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Video: This Has Never Happened Before | Inside the Tape With Ben Cathro

Sep 2, 2023
by Pinkbike Originals  

Heavy rain has fallen on the fresh track in Loudenvielle, resulting in a controversial decision by the race organisers.

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  • 104 2
 Well communicated Ben. The appreciation that decisions and arguments have a degree to grey to them is welcomed in this ever more polarised world. My personal opinion is that they should have been given the option to race BUT I am aware that I am but a merely a spectator in this situation. Before anyone contemplates commenting (either way) maybe it would be best to put the kettle on, have a cup of tea, think about all sides, then maybe comment,
  • 50 1
 Spoken like a true Scotsman
  • 32 0
 Quit being so reasonable
  • 5 0
 I went to Fort William for this year's race; my first time in Scotland. Reading this reminded me of all the incredibly friendly Scottish people I met there and why I will definitely be back some day! Well said.
  • 3 8
flag scary1 (Sep 2, 2023 at 18:21) (Below Threshold)
 @Whataboutism: hey! That’s his name, too!
  • 19 0
 I'll repeat what I saw another Scotsman comment on a different article (a review of rain gear) but is appropriate here and still my favorite Pinkbike comment ever:

"Have you tried just getting wet?"
  • 3 3
 @nilswalk: he may have been a Scotsman, but was he a @TrueScotsman ?
  • 6 1
 I agree. The comments about medical cover and liability given the juniors are legally children were quite well made
  • 1 0
 @IDkid: Try Glasgow
  • 60 2
 I think the only valid argument is "the ground is too slippy for the medics"

THAT is a legitimate concern. A slow crash can still break a collarbone or snap an arm (ask me how I know), so the medics need to be able to help.

However, there are a dozen more elegant solutions if the organizers could just take a deep breath and be smarter about it.
  • 17 5
 For me, this is also something I can’t quite get over, as much as I’d have liked the race to happen. If someone had a serious accident and the medics couldn’t get to them, the whole weekend (and potentially race series) would be f*cked. Then the organisers would be even more cautious in future.

But, does this show some poor planning by the medical team? Surely they should have planned for different scenarios and be able to cope with the weather. Rain does tend to happen in outdoor sports, especially the mountains.
  • 15 3
 How is it 2023 and all medics aren't just scooting around on jetpacks? www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzLkj3ft7Sc
  • 27 1
 Even in good weather medics messed up brook mcdonalds back injury response.
  • 8 1
 @Beyond-The-Tape: thanks, thats what i thought. Additionaly, this season Amaury did crash in practice and did run qualis with a broken neck!! So i'm not realy sure about the care for riders safety.
  • 5 2
 @Beyond-The-Tape: yeah. And I like to think that this decision is a result of what was learned from that incident.
  • 18 3
 @bartonw: I do agree with that, tracks ought to have bench cuts off trail in places that are hard to get to for that purpose. However medics at these events should be Ski Patrollers anyway. There is no such thing as "can't get to them" for ski patrol, anchor a rope to a tree and get down there, they do absolutely disgusting things on Iced up ski fields. It isn't that hard. What do paramedics do when a car crashes down a steep muddy bank on a rainy day?
  • 13 2
 @bikes-arent-real: they have a hard time getting to and treating the accident victims.
  • 7 0
 I think you’re spot on that it’s a legitimate concern but a failure of poor planning. All medics in the steep and muddy sections of Leogang had crampons on their boots. Spectators slipped and slid but the medics could practically run up and down.

I’d really like to hear Ben and others weigh in on the third option- reverting back to the schedule used in previous years to race all juniors and all qualified elites in one day. I would love to hear from someone present- what would have been too challenging about this option?
  • 3 0
 @sino428: Yeah like I said ropes. Patrollers get to people in some awful places that will actually kill you if you fall. You tie off on a tree, harness in and abseil down if it's so wet you can't get to them. It isn't that wet though. The only problem here is the rope you use will be a write off afterwards.
  • 1 0
 @pmhobson: Thats a very fair point
  • 2 1
 @bartonw: especially when the juniors are legally still children
  • 1 0
 @bartonw: they were using ropes - it was basically the only way to get up and down the track on foot, not sure what else they could have done?
  • 1 0
 @on-the-move: they had ropes and harnesses
  • 35 1
 Cancel the semi. Let the juniors race. Simple.
  • 2 0
 Seems too easy
  • 28 0
Very well said!

