The culmination of an athlete’s dream for their international downhill UCI-endorsed season is finally here, and for this year’s World Championships we head to the pretty town of Lenzerheide in Switzerland. All our usual clutch of riders should have now completed their time of restoration and recuperation since the last round of the World Cup, and for some, it included a little dabble of racing at Crankworx Whistler.
With a nation’s pride on the line, the World Champs adds more flavour than the usual weekend of racing and each rider will be donning their national team’s jersey, and if they’re lucky enough their bikes and helmets will also be specially kitted out to reflect the nation they’re representing, as well as a few personal touches and talismans.
Last year’s World Champs were held in a sweltering hot Cairns, Australia. Back then in the Elite Men’s race, we saw Sam Hill bring his enduro ride to the downhill course, where he proved that even though he’d been out of racing on the UCI circuit for a few years he could still put down a competitive time. Hill would be in the hot seat until his fellow Australian Mick Hannah knocked him off with a superb run. It was then Loic Bruni’s turn and it was a close-run thing. Bruni crossed the line 0.33 seconds up on Hannah’s time, putting the Frenchman into the hot seat. With five riders left to go, Bruni had to sweat it out for a bit longer to see if he could yet again get his hands on the Rainbow Jersey.
Australian Jack Moir wasn’t able to beat Bruni’s time, Minnaar was close but a flat tyre in the last section would end his chances, Gwin was yet again unsuccessful at getting the much elusive gold medal, and then Hart and Brosnan were left. Neither men could best Bruni’s time, making it the Frenchman’s second Elite-level World Championship title.
For the Elite Women’s race, things were slightly less straightforward or predictable. Rachel Atherton was left to sit out the race our after having broken her collarbone in practice earlier in the week. With Canadian rider Miranda Miller sitting in the hot seat, it was left to Atherton’s fellow Briton to try to go for gold; Tahnée Seagrave would lay down a great run, giving her a five-second lead midway but she would crash and bow out of the race.
Hometown hero Tracey Hannah would be up next and she was looking great on track. Unfortunately she also crashed, but still made it down the track putting a time in for the hell of it. The last rider down was Myriam Nicole but despite looking fast, the timing system went to pot and no one quite knew whether she had secured a good enough time to beat the Canadian. With a frantic scramble to get to the bottom of it, the UCI awarded Nicole silver, leaving Miller to take the gold.
Who knows what will be in store for this year, but before Sunday comes along here’s all you need to know about the 2018 World Champs in Lenzerheide.
Bruni’s winning run. Credit: UCI
Miller’s winning run. Credit: UCI
The World Champs will use the usual World Cup track known as ‘Straightline’. Straightline is a 2.2km (that’s 1.3 miles to you Imperial folks) featuring woods, rock gardens, a big step up, sweeping corners, drop-offs and lots of gaps. This year there’s a new addition thanks to the course builders modifying the track by adding a new section in the woods after the Merc Road Gap.
