1. THE VENUE
The town of Lenzerheide is located 1500 metres above sea level in the municipality of Vaz/Obervaz, in the eastern canton of Graubünden, Switzerland. The town's most notable neighbours include the world-famous luxury resorts of St. Moritz, Klosters and Davos - the latter being a 36km trek to get to - as well as the ancient town of Chur, which happens to be one of the oldest settlements in Switzerland, dating back to 3900-3500 BC. Lenzerheide has a population of just over 3,000 inhabitants, so things are going to get a little cosy when the World Cup comes to town.
The first popular ski slope in Lenzerheide was built in 1902, and ever since then the town has been a destination for holiday-makers. Nowadays, alongside Valbella, the neighbouring town, skiers can access over fifty ski slopes via forty different lifts. With its success as a winter resort, it was only logical for the town to invest money into its summer season and become a venue for one of the greatest sports on the planet.
2015 is the first of three consecutive years Lenzerheide will play host to the Downhill Mountain Biking World Cup, and in the summer of 2018, the Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships will be hosted here. Lenzerheide is accustomed to holding a variety of sporting events, including the likes of a tennis championship, a classic motorcar and motorcycle rally, and a massive cross-country ski competition held every New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
There are some great downhill runs in Lenzerheide, and with scenery this good, this resort is going to grow in popularity in years to come.
Transport wise, driving to Lenzerheide is the easiest option. It's an easy two hour, 102km drive from the closest major city, Zurich. Unfortunately, there is no railway station in Lenzerheide, but you can grab a train from Zurich to Chur, and then hop on a bus to take you to the resort in around 30 minutes.
2. THE TRACK
Designed and built by Trailworks's Rafael ‘Tschäff’ Rhyner and his team, with advice from Steve Peat and Claudio Caluori, the downhill World Cup track, named STRAIGHTline, has been two years in the making. The 1.5 mile track has taken 1200 man hours to shape with the help of three diggers (one walking excavator, one eight-tonne digger, and one two-tonne digger), and in doing so shifted around 2000 tonnes of dirt. The track builders were unable to bring in any foreign material into the site, so all the material used, from the wood for the bridges, to the stones for the rock garden, has been sourced from the local area. The total construction costs for the track was 280,000CHF (approx $300,000USD).
In terms of the track’s features, its esteemed advisers - Claudio and Peaty - were keen to get as as many fast sections as possible for riders, and the builders were happy to oblige. The trail builders worked with the natural features of the track, building it up where it required a bit more of a challenge for riders, as well as including the use of artificial features like wooden bridges and drops.
|The track has a really good feeling, it has fast parts, big jumps, nice berms - really fast berms, slow berms - it's got good technical (sections) in the woods. We've tried to put a good mix of everything in the trail, and I ride all over the world and I think this is one of the better tracks I've ridden. - Steve Peat, Santa Cruz Syndicate & Lenzerheide World Cup track consultant.|
Highlights include a 14 metre step up, two road gaps (named ‘Peaty’s Plank’ and ‘The Wave’), and a 17m bridge. Although the track is shorter than other World Cup tracks this year, the various features are fairly close to each other. The most impressive feature is the 17m bridge called 'The Cabin Hit' which riders will jump over and land in a 90 degree banked curve. The 150m root section, on a part of the track that has around 30 degrees worth of steepness is likely going to be the most challenging part of the track for riders. The root section is situation before the second road gap, called The Wave, and we hope that there will be a live-feed camera placed here to catch the action on race day. Lastly, to keep all this running during the race weekend, there will be six dedicated members of the trail crew working to maintain the track.
Let’s not forget, STRAIGHTline is open to the public all season, bar a week prior to and obviously during the World Cup race. Pivot Factory rider Emile Siegenthaler was in Lenzerheide at the weekend and had the following to report to us:
|So I spent my day in Lenz, was warm, sunny and just awesome. The World Cup track is not marked, so the whole start/first rock garden entrance will be a surprise. At the moment, the track is really dusty dry. In general I would say that this track is a mix between bike park berms and natural wood sections. Some sections are really wide, which is good for spectators. But the majority of the track, when not in the rooty woods, is quite bike-parky to be honest, but still fun. In dry conditions the grip is going to be a major issue; tyres choice will be interesting. In muddy conditions the wood sections, mostly off camber, will be tricky the ride. There are some big jumps as well, many of them were closed today though. The improvements made since last year have made the track more flowy but it all will depend on the official taping. - Emilie Siegenthaler, Pivot Factory Racing|
With so many people raving about the track, we were keen to see what it entailed. Luckily, Radon Magura Factory Team rider Carina Cappellari was in Lenzerheide at the weekend along with her friend Emilie, and Carina was kind enough to provide us with a POV video of the track. Although the track wasn't taped, it's clear to see the bike park nature of the course, with a few big features thrown in. Check out Carina's run with her team mechanic, Gavin Black, which begins just from a few feet from where the start gate will be.