It’s just a pitty that they didn’t go for the good solution.
Getting rid of semis. And instead having the juniors race tomorrow morning.
  • 3 2
 And what about the Seniors' race? There are dozens of grand fathers with trail bikes queueing now in Loudenvielle after what the haters said about this track.
  • 25 0
 Intelligent, insightful, articulate, measured, and experienced. I enjoy Ben.
  • 14 1
 Lets also acknowledge that they won't let junior media crew into the B-Zones now. The kid is registered media for a team, has filmed all the other races and all of a sudden is too young. These guys have no idea what they are doing.
  • 13 0
 Whoever was playing the brass instrument in the background of that section they were all crashing on really missed a trick not sad-tromboning each time someone went down!
  • 13 2
 What I want to know is why the medics can’t get access.

The mud makes it a bit harder, but the bottom is so steep, that access is not straightforward in conditions.

My point is that access to these areas can be sorted out with planning (major event medic in my time speaking) and once it’s sorted in this situation for good and moderate weather issues (in other words they run the race), it’s sorted for the slop too.

Steep dust and rubble moving shale and rocks is really hard to work on (did you see the riders struggling on the track walks?).

So…. I’m wondering if the medical planning was just poor. In which case the organisers already knew that.

In which case they would have run the event at max speed in the dry with inadequate medical cover.

But difficult access in the dry would probably not be ‘pounced on too much’ (think Brook McD).

Add in the rain and the truth was maybe outed?
  • 2 0
 The track planing and layout IMO is a little poor. Crosses 2 roads and runs over existing tracks. It is like they put money on the top but the rest of the track was was not very well planed. Weird thing cos the top part is almost useless and the part of the track could be add to the bike park is impossible to maintain like that or even ruins other tracks.
  • 3 0
 Because they're probably not using the correct medics, probably just normal ambo paramedics who aren't prepared to go down on a rope. For goodness sake there are motocross events where a man stands on a hill like that roped in to swing out and catch falling bikes and body's.
  • 12 2
 I feel like they should have postponed, not cancel. If you watch Eddie Masters latest yt video, riders were struggling just to paddle their way down the last hill. The sport is already so dangerous as it is, it would have been mayhem. Wyn Masters says in the video that Ryan Pinkerton said "it's not possible to ride this track". They should scrap semis once again and just have the junior final late in the day or the next day. Was right not to race when it was scheduled, but shouldn't have been canceled.
  • 6 0
 It look like Takeshi´s castle in the videos,fun to watch but I think not so much for many riders.
  • 3 0
 @homerjm: Most Xtreme Elimination Challenge? Haha LOVED the American voice over on that show. Those writers deserved a Nobel peace prize.
  • 1 0
 @mkul7r4: Kenny Blankenship is the man we all wish we could be. Big Grin
  • 1 0
 Except in the dean Lucas vid with Wyn, Ed and Pinkerton, Pinkerton was saying that he wanted to race the track which is a bit hard if it’s unrideable.
Maybe best to not use what he has to say when he’s also on vid saying the opposite
  • 6 0
 Ben is so good at this. With the dh broadcast commentary taking such a step back it's great to have some high quality MTB journalism at the event.