There are a total of 38 nations represented at this year’s World Champs, with 35 nations in Elite Men, 14 for Elite Women, 29 for Junior Men, and nine for Junior Women. In terms of nations per category, here’s the rundown:
RSA // South Africa // Elite Men = 3 // Junior Men = 2
ARG // Argentina // Elite Men = 2
BRA // Brazil // Elite Men = 2 // Junior Men = 1
CAN // Canada // Elite Men = 6 // Elite Women = 2 // Junior Men = 7
CHI // Chile // Elite Women = 1
COL // Colombia // Elite Men = 5 // Junior Men = 1
ESA // El Salvador // Elite Women = 1
USA // United States of America // Elite Men = 7 // Junior Men = 4 // Junior Women =3
JPN // Japan // Elite Men = 2 // Junior Men = 1
KAZ // Kazakhstan // Elite Men = 1
KOR // Korea // Elite Women = 1
THA // Thailand // Elite Men = 1 // Elite Women = 2 // Junior Men = 1
ALB // Albania // Elite Men = 1
AND // Andorra // Junior Men = 1
AUT // Austria // Elite Men = 2 // Junior Men = 3 // Junior Women = 1
BEL // Belgium // Elite Men = 2
BUL // Bulgaria // Junior Men = 1 // Junior Women = 2
CZE // Czech Republic // Elite Men = 4 // Elite Women = 1 // Junior Men = 1
ESP // Spain // Elite Men = 4 // Junior Men = 2
EST // Estonia // Elite Men = 1
FIN // Finland // Elite Men = 1
FRA // France // Elite Men = 8 // Elite Women = 5 // Junior Men = 4 // Junior Women = 2
GBR // Great Britain // Elite Men = 7 // Elite Women = 3 // Junior Men = 7 // Junior Women = 2
GER // Germany // Elite Men = 6 // Elite Women = 4 // Junior Men = 3
HUN // Hungary // Elite Men = 2 // Junior Men = 2
ITA // Italy // Elite Men = 3 // Elite Women = 2 // Junior Men = 3
LAT // Latvia // Junior Women = 1
NED // Netherlands // Junior Men = 1
NOR // Norway // Elite Men = 2 // Junior Men = 1
POL // Poland // Elite Men = 3 // Junior Men = 1
ROU // Romania // Elite Men = 2 // Junior Men = 1
SLO // Slovenia // Elite Men = 3 // Elite Women = 1 // Junior Men = 1
SUI // Switzerland // Elite Men = 7 // Elite Women = 6 // Junior Men = 4
SVK // Slovakia // Elite Men = 3
SWE // Sweden // Elte Men = 1 // Junior Men = 1 // Junior Women = 1
UKR // Ukraine // Elite Men = 1
AUS // Australia // Elite Men = 7 // Elite Women = 3 // Junior Men = 7 // Junior Women = 2
NZL // New Zealand // Elite Men = 7 // Elite Women = 2 // Junior Men = 7
POR // Portugal // Elite Men = 3 // Junior Men = 2
IRL // Ireland // Elite Men = 3 // Junior Men = 1
What Happened Here Last Year
Last year in Lenzerheide, we saw the weather kick up extreme conditions. Heavy thunderstorms the night before meant the track conditions on race day went from one extreme to another as the washed out mountainside soaked up the blistering Alpine sun.
For the Elite Women, it was mixed fortunes for those making the most of Rachel Atherton’s road-to-recovery after her shoulder injury at Fort William. In contention were the usual suspects, but after Tahnée Seagrave washed out her front wheel lower down the track, it was Swiss rider Emilie Siegenthaler who put down an impressive time to set the bar high for the remaining field.
Australian Tracey Hannah couldn’t improve on Siegenthaler’s run, but Myriam Nicole could and she went into the hot seat. Atherton was the last one down the track. It’s a position we’ve seen her in countless times, but could she make the most of the fresh, short track and keep the injury at bay? It seemed it was going to be that way, but nearing the bottom, Atherton seemed to slow against Nicole’s time and crossed the line 0.5 seconds back. Close, but not close enough. Nicole would take the win and judging by Atherton’s subsequent Instagram post, the Brit was content with the ‘baby-steps’ progress that sees her progressively returning to form at every round.
Credit: Red Bull
The Elite Men’s race would be equally dramatic. Laurie Greenland had set the pace and it seemed no one could improve on it - both "Sik Mik" Hannah and Loris Vergier came undone on the now incredibly dusty and fast track - until fellow countryman and teammate Danny Hart crossed the finish line. With a few riders to go, the atmosphere around the track was dialled to 11.
After Hart, it was Bruni’s turn, but his usual comfortable and calculated composure seemed ruffled which told its own story when he crossed the line with a time he’d probably rather forget. Greg Minnaar was next up, and it was like we’ve seen before, a lesson in sublime precision, grace, and speed. Minnaar rocketed straight to the hot seat with two riders to go. Second in qualifying the day before was Australian Troy Brosnan. Still on the charge after his first World Cup that season, Brosnan wasn’t that far off the pace of Minnaar; +0.162 seconds in fact, and slotted in between Minnaar and Hart with one rider to go.