3. THE WEATHER
On average, July is the wettest month for Lenzerheide and also the windiest, even though temperatures are typically at their highest (min 12C, max 17C) in this month. The forecast for the weekend is ‘mostly sunny and very warm’. They’re not kidding because thanks to a heat wave moving over Europe this week, this weekend will see temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius or more, with clear skies overhead for most of the day, so don’t forget to pack your sunscreen folks. Thanks to the downhill being on Saturday, it means riders will miss the downpour scheduled for the evening.
4. THE RACING
There haven’t been a lot of downhill races held in Lenzerheide, in fact, looking at the records, there’s been only one national-level race, and that was the second round of the 2014 iXS Swiss Cup. Held in late July, under three consecutive days of rain, riders competed in tough, muddy conditions. Despite leading the field in qualifications, Steve Peat and Emilie Siegenthaler were unable to succeed in the finals - Steve Peat finished third, and Emilie was unable to compete because she crashed hard in the morning training session. The inaugural race was won by the world's favourite freeracer, Gstaad-Scott's Brendan Fairclough in Elite Men, and Alba Wunderlin in Elite Women.
2014 IXS SWISS CUP - ELITE MEN RESULTS
|When I raced at Lenzerheide last year it pissed it down all weekend. Despite this, the track held up pretty well. Overall the track flows nicely but I'm looking forward to seeing what upgrades they've made since then. The track is pretty short though, so we're probably looking at some close racing around the three minute mark or under. - Brendan Fairclough, Gstaad-Scott|
1. Brendan Fairclough // Gstaad-Scott // 3:05.335
2. Joe Connell // SC-Intense // 3:08.377 (+3.042s)
3. Steve Peat // Santa Cruz Syndicate // 3:09.937 (+4.602s)2014 IXS SWISS CUP - ELITE WOMEN RESULTS
1. Alba Wunderlin // Stützrädli // 3:53.063
2. Géraldine Fink // Gohl-Tech Manitou Suspension // 4:12.773 (+19.710s)
3. Lea Rutz // Bike4fun-Cheapster.ch // 4:46.053 (+52.990s)
With the XC World Cup being held the same weekend, the schedule for downhill is shifted a day earlier than normal. The programme of events is as follows:Friday, 03 July
12:30 World Cup Downhill - Qualifying - Junior Men
13:30 World Cup Downhill - Qualifying - Elite Women
14:00 World Cup Downhill - Qualifying - Elite MenSaturday, 04 July
12:30 World Cup Downhill - Final - Junior Men
13:15 World Cup Downhill - Final - Elite Women
14:00 World Cup Downhill - Final - Elite MenNote, all times are local (CET) and subject to change by the race organiser.
5. AWAY FROM THE RACING
If riders and spectators get tired of the downhill racing, a short drive will take them to the pumptracks in Chur
and Sils I.D
, or if they prefer heights, they can get themselves to Churwalden which claims to have the highest rope park in Switzerland (as well as the longest toboggan run in the world). Alternatively, they could grab a bike and try out the +300km of marked bike trails, including five different downhill tracks, starting from the Scharmoin mid-station to the Rothorn bottom station.
On the cross-country/all mountain side, there’s a wealth of beautiful tracks as far as the eye can see, scattered with various rest-stops serving coffee, beer and apple strudel - take your pick. Pinkbike featured Lee Lau's in-depth travel report
from the area a few years back. Lenzerheide is so close to a range of other great bike parks, including Flims. We'll be looking at the trails around Lenzerheide in more depth tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled on the Pinkbike front page if you want to know more.
If bike fans are prepared to hold out for a week or so after the World Cup, the Swiss national series makes a return to the track on the 19 July. Looking for something more challenging? In August, the annual Trek Bike Attack
is hosted on the mountain above Lenzerheide. The Bike Attack is a mass-start downhill race with 2000 metres of vertical descent, and 140 metres of uphill over the 20km course. With around 800 riders from all over Europe coming to race, it’s a pretty busy affair. In September, the resort will host the final stop of the Enduro Trail Trophy Series. This three day event includes has a limited number of rider entries, so if you fancy setting your ride against the clock, here’s your chance.
Stay tuned to Pinkbike for all the news from Lenzerheide this weekend.
Words by Farah Ahmed. With thanks to Lenzerheide Bike Park, iXS European Series, Lee Lau, Matt Wragg, Emilie Seigenthaler, Carina Cappellari, and Brendan Fairclough for the additional content.
/ @LenzerheideBikepark / @Racement