With the cancellation it seems like the biggest issue is how poorly planned and communicated it was. If the sport shifts to an approach where cancellation or delay is more likely for any race then riders would be taking more risks in qualies. They could also structure the schedule to allow more flexibility (no semis, have a buffer day) and try to design tracks that are more robust to wind or rain problems. That could make for safer and, more importantly, more consistent conditions for riders. Hopefully they'll get it figured out, definitely very poorly executed even if somewhat understandable.
  • 5 0
 Creating the Union Cathro Internationale would be a good step forward
  • 8 0
 Those guys in the wet are still faster than me in the dry.
  • 1 0
 So true
  • 11 7
 I think the risk argument is not valid. There might be more crashes due to the slick conditions, but the pace is so much slower that the crashes are less severe than in the dry where you hit a rock hard corner at 50 km/h
  • 8 1
 I was curious about this too. Doesn't it totally depend on the course? In the video the slippy muddy downhill looks reasonably safe (no rocks, slow speeds) even though people are crashing, but you can imagine features that would be significantly more dangerous. For instance, high speed into muddy rocky corners. Or gap jumps that get hard to clear. Or just really really steep sharp rocky sections.

I don't know the course so I can't really say.
  • 8 1
 Well if the medics can't get to the course, then maybe it has some validity...
  • 10 11
 Who cares? It’s juniors, it’s a high risk, zero reward. Wasn’t even televised until recently. You can’t tell me, you’re at home tracking the juniors podium race.
  • 4 3
 "Slow pace" by pro DH standards is still very fast and dangerous.
  • 4 1
 I hate that the race was canceled, but speed is not a determining factor for severity of injury. As an ex moto racer the worst injury I experinced by far was in a slow speed corner. I simply landed the wrong way. 8 surgeries over 2 years and a shortened arm with loss of mobility was the end result. Ultimately I think the racers should have the final say to race or not. I willingly accepted the potential danger as do any of the pros in DH.
  • 1 3
 @bonfire: Last year the Juniors was more interesting that the Elites.
  • 7 2
 @endoguru: if these were adults racing I totally agree. But you can’t give minors the decision of whether or not it’s safe to race. Since we are talking about juniors, I think it was the right decision. If it were the elites let them race
  • 2 2
 @bikes-arent-real: was it? Don’t remember it being overly riveting, was it even broadcast?

Just seems a lot of hullabaloo about nout.
  • 3 0
 @Lookinforit: Yeah if that was what the organizers cared about. But they don't give a f*ck about medics reaching the riders. Otherwise they would have canceled the last few runs in Andorra because the start hut was almost blown away and due to the incoming thunderstorm there was no way a heli would have been flying.
Also if it's true what the german bike media says (mtb-news), the organizers were informed before the race that there is a lack of crash- and B-zones as well as bad access for medics to a lot of parts of the tracks. The organisers replied with sarcastic comments that the photographers should use machetes to get to the track.

  • 4 1
 Dear UCI/ESO,
Please refer to P13 of the UCI guide to organising events:

"Provide backup solutions, because a course which is impassable if the weather is bad is synonymous with
failure. Do not underestimate the need to prepare alternative routes which must be passable in any weather. "

  • 3 0
 Because you can magic up a new hill & DH track. Could just direct them to an indoor velodrome I guess..
  • 3 0
 Given the circumstances as they were - I think UCI did the right thing. It's an "ethical dilemma". F*ed if you do & f*ed if you don't. But understanding that - what's right for the group. Given all that mumbo jumbo - and not knowing the rules at all - I wonder if there may be systems put in place to avoid this in future years. My racing eperience is all moto. Road & offroad. Local AMA-sanctioned stuff. And one feature in every race series was that every racer was given one or two "throw-away" races. If you didn't like your results or missed a race for any reason - you could toss those out of the mix & like even the racers who made every race - have their overall position based on the the best number of (minus 2) races m in the series. Is this an option in UCI-land? If not..., copuld it be? Another possibility is to have designate a control tire, class of tire for these extreme circumstances. For example - for a course like this, UCI (or whateverinahell controlling body) could require that a homologated mud tire must be used. Or maybe even a specific brand & model of mud tire. Ohhhhhhh, the sponsor brands would weep & moan & point fingers & have their little hissy-fits if THEIR tire wasn't picked. But you know..., F 'em. Are we all really all that f'ing brand loyal with tires?! I change brands when I find another brand's tire that works better. And for each of us individually, that little fact is all over the board. When a kid's well-being is at stake, and the buying public wants to drool over the videos, where's the compromise? Put the racers on a tire that works, let 'em kick out the race with no penalty, have everybody sign a hold-harmless agreement - including mommy & daddy for those who are legally under-age - and run the dang race. On the original schedule.
  • 2 0
 From a practical standpoint, it seems to me it would have made sense to just postpone the race until the next day, and try to fit it into the Sunday schedule even if it meant eliminating the semi-final Elite race.

