It's been nearly fifteen years since the global MTB race circuit has descended on Snowshoe, West Virginia, for a race of this caliber. Sure, they have held some US regional and national rounds over the recent years, but not since the glory days of the NORBA series back in the early 2000s has a full contingent of global talent descended on these slopes. Add to that the fact that the United States has been absent from the World Cup calendar since 2015 and you can feel there's something special in the air here this weekend.
A brand new track greets racers this weekend thanks to the dynamic duo of Sean Leader and Neko Mulally, two men who have been hugely impactful over the past few years in putting US downhill racing back on the map. Neko had quite a bit of say as to where the track should be routed down the mountain, and it was Sean who worked his magic both in a digger and by hand to be sure the track took shape to its true potential.
The result is a race course very much true to its old school Snowshoe roots but at the same time very in line with where DH racing has evolved over the past decade. The top features some big jumps, a few of which have the seasoned top DH riders looking twice. A few perfectly sculpted berms to keep the speeds up, while in between are the rocks and roots Snowshoe is known for.
Any fans of past tracks here will be happy to know the infamous West Virginia Wild Zone is alive and well, and perhaps even gnarlier thanks to a few modifications. The bottom of the track is a nightmare of a rock garden that seems to go on forever and ever with multiple lines in some spots and absolutely no obvious good line in others. While past races here have been known for being mud baths, the forecast this week is for nothing but sunshine, a welcome first for international racing at Snowshoe.
A fresh new track and venue are the perfect stage for the battles that will take place of the weekend as both the men's and women's titles are indeed too close to call. Amaury Pierron will be hungrier than ever after Loic Bruni stole the show last week at World Champs, but you can be sure Bruni is feeling just as motivated to take home the rare double title of WC and World Champ. For the women, it is between Tracey Hannah and Marine Cabirou, but with Tahnee Seagrave and newly crowned World Champ Myriam Nicole back in the mix things are not so simple. Both those riders are dangerously fast and if they take a win or mix things up by taking valuable points from between Cabirou and Hannah they could play the spoiler this weekend.
Lots of unknowns and lots of enthusiasm surround this event, and it is surely going to be one heck of a show during the World Cup's return to American soil.