Once again the World Cup returns to Val di Sole and the infamous Black Snake downhill track, arguably the most technical and demanding on the circuit year after year. And while this particular region of Italy is named for its abundant sunshine, it may be the daily thunderstorms that leave a more lasting impression on racers this week.
The track walk got underway in the rain as loud claps of thunder could be heard not too far off in the distance. While the dirt here can handle moisture well, it is the polished slick roots the will be causing headaches should storms continue to roll in and out. With literally entire sections of track covered with crisscrossing roots, many in and out of corners, mastering their trickery will be paramount to carrying a winning pace. It will be riders who can manage the inconsistency of conditions and adapt to changing lines that will succeed here. With the thick tree cover above the track often goes from rain-soaked in one section to dry and dusty the next, and at times there will be a wet and dry line option on the same section of track. Add to that a ton of soft loamy dirt that will surely cut up with ruts and holes and you all of a sudden have quite a lot to think about each run. On some tracks, riders can shut their brain off and relax a bit through sections, but Val di Sole is not one of those tracks. It demands respect and focus from top to bottom, otherwise, the Black Snake will bite back hard.
In the men's race the momentum is obviously in the favor of the French as they have not lost a race this year, and with multiple riders on the podium each round they have been nothing but dominating. In The women's field, Tracey Hannah is the obvious favorite but Marine Cabirou has been on a charge and will be certainly gunning for the top step. Behind those two there have been lots of fresh faces on the podium which will make it anyone's race really.
With three rounds to go and the series overall and podium spots very much still up for grabs, a good result will matter more than ever, and the rough and rowdy track of Val di Solé is the perfect venue to set the stage.