides over a bed of roots is an unexpected but nice change. We're not sure if Red Bull has increased its sound quality on the broadcast or there was just a lot less ambient noise but it's something we'd love to hear more of in the future.