So here we were again. Gwin on track, looking like he’s got a pocket time machine lighting up the sectors in green, but suddenly… What? Not another mechanical! Gwin punctured on one of the freshly exposed rocks and crossed the line in a lowly 51st place. Minnaar would take the win and yet again show his domination on this short Swiss track.
Credit: Red Bull
Previous Winners at Lenzerheide
2017 // Greg MINNAAR // RSA
2016 // Danny HART // GBR
2015 // Greg MINNAAR // RSA
2017 // Myriam NICOLE // FRA
2016 // Rachel ATHERTON // GBR
2015 // Rachel ATHERTON // GBR
The Weather Forecast
Watching It In Person
Watching the World Champs will cost you a few pennies apart from the qualifications on Friday - those are free to watch. Otherwise, it’s 25CHF (adult) or 15CHF (kids) to watch the finals on Sunday. Week and weekend passes are available if you want to combine watching the Downhill with the XC finals. Your ticket will also give you one cable car ride up Rothorn 1 to the Scharmoin middle station (per day we presume). If you arrive by public transport you’ll get a 40% discount when purchasing your spectator ticket. They’re only available at the main ticket office ‘Canois’ and you’ll need to bring your transport ticket with you as proof.
Sadly, almost all the VIP tickets are sold out, with only the 1,000CHF Hospitality Week Pass still available. The Hospitality Week Pass will give you a whole week’s access to the event site, access to the Graubünden Hospitality Lounge, catering with coffee and croissants on tap each morning, with a buffet meal for lunchtime. The ticket will also give you access to a VIP roof terrace, giving you a great spot for watching the final gauntlet towards the finish line. You’ll also get a Merc shuttle to and from the event, and free use of the Rothorn 1 cable car.
Must Know, Must See, Must Do
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 leisurely two-day hike 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, so things are going to get a little busier than usual when the World Champs comes to town.
The area of Vaz/Obervaz began to enter records going back as far as 750, although Roman-era artefacts have been excavated in various locations. During the mid-Middle Ages, the area belonged to one of the most powerful dynastic families in the Alps known as the Free Lords of Vaz. Naturally, the area is dotted with ancient castles to reflect the wealth of the family, although the dynasty came to an end when the last Free Lord - Donat of Vaz - died, leaving his legacy split between two families that his daughters were married into. In 1456 Vaz/Obervaz became an independent region overseen by the bishops of Chur, Schams, and Obervaz. The bishops started to unravel the feudal system and it soon embraced the ethos of democracy. The area’s freedom was shortly interrupted during the Thirty Years War in the 17th Century when Habsburg’s Imperial Army swept through bringing with them the plague. The Thirty Years War was one of the most devastating medical catastrophes in modern European history, and almost wiped out the population of Vax/Obervaz.
A few hundred years later, the first commercial ski slope in Lenzerheide was built in 1902, and ever since then, the town has been a popular destination for holidaymakers. Nowadays, alongside Valbella (the neighbouring town), skiers can access over fifty ski slopes via forty different lifts in the wintertime. 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 mountain biking.
Lenzerheide offers over 300km of marked trails for biking - including those in the bike park - and 170km of marked hiking trails. If the altitude wasn’t all you wanted to be in, there’s tennis, golf, and plenty of spas to de-stress you at the lower altitudes of the resort. The Heidsee lake is also a great place to relax by or in, during the summer its temperature can go up to a warm 22C, making it perfect for a post-ride swim. There are plenty of watersports to keep you entertained out on the lake too, from stand-up paddle boarding to windsurfing to sailing.
Lenzerheide also boasts the longest toboggan runs in Switzerland. At 3,100 metres, the public can rock up and try the long slide for themselves. Alternatively, there’s a rope park where you can fling yourself 150 metres in the air on a zip line while admiring the alpine landscape below you.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Lenzerheide during the World Champs, don’t forget the various satellite events on offer. On Thursday evening there’s a social ride where you can ride with the pros. Entry fee is 10CHF. After the social ride you can catch two film screenings; Free Ride Iran and North of Nightfall. On Friday evening there’s the #FullGasMTB
Whip Off competition, and on Sunday morning you can watch the Flyer Uproc Dual Slalom. For more information and to register, head over to the official website. https://lenzerheide2018.ch/en/side-events
Hart, Gwin, Macdonald, Minnaar, Greenland, Bruni, Kerr, Shaw, Thirion, Fearon, and Vergier are just part of the group of rainbow candidates, and there is one Belgian that I would love to see up there. If I could choose a group of 10 to win I would be in a casino right now, but that's not how gambling works, so my money is on Hart. The Brit has two of these under his belt and has fared well in Switzerland in the past. I'm still not sure if Gwin has luck on his side for this event but might get his best precious metal medal yet, and Pierron will take the third and final step.
