Despite its name, the UCI downhill World Cup series remains a largely European and North American affair. In fact, just 7% of nearly 200 World Cups since 1993 have happened outside of those two continents. Given that 2021
will be following the same pattern, we thought it was a good time to highlight the 6 venues that have brought some more international flavor to the circuit.
The last time the World Cup headed out of Europe and North America it was to Cairns in northeastern Australia. Riders first visited Cairns for the World Championships in 1996 but it wasn't until 2014 that a World Cup was held there. The track is packed with features including its fearsome top rock garden, aggressive whoops and tight flat corners but a final lung-busting sprint to the line will stick in the mind of most racers and often left them doubled for breath in the finish corral.
We had two World Cup races there that showcased the extremes of Cairns's weather. In 2014, Gee Atherton battled through peanut butter conditions in a pair of Five Tens borrowed from a spectator
to take the win while Loic Bruni picked up his first-ever World Cup win when we returned in 2016
. Rachel Atherton proved she was Queen of the Jungle as she took the win in both World Cup races at the venue. We visited Cairns again for the World Championships in 2017
and Miranda Miller and Loic Bruni took the Rainbow Stripes home.Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Another venue with a reputation for increased respiration is Pietermaritzburg in South Africa. Greg Minnaar's local track was famed for its middle section that saw racers pedaling between sizable tabletops. It's also the race track that has seen the most experimentation with bike set up in recent years as riders tinkered with short travel bikes, dropper posts and lockouts to help them get the power down in South Africa.
There have been four races here and the men's racing has seen Greg Minnaar and Aaron Gwin share two wins apiece while the British women found a second home here with Tracey Moseley taking two wins and Rachel Atherton and Manon Carpenter splitting the other two.Canberra, Australia
There has been just the one downhill World Cup at Canberra that served as a warm-up for the World Championships where Steve Peat would finally take the Rainbow Stripes. On a sub 3-minute track that has been described as 'downhill BMX', Tracey Moseley and Greg Minnaar came out the victors.Balneário Camboriú, Brazil
The only World Cup venue in South America (although rumor has it that it won't be that way for long) was in Balneário Camboriú, Brazil. Set in a coastal resort about 600km south of Sao Paolo, the race quickly picked up a reputation as a party spot for racers.
The track was super-short with the elite men getting from top to bottom in just over 2 minutes. The Brits Tracey Moseley and Rachel Atherton swept the wins in the women's races and it was also a successful venue for the G-Cross Honda Team that picked up wins via Greg Minnaar and Matti Lehikoinen. Balneário Camboriú hasn't hosted a World Cup since 2006 but it played host to three consecutive Master's World Championships in 2010, 2011 and 2012.Arai, Japan
Arai in Japan hosted three rounds of the World Cup downhill around the turn of the millennium and, like most races back then, they were dominated by the French pairing of Anne Caroline Chausson and Nico Vouilloz, who came away from the Far East with three wins apiece.
The venue was one of the most well-attended races of the time and it was scheduled to appear in the 2002 season as well, however it was canceled and replaced by none other than Fort William that has remained a staple of the circuit to this day. Stellenbosch, South Africa
The first World Cup to happen outside of Europe or North America was in Stellenbosch in 1997 and 1998. Details are fairly thin on the ground for this venue although we know the wins went to Bas de Bever and Elke Brutsaert in 1997 and Nico Vouilloz and Anne Caroline Chausson in 1998. The cross country racers returned to the dusty South African venue in 2018.