Downhill Racing Fans
Three wild World Cups with three different winners.
For racing fans, the downhill World Cup was the best show - three venues with different winners in almost every category and unpredictable weather changes that reshuffled everyone's chances and sent teams scrambling for which tire, wheel-size or line choice could ensure a podium finish.
Beginning in June, most bets were on Rachel Atherton and Danny Hart. By June's end, however, Atherton was injured, Hart was playing catch-up, and Tracey Hannah and Greg Minnaar were sporting the number one plates. We also saw some new faces at the award ceremonies, most notably, Tahnee Seagrave, who edged out Tracey Hannah at Leogang by a half second to bag her first World Cup.
So, we enter July with Tracey Hannah and Greg Minnaar dominating at Fort William, Tahnee Seagrave and Aaron Gwin on the top step at Leogang, and Myriam Nicole and Troy Brosnan taking the win at Vallnord. What happens next is anyone's guess, but it's a sure bet that we're all going to be watching.
Crankworx battle royale between Brett Rheeder and Nicholi Rogatkin.
Two Crankworx events in one month produced the best slopestyle battle we've seen in years. Canadian Brett Rheeder's convincing victory at Les Gets set the stage for an expected sweep at Crankworx Innsbruck the following week. Confident and powerful, top-seeded Rheeder was on fire in Austria, with 94.33 points on his first run, but it wouldn't stick.
Nicholi Rogatkin put on the performance of his life on his second run, earning 96 points, with a bag of tricks that defied the laws of physics. Rheeder, the last man on course, threw down everything he knew and put in a performance that probably would have won every slopestyle in the history of Crankworx, except this one. His score? 95.66 - a mere four tenths under Rogatkin's.
The magic of Innsbruck was that the course was right and everyone
was on their game. It was the show that slopestyle needed to re-invigorate fans and break the long cycle of "win it on the first run" spoilers that has dampened enthusiasm for the venue. If you didn't see it, watch the replay
Designers gone wild.
When Chris Porter went public with his "GeoMetron"
experiment, most designers balked when he claimed that a steep seat tube angle, combined with a slacker-than-downhill head tube and minimized fork offset could produce a better descending trail bike with acceptable cornering and climbing qualities. When Chris added thirty millimeters to his top tubes, some thought he had gone looney. Nicolai teamed up with Porter and re-designed most of its range accordingly, and now, a little more than a year later, some heady names are laying claim to the technology.
"Long and slack" are the buzzwords at product launches and "reduced offset" is the concept that everyone has has been working on for "a number of years." Transition debuted its "Speed Balanced Geometry,"
Specialized touted their reduced offset/slack head angle concept used on its (of all things) 2018 Epic XC racer
, and Whyte, who has been playing with offset configurations for a while, launched their beautiful handling S-150 29er with moderated version of all of the above. While it is doubtful that designers at large will stretch their production trail bikes to the extent that Chris Porter is taking the concept, his influence has been set in motion and will be far reaching.
Beyond GeoMetron, BMC
surprised tech geeks with Trailsync - an integrated dropper seatpost that is linked to the remote lockout device of a Fox shock. Trailsync was launched this month on BMC's Speedfox 120-millimeter-travel 29er trailbike. It's a stunner and after a month on the bike, it is apparent that the fast-reacting, one-lever system may be a game changer.
BMC's Speedfox debuted its Trailsync system that automatically opens up the shock when the post is lowered.
I may be sardonic, but I'm calling out frame designers who still reserve that huge space above the bottom bracket in the anticipation that future mountain bikers are going to wake up one day and realize we were wrong, Shimano was right all along, and that we all need front derailleurs. Well, SRAM put the final nail in that coffin with the June release of its affordable 12-speed GX Eagle drivetrain.
It's time to stick a fork in it and put that valuable space to better use - like wider suspension pivots. Until then, perhaps someone will make a tool box that screws into the derailleur bosses
designers realized that the advantages of carbon construction could allow them to build a one-sided shock mount for their Demo DH bike. It made sense, especially considering that switching out the shock on the old Demos was a time-consuming burden. Check out Orbea's new Rallon
, with its asymmetric top tube and shock mount. The one-sided tension strut that parallels the shock counters the vicious loads that the chassis sees during a bottom-out event with the least amount of structure - and it facilitates servicing the shock. The significance of the two designs is that they break ground for future designers to abandon the symmetry imposed by frame configurations which evolved from the constraints of steel and aluminum and use the benefits of laid-up carbon construction to re-imagine future frame designs, and directly address issues like stand-over and wheel clearance, and better integrate suspension configurations
Shoulder injury ends the longest winning streak in WC DH history.
"All good things come to an end," is the oft' repeated adage that Rachel Atherton occasionally used to remind fans that, sooner or later, another woman was knock her off the top step. Before she crashed in practice at the Fort William World Cup and dislocated her shoulder, the fastest woman in the mountain bike world was showing signs that something was amiss. Rachel has been training well. The Athertons routinely train in Southern California during the off season, where she was blazing fast according to all reports. The POV video
she filmed while practicing for the Fort Bill round of the British Downhill Series a week before the World Cup, however, suggested that she was physically off form, which may have been the reason that she opted out of the race.
Whatever may have been bothering Rachel at the BDS round was behind her at the World Cup the following weekend. She smoked the field in qualies with a 13-second lead over Tracey Hannah and appeared to be well on her way to extending her unbroken string of wins well into the 2017 season. On the practice lap before finals, however, Rachel crashed and it was Tracey Hannah who would be the first woman other than Rachel Atherton to stand on the top step at a World Cup Downhill or World Championship for over two years. I'm sure that takes some pressure off of Rachel, but like most of her fans, I wished it had gone down differently - with Rach' at full gas in a head-to-head battle for the hot seat.
Enduro World Series
Hey, are we having fun yet?
Rain has plagued every EWS race this season, and June? June was the worst. The series that proudly touted professional enduro racing should challenge competitors at the highest levels of their technical and physical abilities has hit the jackpot. Nature must have overheard that conversation, and said, "You want tough? Okay, I'll give you tough," because nobody is having fun any more - except, perhaps a handful of Frenchies, who allegedly used their home-court advantages to sweep the podium spots at round five in Millau, France.
Millau capped off the EWS "month of mud" and proved to be the breaking point for many competitors. Milau entertained guests with 80 kilometers of steep transfer climbs, mixed in with some greasy-slick, survival descents, and was staged in a cold downpour for much of the two-day suffer fest. Soggy competitors are wishing for just one dry race, perhaps to remember what that may have been like. Next stop, the EWS sets sail for
Aspen, Colorado, where the sun shines all day long in the summer - except for a half-hour of rain at four o'clock PM. I think the EWS can live with that. Watch the fun
. Where do I sign up?