With the World Cup series done and dusted there will be no holding back in Lenzerheide, riders will put everything on the line at the one-hit-wonder World Championships. In the women's category, Rachel Atherton has been off the boil and in pain for most of the year, but showed she was back on form at Mont-Sainte-Anne with a more than convincing win. Tahnée Seagrave was hot on her heels in La Bresse, but I think she'll be playing second fiddle again to the series winner. That bronze medal is still to play for and it's anybody's game from Hannah to Nicole, and to the outliers of Hrastnik, Charre, Curd, Hoffman, Cabirou or Miller.
In the Elite Men's field, there are a whole host of racers who could bring it home on the day, especially when crashes, mechanicals and weather changes are often part of the equation. Pierron,
Pinkbike's World Cup Predictionator
1 // Danny HART // GBR
2 // Aaron GWIN // USA
3 // Amaury PIERRON // FRA
1 // Rachel ATHERTON // GBR
2 // Tahnée SEAGRAVE // GBR
3 // Morgane CHARRE // FRA
Previous ChampionsELITE MEN
2017 // Cairns, Australia // Loic BRUNI // FRA
2016 // Val di Sole, Italy // Danny HART // GBR
2015 // Vallnord, Andorra // Loic BRUNI // FRA
2014 // Hafjell, Norway // Gee ATHERTON // GBR
2013 // Pietermaritzburg, South Africa // Greg MINNAAR // RSA
2012 // Leogang, Austria // Greg MINNAAR // RSA
2011 // Champery, Switzerland // Danny HART // GBR
2010 // Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada // Sam HILL // AUS
2009 // Canberra, Australia // Steve PEAT // GBR
2008 // Val di Sole, Italy // Gee ATHERTON // GBR
2007 // Fort William, United Kingdom // Sam HILL // AUS
2006 // Rotorua, New Zealand // Sam HILL // AUS
2005 // Livigno, Italy // Fabien BAREL // FRA
2004 // Les Gets, France // Fabien BAREL // FRA
2003 // Lugano, Switzerland // Greg MINNAAR // RSA
2002 // Kaprun, Austria // Nicolas VOUILLOZ // FRA
2001 // Vail, USA // Nicolas VOUILLOZ // FRA
2000 /// Sierra Nevada, Spain // Myles ROCKWELL // USA
1999 // Are, Sweden // Nicolas VOUILLOZ // FRA
1998 // Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada // Nicolas VOUILLOZ // FRA
1997 // Chateau-d’OEx, Switzerland // Nicolas VOUILLOZ // FRA
1996 // Cairns, Australia // Nicolas VOUILLOZ // FRA
1995 // Kirchzarten, Germany // Nicolas VOUILLOZ // FRA
1994 // Vail, USA // Francois GACHET // FRA
1993 // Metabief, France // Mike KING // USA
1992 // Bromont, Canada // Dave CULLINAN // USA
1991 // Ciocco, Italy // Albert ITEN // SUI
1990 // Durango, USA // Greg HERBOLD // USAELITE WOMEN
2017 // Cairns, Australia // Miranda MILLER // CAN
2016 // Val di Sole, Italy // Rachel ATHERTON // GBR
2015 // Vallnord, Andorra // Rachel ATHERTON // GBR
2014 // Hafjell, Norway // Manon CARPENTER // GBR
2013 // Pietermaritzburg, South Africa // Rachel ATHERTON // GBR
2012 // Leogang, Austria // Morgane CHARRE // FRA
2011 // Champery, Switzerland // Emmeline RAGOT // FRA
2010 // Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada // Tracy MOSELEY // GBR
2009 // Canberra, Australia // Emmeline RAGOT // FRA
2008 // Val di Sole, Italy // Rachel ATHERTON // GBR
2007 // Fort William, United Kingdom // Sabrina JONNIER // FRA
2006 // Rotorua, New Zealand // Sabrina JONNIER // FRA
2005 // Livigno, Italy // Anne-Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
2004 // Les Gets, France // Vanessa QUIN // NZL
2003 // Lugano, Switzerland // Anne-Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
