Only seven rounds?
That's one more round than the XCO riders get this year.
Only two continents?
Sadly for this year, Mont-Sainte-Anne is the only round outside Europe.
All tracks will be familiar to fans, with Lenzerheide and Lourdes being the newest of the tracks on the World Cup circuit, and Mont-Sainte-Anne and Fort William the oldest.
• Round 1: Lourdes, France: Sunday 30 April, live from 13:00 CEST // 12:00 BST // 04:00 PDT // 07:00 EDT
• Round 2: Fort William, UK: Sunday 4 June, live from 14:00 CEST // 13:00 BST // 05:00 PDT // 08:00 EDT
• Round 3: Leogang, Austria: Sunday 11 June, live from 13:00 CEST // 12:00 BST // 04:00 PDT // 07:00 EDT
• Round 4: Vallnord, Andorra: Saturday 1 July, live from 13:00 CEST // 12:00 BST // 04:00 PDT // 07:00 EDT
• Round 5: Lenzerheide, Switzerland: Saturday 8 July, live from 13:00 CEST // 12:00 BST // 04:00 PDT // 07:00 EDT
• Round 6: Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada: Saturday 5 August, live from 19:00 CEST // 18:00 BST // 10:00 PDT // 13:00 EDT
• Round 7: Val di Sole, Italy: Saturday 26 August, live from 13:00 CEST // 12:00 BST // 04:00 PDT // 07:00 EDT
Note: All times are subject to change so always double check.
Mont-Sainte-Anne gives no quarters, being the longest race track for 2017 (3,045m), with Lenzerheide being the shortest (1,531m). Andorra and Lenzerheide start at bang on the same elevation (1,879m), which is also the highest of all the rounds.
Fort William's start is closest to sea level (653m) but what it doesn't offer in height it offers in length, being the second longest track of the year (2,831m).
Putting all the numbers together this year, the riders will be racing…
• a total distance of 16,259 metres
• climbing 191 metres
• descending a total of 3,814 metres.
The 2017 season has brought a lot of shuffling to the World Cup team deck. Troy Brosnan, Mark Wallace, and Ruaridh Cunningham have formed the biggest-named new Elite-level team; Canyon Factory Downhill. Can one of these riders follow in the steps of Aaron Gwin and The YT Mob last year and take the overall series win?
To name but a few changes…
• Alex Marin Trillo from Giant Factory Offroad ⇨ Madison Saracen
• Eliot Jackson from Pivot Factory Racing ⇨ Giant Factory Off-road
• David Trummer from RRP ⇨ Dirt Zelvy
• Gaëtan Vige from Commencal Vallnord ⇨ Scott Velosolutions
• Loris Vergier from Specialized Gravity ⇨ Santa Cruz Syndicate
• Luca Shaw from SRAM TLD ⇨ Santa Cruz Syndicate
• Manon Carpenter from Madison Saracen ⇨ Radon Factory Downhill
• Neko Mulally from Gstaad Scott ⇨ The YT Mob
• Reece Wilson from Unior Tools ⇨ Bergamont Factory
• Rupert Chapman from Bergamont Factory ⇨ Pivot Factory Racing
• Taylor Vernon from Trek Factory Racing ⇨ Unior Tools
Seeing wagon wheels at World Cup DH races isn't anything new.
Who remembers Mitch Ropelato at Pietermaritzburg in 2013 (although the first corner had some strong views)? And going further back to 2010, Trek and Intense were also trying out big wheels. Technology has moved on—especially with the likes of Fox sneak-peeking their DH-ready 29er fork earlier this month—and we're likely going to see a lot more teams signing up to the 29er club, particularly those with tall riders. We won't know if this will be a game-changing moment for our sport until the rigs are up against the clock.
The UCI, the sport's governing body have introduced some changes this year:
• You need at least 40 UCI points (previously 30) to compete
• Elite Men now have a training session on the morning of race day
• The numbers of Elite Women and Junior Men have been reduced for race day
• Junior Women now compete in a separate event.
A new team didn't diminish Aaron Gwin's ability to win last year. After two wins and three second-place finishes, he won the overall.
Aaron Gwin is top dog going into the new season.
It wasn't enough for Rachel Atherton to smash the competition last year. She also smashed the records.
Who's going to rise to the challenge and be faster?
"The first round is always going to be a banger. We all know what our Insta-favourites have been up to in the off-season but until they take to the track on qualifying day we don't have any clue who's grabbing this season by the horns.
Everything's up in the air for the Elite Men. The mighty Gwin is impossible to bet against, having taken the previous three opening rounds. Hart is quite surely about to unleash the beast once again, and there's a bunch of ex-Champs and overall winners as well as the new blood, creating a stack of talent too wide and deep to mention by name.
In the Elite Women's, failing an unexpected solar eclipse, you might fancy Atherton to set quite a fast time to start the season off.
Whatever happens, the Pinkbike team—myself, Dave Trumpore and Ross Bell—can't wait to regurgitate the gold our cameras swallow after a long day in the mountains." – Nathan Hughes