But maybe they wouldn't have had to cancel the semi-final. There were 2 other options:

There were only 36 Junior riders that would be racing in the finals (26 men, 10 women) and one option was to push the Elite final back an hour and a half or so and run the Junior finals between the Elite semis and the finals. The other option would have been to just run the Junior finals after the Elite men's final if it wasn't too late in the afternoon and if weather permitted.
The Junior women finals would only take about 20 to 25 minutes to complete. The Junior men would take about an hour. Weird fact: Every Junior male who qualified on time had a qualifying run at least 10 seconds faster than Vali Holl's time. (Bodhi Kuhn had to rely on Protected status, but his time was still 3 seconds faster than Vali's.)

The only logistical issue with these 2 options would have been finding time to let the Juniors get at least one practice run, but I have to think they could have found that time.
  • 7 1
 They are not interested in the bikes the riders or the race. They are selling a TV show. The subject could be anything: baking, dating, opening cardboard boxes in attics…their incentives are different than ours.
  • 4 1
 I get the cancellation because of medics access issues. However, that should not have been a problem in the first place. There is the option to have trained stuff on ropes on site to tackle situations like these.
  • 3 1
 I am looking at this from the view that the event organizers have botched it. They are saying the safety concern is based on a lack of mobility for the emergency medical personnel (semi-seriously: do the French not have crampons and walking sticks for mountain rescue in snow?? Its slippery). So, they have laid out a course along a mountainous route that is acceptable in the dry but not in the wet. In my mind either they had no intention ever of using this course within 24 hours of a French rainfall or they made a monumentally stupid assumption that it only rains in Spain. There is an established bike park in Loudenvielle (maybe not as well sorted as Portes de Soleil or Whistler) that MUST have had some wet days so how the grass and dirt reacts to rain cannot have been a surprise. I imagine there is an oversight committee that signs off on each World Cup venue with regards to event essential requirements. I'm guessing that committee is guilty of oversight.
The riders seem to be pretty clear that they can ride the course if they have a bit of practice time to wear in the surface (as they do at every other location) and an opportunity to fit the bikes with condition appropriate tires.
  • 2 0
 Not going to pretend that I'm nearly as fast as them, not even close but I do reckon the most fun I've ever had on a downhill bike has been the times when it's been so wet and muddy that just getting down in one piece is winning. You can't go too fast anyway because you just slide everywhere. And laugh your ass off the whole way down. Went to a WC round back in 02 in Austria, was a wet track, roots and rock gardens stupidly slippery, race want on and was super exciting. Think that I understand why they're taking the safety of the juniors into account but surely they should have been asked their opinions.
  • 2 0
 I could hear the argument of being too dangerous or difficult for the medics but is it the first we see rain in Loudenvielle? Certainly not , so it sounds more like a not-so-well-prepared event. There were ways to prepare the track to be rideable in a variety of conditions and make sure there were appropriate conditions for medics.
Events after events, it sounds like the promoter and broadcaster are not doing a good job.. It was supposed to be an improvement, I only see more problems...
  • 3 1
 The example of the privateer missing out due to UCI organisational chaos and ridiculous bureaucracy seems to be reflective of the EDR (EWS) event and organisation/course marshalling overall. Shame on the UCI and all the organisers. DO BETTER !
  • 2 0
 And another week where the new policies have impacted on a Privateer.... Pink Bike should do some kind of deep dice on this and ask some awkward questions of ESO, now they have had the series for a few races get ESO back on fro a tougher QA and some other perspectives around how they are damaging what use to be a points based meritocracy its cool that anyone who gets enough points and wants to self fund can race at the top level lets not loose that !
  • 5 2
 Is it the perfect storm? The worst conditions, ever in DH history? Or are the organizers deciding to start caring more for the safety of the riders?
  • 4 2
 Fair point. Just because it hasn’t happened before doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have
  • 5 0
 This. Thx Ben for doing the last minute!
  • 4 2
 Just looking at those juniors not even being able to get their disco slippers unclipped makes me think if they had a few uk winters training their mud skills up it may have been race on
  • 5 0
 All the Mechanics were glad i bet.
  • 1 0
 For anyone who missed it yesterday: The awards ceremonies for the podium riders.

