Dramatic Racing Finales
World Cup champions come from behind to take glory
With October now in full swing, it's time to bid a fond farewell to the 2021 race season. After COVID wrought havoc on the 2020 season, we returned to somewhat normality with crowds lining the courses and race calendars almost back to their full length. One other thing that picked up right where 2019 left off is exciting season finales in Snowshoe, where we saw the two favourites for the title flounder while long shots took their chances and ended up with the titles.
For the women, it was Vali Holl who finally found her full form at the Elite level and delivered a brace of wins that had been coming all year. While in the men's field Loic Bruni, a racer you can never count out, spent the first few races trying to manage a broken heel but scrapped his way to enough points to be able to strike as others faltered ahead of him
Snowshoe delivered a week of pure drama and, as the controversial finale of the EWS proved,
downhill definitely doesn't have a monopoly on exciting racing action.
Motorized machines and electric suspension on pro bikes
On top of this, Eurobike and the IAA Mobility Show came with their usual bounty of battery powered bikes
at the start of the month.
Depending on your perspective, the wave of electronics on bikes could be a good thing or a bad thing but for a glimpse into the future, a PB editor recently told me they went on a bike ride with six batteries on their bike. I'll leave it up to you to guess what each one was for...
Honouring Stevie Smith
Chainsaw's legacy lives on
More than five years on from his passing
, the mountain bike community has proven once again that Stevie Smith's memory and legacy will endure with the sport.
At the start of the month, at the Steve Smith Memorial DH Race, Tianna Smith, Stevie's mother, was surprised with a Bowhead Adaptive bike
that will allow her to explore the trails around the island, and even ride Prevost, where she had shuttled Stevie countless times.
Then Anthill Films announced Long Live Chainsaw
, a documentary that tells "the incredible true story of the meteoric rise, untimely death and long-lasting legacy of Canadian downhill mountain bike legend." The trailer is due to drop in October with the World Premiere screening on November 5 in Stevie's hometown of Nanaimo, British Columbia. There won't be a dry eye in the house...
High profile failures on the race track and in our test
Who would have thought that a 3 foot ramp could wreak so much havoc? The Huck to Flat test was never meant to be a bike breaker but we've now had two (three if you count Jason's ankles) serious failures thanks to our bro-science shenanigans. This Field Test, it was the turn of a Praxis crank mounted on the Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL
. Praxis said there had been very few of the cranks warrantied and that "Either during prior ride testing of the Kenevo SL there was some type of rock-strike or blunt hit that created an internal fracture that didn't show itself until your test... or two, there was some type of unfortunate manufacturing flaw that showed itself at your test."
That crank wasn't alone. Carbon components also buckled at the downhill World Championships and the World Cup in Snowshoe. Both times it was an Enve rim on a Commencal/ Muc Off Team bike.
Humans are naturally wired to spot patterns, even when they don't exist. It would be absolutely wrong to write off carbon on the strength of these three incidents, but it's clearly not been a great month for fiber and resin.
Mountain biking couples
French power couple announces split
At the start of the year, Pauline Ferrand Prevot announced she was joining her long-time partner on the Absolute Absalon team
. The two legends of French XC would work together on the BMC-backed team with Julien as team manager as Pauline aiming to defend her World Championship and World Cup overall title from 2020.
The partnership started well for the pair with Pauline leading the World Cup overall after the opening round in Albstadt but she struggled more as the season went on, eventually announcing she would be ending her season early in Lenzerheide due to being, "deeply tired, mentally and physically" from racing. The past few weeks have seen some more details emerge over social media as Julien and Pauline announced their split.
While they will no longer be romantically linked, the pair will continue to work and race together in the 2022 season. We wish them both the best and hope to see Pauline recovered back at the top again next year.
XC Racers Doing Full Seasons
Road cycling teams pluck XC talent
While enduro and downhill team moves generally steal the show in Silly Season, there have been quite a few interesting moves in the cross country world this year. Following the success of Van der Poel and Pidcock, road cycling teams are starting to pluck the very best talent from the fat-tired world. So far this year, Milan Vader has signed with Jumbo Visma
and Victor Koretzky with B&B Hotels/KTM
. Both riders will now split their time between tarmac and dirt in a similar fashion to MVDP and Pidcock.
So, what’s the plan here? Is cross country just going to become a feeder series for road racing and all of its best talents will be frittered away to grind themselves up Alpine passes for a living?
Well, hopefully not. Van Der Poel and Pidcock still race mtbs because they value it as an important part of their race calendar and it keeps their skills sharp through the year. Much like cyclocross, XC mtb gives riders incredible sustained power and the ability to handle their bike better than the average road rider, these skills have proved to be a successful combination for riders such as Wout van Aert and Julien Alaphillippe.
XCO racing itself is also growing in viewership and prestige. Red Bull is never too open with its viewing figures but we know its streams passed 1 million views in 2015 and that it grew by 50% in 2018 alone. Add on top of this the drama and excitement of the Olympic Games and it’s clear mountain biking is a sport on the rise that teams’ sponsors will want high-profile riders to be involved in. Jumbo Visma has an annual team budget of €20 million, which we imagine is bigger than the rest of the XCO World Cup teams put together, and add to that the reported €50 million budget of Ineos Grenadiers and you can start to imagine a significant financial boost for the sport of XC. Hopefully this isn't just a flash in the pan and we see the profile of the sport continue to grow as it becomes more accepted by the cycling mainstream.