The first round of the iXS European Cup is over and with the World Cup just days away at the same venue here are five things we noticed from the sidelines.1. The Brits are back
If you turn back the clock a few years you could have almost guaranteed there would be multiple British riders in the top 10 or even on the podium, but in more recent years Britain has fallen behind in the men's field. In Maribor, three of the top five were British with Danny Hart and Matt Walker taking a 1-2 and Phil Atwill completing the podium in fifth. With some of the other big GB names only just arriving in Slovenia, we could see a similar set of results this weekend and in the Elite Women, we won't be surprised if Tahnee Seagrave and Rachel Atherton continue their domination of women's downhill.
The French may have dominated the 2018 season but it looks like they might have some competition in 2019.2. Is 27.5 dead?
3. Vali Holl and Thibaut Daprela already beating Elite riders
None of the top five men in Maribor last weekend were running two 27.5" wheels. Matt Walker won the race running at least a 29" front wheel, and teammate Danny Hart is confirmed to be running mixed wheel sizes. Charlie Harrison, Dakotah Norton and Phil Atwill were all on 29" wheels front and rear. This a trend that we expect to continue across the rest of the season, with riders either going full 29er or using 27.5/29 frankenwheelers. Interestingly Rachel Atherton has made the switch to a 29er bike this season and we will be watching to see if the other women follow or opt for the mixed wheel size.
4. The new generation is here
There was some chatter after Vali "only" topped qualifying by a few seconds, but with an 11-second gap to second place in her race run, it is clear that she has not lost any speed over the winter. Not only did she dominate the Junior field but she laid down a time that would have placed her second in the Elite Women's race only two seconds off the top spot. In the Junior men's race, Commencal Vallnord rider Thibaut Daprela came across the line with a 3:14.500 which would have placed him ninth in the elite. It looks like the Elite riders will have plenty to worry about when Vali and Thibaut move up from Juniors.
5. Tactical Moves
Although some of the older big names were not in attendance for the first round of the iXS European Cup, no one inside of the top 10 was born before 1990. The average age of the ten fastest men in Maribor was 25 years old. Even inside the top 20 racers, there were only four born before 1990: Mick Hannah, Wyn Masters, Sam Blenkinsop and Gee Atherton. We already saw last year the rise of the young talent with wins from Amaury Pierron, Loris Vergier and Luca Shaw and it looks like this is set to continue into 2019.
6. Strong Form
With their full team setups already at Maribor and both the among the top riders in their fields, it was strange not seeing Rachel Atherton or Gwin in the finals at Maribor. Rachel seems to have decided to stay in Wales and get some final prep done before joining her brother and the rest of the team in Slovenia this week. Gwin, however, was flying in practice
and look like he was definitely ready to go but then didn't take part in qualifying or the finals. Gwin rarely goes at race pace unless he has to and clearly felt that he was better resting and avoiding any risk of injury than fighting for the win.
The first big international race of the year always brings out surprising results when you get to see how is coming into the season strong. Matt Walker just beat out teammate Danny Hart last weekend by 0.086 seconds repeating the same feat from the first round of the British Nationals the week before. Dakotah Norton and Phil Atwill both struggled with injury last season but podium results from them here is a great indicator that they are back up to speed.
Nina Hoffmann was also looking strong in the Elite Women's race taking second place just under four seconds back and putting almost a second into Monika Hrastnik's third-place finish. Gee Atherton had a great end to 2018 with a podium in La Bresse but he couldn't put it together in Maribor and had a disappointing 18th finish. He will definitely be looking to improve this in the World Cup as he not only has to prove he is quick but also the new bike is World Cup worthy.
• Final Results: European DH Cup - Round 1 Maribor
• Qualifying Results: European DH Cup - Round 1 Maribor
• Video: Course Preview with Tahnee Seagrave & Vali Holl - European DH Cup Round 1 Maribor
• Video: Highlights from the European DH Cup - Round 1 Maribor