The pre-season is officially over and World Cup fever is rising. The first round in Maribor is this weekend and the pressure is on to pick a knockout Fantasy Team
The racers in the Southern Hemisphere have barely stopped while those in Europe and North America have spent the past couple of months coming out of their gym hibernations and are putting tyres to dirt again.
We’ve decided to take a look through the dozens of races that have attracted top racers since the dust settled in Lenzerheide last September to see who is looking fast coming into the 2019 season: Matt WalkerBritish National Round 1
1stiXS Downhill Round 1
The young British Champion heads into his second season elite with some seriously impressive results. Matt has won two of the most stacked races of the year in the first British National round at Rheola and the iXS European round that took place on this weekend's World Cup track in Maribor, pushing his team mate Danny Hart into second both times.
It took Matt just two races to claim his first Elite World Cup top ten last year and he's already stood himself apart as one to watch as the season kicks off this weekend.Tracey HannahCrankworx Rotorua Downhill
1stiXS Downhill Round 1
It has been a massively successful off season for Tracey Hannah with a national title and two other major race wins to her name. She won by more than four seconds at both the Crankworx Downhill and the iXS but was pushed hard in Bright at the Australian championships by Sian A'Hern.Brook MacDonaldCrankworx Downhill
1stNew Zealand National Championships
The winner at the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill generally goes on to have a fairly strong start to the season. Last year, Blenki took top honours and would pick up his first podium since 2015 at the first race in Losinj, in 2017 Jack Moir went fastest and would earn a career best result at round 2 in Fort William, and 2016’s winner, Loic Bruni, would pick up his first World Cup win just a month later in Cairns.
This year it was Brook MacDonald that took the top step and seems to have set himself up well for the season ahead. Finn Iles was within a tenth of MacDonald’s time though and George Brannigan produced a great run for third.
Brook also took the New Zealand Champinoships and will wear the national sleeve for 2019. It was another tight race and he only pipped Max Hartenstern by a quarter of a second. Brook comes into the season unbeaten and will be hoping to put the bad memories of 2018's opening round behind him.Rachel AthertonBritish National Round 1
The first British National round of the year took place at Rheola and it saw a head-to-head between the two fastest women of 2018 - Rachel Atherton and Tahnee Seagrave. In her first race on the new Atherton Bike, Rachel claimed first blood and took the win by nearly 7 seconds, putting to bed any doubts about whether she would be fast on the family designed race bike. Rachel hasn't taken to the start gate at any other races but the warning shot was clear.Martin MaesEWS Rotorua
There’s one name that’s dominated the pre-season and will be putting fear into the heart of seasoned downhill racers with his relentless consistency - Martin Maes. Martin is yet to race his downhill bike in 2019 but he showed last year that won’t slow him down when he chooses to.
Martin has won 8 out of 11 stages so far in the EWS this year and is looking simply unstoppable. We’ve not had official confirmation that Martin is going to be racing in Maribor (although there are some heavy hints on social media
). If he does turn up in Slovenia… watch out.Troy BrosnanCannonball Downhill
1stiXS Downhill Round 1
Troy Brosnan comes into the 2019 season having won the Thredbo Cannonball Open in December and, most significantly, the Australian Champs in earlier this month. Brosnan took the win by more than 2 seconds from a pretty stacked field and retains his sleeve for another year. Brosnan didn't have such a strong result at the iXS in Maribor but if you've seen the footage of him saluting the crowd after the rock garden
you've probably already realised he was one of the racers taking it not too seriously.Other ContendersAmaury Pierron
Last year’s World Cup champion has kept himself busy in Europe with wins in the Portugal Cup and the Brioude DH Cup. Most significantly he took the win at Lousa on the 2020 World Cup track in a race that included Danny Hart, Gee Atherton and more.Aaron Gwin
Gwin has had a fairly quiet pre-season, doing his usual trick of showing his face at a few local races and generally winning them. He was on the ground in Maribor but elected to miss seeding and racing, keeping his powder dry for the main event.
Gwin always starts strong and has won all but one opening round of the World Cup since 2013. The only one he lost was the Lourdes washout in 2017 where he was DQ’d on an almost unrideable track. Loris Vergier
Neko Mulally’s Windrock has rapidly become a major offseason destination for a lot of racers. It’s home to the RockShox pre-season camps so a lot of teams make it out there for testing and racing before the season begins in earnest.
This year’s race was hit hard by rain but there were two racers who battled through the slop and stood head and shoulders above the rest. Loris Vergier took the win by 0.5 seconds from Charlie Harrison but the pair had a five second gap back to Jacob Dickson in third. Laurie Greenland
Fifth overall last year, Greenland has had a fairly quiet start to the year. His most significant result was a win in Wanaka at an NZ National, where he put nearly 4 seconds into the field. His remaining results haven’t been so stellar but anybody who saw his wild run in Rotorua will know he has raw pace to burn.Tahnee Seagrave
Tahnee won a Portugal Cup to kick off her year but probably won't be too happy with a third at Crankworx and handing a significant deficit to Rachel Atherton in Rheola. She's said on social media she has been struggling with set up
so far this year and it would have been interesting to see how she stacked up had she taken to the start line for the iXS at the weekend.
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