Junior Women: Earnest, Van Leuven, and Roa Sanchez

Junior Men: Pinkerton, Pontvianne, Hauser
  • 7 4
 Too many people clutching their pearls. This will pass. By Snowshoe no one will remember this.
  • 3 2
 Snowshoe with leaves and rain will be canceled too.
  • 1 1
 Not sure why they couldn't just let the racers vote on whether to cancel it or not. Seems like the best option that would keep everybody's undies on straight. End of day they're the ones that are taking the risk and can decide whether it's worth it or not.
  • 6 3
 I sometimes manage field teams collecting environmental data.

On occasion conditions are not safe, so I issue a stop-work order and send folks home. They can take all the votes they want, but they’re not doing the work. I’m ultimately responsible for their safety and neither my clients or I can afford to deal with injured staff.
  • 5 2
 @pmhobson: Cool man I work in trades and when it rains to the point that I can't work I go home and get my bike out and go slide down a steep muddy hill.
  • 2 4
 @pmhobson: apples and oranges. Mountain biking is inherently dangerous. It's like suggesting you would send firefighters home from Wildfire because there's a fire and it's dangerous. Two people died in BC fighting fires this year and they are all still out there. Because it's their job and they accept that it's dangerous.
  • 5 1
 @lostlunchbox: are you really comparing sports to firefighting?
  • 5 5
 @sino428: obviously I am. To make the point that people can make choices for themselves and don't need daddy Hobson to tell them to go home. Should they be given the opportunity? 100%. Just like they should be given the opportunity to do what they chose to do for living.
  • 2 1
 @sino428: end of day they're both jobs that those particular people signed on for. One may seem more altruistic but I guarantee it's a paycheck and some adrenaline smoke jumpers are after.
  • 3 2
 @lostlunchbox: you think firefighters don’t have someone telling them what to do? They have commanders and people in charge who make calculated decisions based on risks vs reward (saving lives, property, etc).
  • 2 4
 @sino428: I mean sure, end of day no man is truly free, but the point is that both of these jobs are inherently dangerous and if you don't think despite all their calculations sometimes they send willing firefighters into situations that they *can* get hurt then I guess we'll have to disagree. Nothing about the course being slippery was inherently life-threatening however. So I stand by my initial statement.
  • 5 1
 @lostlunchbox: this is dumbest take yet. Firefighters evac all the time. Jobs have risks, accepting death is one of the risks is absurd. To die as a firefighter, means a whole hell of a lot had to go wrong and is absolutely unacceptable in a work place. There will be lots of future policy/procedure/process updates to come from those death investigation.

It’s just a bike race, it’s just a fire. Neither are worth avoidable injury or death. Athletes are the worst for it, so driven, so blinded by the circus. A call was made and could have saved someone’s season/career.
  • 2 1
 Because legally they are children not adults so the laws about duty of care for the organiser are very different
  • 1 2
 @bonfire: Easy bud. Why you gotta bring the d-word into it? Like, it's just my opinion man. I had concerns using firefighting would set some people off, but i still used it so i guess i am at least that dumb. My point still stands that in my OPINION people should be allowed to make these decisions for themselves when given all pertinent information. I get people with positions of power like to think themselves as smarter than everyone below them but success and status is as often as not (and probably more) about a multitude of outside forces. One of those being pure *dumb* luck. I'm not sure why so many people feel the need to be told what to do but in this burning shitstorm of a chaos orgy we call civilization but i guess some people just want to be subs *shrug*
  • 1 2
 @chrismac70: I would imagine that liability waivers are par for the course. And if we're allowing 17 year olds to drive i don't think we should be referring to them as children or treating them as such. They are also surrounded by mentors, team leaders etc for more experienced guidance.
  • 1 0
 @lostlunchbox: Liability waivers don’t me all that much (at least in the US) once a motivated legal team mobilizes.