2002 // Kaprun, Austria // Anne-Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
2001 // Vail, USA // Anne-Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
2000 /// Sierra Nevada, Spain // Anne-Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
1999 // Are, Sweden // Anne-Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
1998 // Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada // Anne-Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
1997 // Chateau-d’OEx, Switzerland // Anne-Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
1996 // Cairns, Australia // Anne-Caroline CHAUSSON // FRA
1995 // Kirchzarten, Germany // Leigh DONOVAN // USA
1994 // Vail, USA // Missy GIOVE // USA
1993 // Metabief, France // Giovanna BONAZZI // ITA
1992 // Bromont, Canada // Juli FURTADO // USA
1991 // Ciocco, Italy // Giovanna BONAZZI // ITA
1990 // Durango, USA // Cindy DEVINE // CAN
The ScheduleTuesday 04 September
• 13:00-15:00 // Downhill Course Inspection by UCIWednesday 05 September
• 12:00-15:00 // On Foot Downhill Course Inspection by Riders/Teams
• 16:15-17:15 // Opening CeremonyThursday 06 September
• 09:00-10:00 // Riders Confirmation
• 08:30-12:30 // Official Downhill Training - Junior Women, Junior Men, Elite Women
• 12:45-16:45 // Official Downhill Training - Elite Men
• 16:45-17:15 // On Foot Downhill Course Inspection by Riders/TeamsFriday 07 September
• 07:30-08:30 // Official Downhill Training - Junior Women, Junior Men, Elite Women
• 08:45-09:45 // Official Downhill Training - Elite Men
• 10:15-11:15 // Qualifications - Juniors
• 11:30-12:45 // Qualifications - Elites
• Followed by On Foot Downhill Course Inspection by Riders/TeamsSaturday 08 September
• 07:45-09:45 // Official Downhill Training - Junior Women, Junior Men, Elite Women
• 10:00-12:00 // Official Downhill Training - Elite Men
• Followed by On Foot Downhill Course Inspection by Riders/TeamsSunday 09 September
• 07:45-08:45 // Official Downhill Training - Junior Women, Junior Men, Elite Women
• 09:30-10:00 // Final - Junior Women
• 10:15-11:15 // Final - Junior Men
• 11:15 // Awards Ceremony for Junior Women and Men
• 11:30-12:30 // Official Downhill Training - Elite Men
• 13:00-14:00 // Final - Elite Women
• 14:30-16:45 // Final - Elite Men
• 16:45 // Awards Ceremony for Elite Women and MenNote: All times are local and subject to change by the UCI/event organiser.
With a bit of rest earned after a frantic end to the World Cup season, our media crew will be up and at ‘em in Switzerland this week. They’ll be providing you with all the bikes and kit in all their nationality-orientated liveries. Stay tuned for all the photos epics and results as they come in.
For the Elite Women and Elite Men finals, you can watch the action on Red Bull TV on Sunday 09 September from 12:45 CEST. Otherwise, you can watch it live on the UCI YouTube channel, or on TV/satellite channels as described in the PDF below.
Here’s a breakdown of what these times mean in these main locations for the Red Bull TV broadcast:
• 03:45 // Sunday // Vancouver, Canada (PDT)
• 06:45 // Sunday // Washington DC, USA (EDT)
• 11:45 // Sunday // London, UK (BST)
• 20:45 // Sunday // Sydney, Australia (AEST)
• 22:45 // Sunday // Auckland, New Zealand (NZST)Note: These times are subject to change. Please check with your local provider.
/ @natedh9 / @rossbellphoto