But I certainly can’t comment on that legal landscape in France in particular or any other country in general.
  • 3 4
 Anyone know if anyone was actually injured and required medical assistance in the practice session when the riders weren’t prepared for the track and the track wasn’t run in?

If not it kind of makes the safety excuse look a bit weak.
  • 3 0
 Love your work Ben. Well said!
  • 1 0
 Who and why now? Who is the person making these decisions? Why are they making them now? The old decision maker should make a comeback!
  • 2 0
 Can’t see this happening at the Stockport World Series DH at Farmer Johns next weekend!
  • 14 13
 Cancelling a World Cup DH race because of weather is a friggen tragedy. What a shame. That should never happen
  • 45 0
 IMHO the greater tragedy is how they treated that rider who crossed the Atlantic to race only to be told that due to a last minute decision he could go whistle. What a way to treat the people the whole sport depends on. Scumbags.
  • 23 7
 Calling it a tragedy seems extreme - the elites are still racing tomorrow. The world is still turning, and the groms will have plenty of chances to race again.
  • 18 12
 A tragedy would be a kid trying to race a track they can barely ride clean, and having a career-ending crash. Cancelling a bicycle race is a bummer, at worst. Racers' safety has got to be #1.
  • 13 4
 @Tambo: higher chance of serious injury on dry full gas track than on a slow ass slop fest. Whenever I broke some shit it was either hero dirt or dry, even tho the chances of crashing are lower. Tumbling in mud usually just leads to some minor sprains and bruising,
  • 11 7
 @malca: Unless you are a pro DH racer, thats not comparable. These guys and girls go dangerously fast even in the worst conditions.

Pair that with really bad conditions for medics and rescue helicopers and the decision to cancel might have been a smart move.
  • 3 2
 I think its ok. The friendships theyve formed they can still hold dear to their hearts.
  • 3 0
 @slumgullion: No it sets a precedence, if they can cancel the juniors they can cancel the Elites which is arguably more dangerous because the top riders are going to go as fast as they can, which in these conditions is a lot faster than the groms.
  • 5 1
 @Tambo: Sorry mate have you not raced downhill? I barely raced for a short time in my youth and I'd have raced at least 3 events that were like that, it's hard but it's very good fun and you learn a lot. For these junior riders to get to the the level of racing World Cups, they have ridden in conditions like that countless times.
  • 5 1
 @bikes-arent-real: there is no president set that would affect elites. Juniors are minors who by law cannot make their own decisions. Elite DH racing is the product and they protected that product by not taking the chance of having a bunch of kids getting hurt and not having medics able to get to them.

The only precedent set was to confirm that they will sacrifice junior races to keep the Elite races going and on time
  • 1 0
 @bikes-arent-real: See @Ttimer comment above.
  • 3 0
 @Tambo: and then the lawyers get involved asking why did you let children (in the eyes of the law) race. Try answering that one in court as the event organisers
  • 1 0
 Obviously it would be a null round for points so as to not encourage certain riders in one direction or another.
  • 5 2
 Goddammit, that was supposed to be a reply... hey pinkbike! Maybe how about the option to edit or delete comments on mobile please ffs.
  • 11 11
 I've said it before and I'll say it again. Fuck the UCI.
  • 5 7
 Pretty f#cking lame… when I heard juniors was cancelled I thought there must have been lightening and major weather closing lifts.

But no.. it was slippery.. WTF!
  • 1 2
 What sort of weather do you think is going to unfold at MSA in October. With this precedent, it will likely be cancelled.
  • 6 0
 MSA is not a new, soft, loamy track like this one. Even if it rains the track conditions aren’t likely to deteriorate the way they did here.
  • 1 0
 As always, ty Ben!
  • 1 0
 Carrying water
  • 1 1
 TRUMAN! don’t let go!
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