Troy Brosnan finally broke out of the One Winners’ Club last weekend at Vallnord, taking his second-ever Elite UCI DH World Cup victory. In doing so, he even made the usually cool-headed G.O.A.T—who had been in the hot seat up until then—utter a few words of frustration as he saw Brosnan cross the line a mere 0.22 seconds up on his time. Someone who seemed just as stoked as Brosnan was Loïc Bruni, who not only managed to be competitive on his bike despite his significant leg injury in Leogang, but was buttery smooth on his race run, leaving him just a few steps off the top in fourth place. Edging Loïc out of the top three was Danny Hart, who threw down one of the wildest runs we’ve seen in a while. Truly epic stuff.
We also saw the fourth different winner in four rounds in the Elite Women’s race, with Myriam Nicole taking the top step from Tahnée Seagrave by 2.99 seconds. The surprise and welcome third step went to France’s Marine Cabirou, whilst an easy-does-it Rachel Atherton found her way back to racing speed after her Fort William crash, in fourth. Tracey Hannah’s obvious frustration at coming undone in the Vallnord woods early on in her race run will only make her more determined for a clean run come this weekend.
Lenzerheide isn’t your everyday bike park track, thanks to the World Cup trail crew working with Steve Peat a few years back, to ensure the shortest track on the 2017 calendar is packed with features that will challenge all comers, and entertain the ranks of supporters.
In preparedness for Lenzerheide hosting the World Champs next year, the designers have been hard at work changing things at the upper and lower ends of the course. The start will revert to its 2015 format—Lenzerheide’s first year as a World Cup venue—by having a more direct route down, removing the steep, wide berms. The Graubden Rock Garden remains; it’s a 20m long rock garden that will have the riders guessing as to which is the best line through.
Out of the woods, riders follow the treeline and get to a 14m Shimano Full Gas Step Up, followed by the GoPro Jump Line, which features a 16m table. After a few turns, we’re into Peaty’s Plank, a 7m long, 3m high road gap off a wooden feature (high enough for a marshal to walk underneath, right Rachel?).
In the run up to Tschäffs Plunge (into the woods), riders will have to get through a series of technical turns before they take on the most uncomfortable looking 1m drop over and onto a technical root section. There’s not much room for error and its size belies the number of riders who get more than a little hung up here, but soon enough, they’re back out into the open, hauling themselves over the Red Bull Wave road gap (a mere 5m long, 3m high feature), followed by the Mitas Wall and Lenzerheide Edge, which is the steepest part of the track.
Towards the finish there are a few changes, including some fast turns and a 4m drop after the Ochsner Sports Cabin Hit, then it’s full gas to the finish line.
Last year we saw a nail-biting race under sunny Swiss skies, and one many fans were dying to see happen for a long while; it was the race where Danny Hart secured his first World Cup victory—five years after his famous World Champs win at Champery—and the beginning of his 2016 winning streak. It was this run that set Danny up for the thrilling fight at the end of last season between himself and Aaron Gwin.
Talking of which, Gwin qualified a disappointing 19th in Lenzerheide last year, but managed a clean run on race day, putting him in the hot seat with a time of 3:05.8, whilst other riders came and went, trying to better his time. As the field streamed down, it looked like it was going to be a clean sweep for the American. Greg Minnaar ended up 1.6 seconds shy of beating Gwin’s time, with just New Zealander George Brannigan and Danny Hart to drop. Brannigan had trouble on track and slotted into ninth place with just Danny to go. Sure enough, the Redcar Rocket did what everyone was hoping, pedalling like fury, scrubbing tables and smashing berms, taking the win with 0.09 seconds to spare.
In the Elite Women’s race, it was a battle between the British riders. With Manon Carpenter sitting in the hot seat for a good while, Tracey Hannah took to the track but washed out in the deep dust, ending her hopes of being on the podium. Myriam Nicole was next and despite a steady run to the bottom, she took the hot seat. All eyes looked up the mountain as Rachel Atherton took to the track; could she better her qualifying time and lay down the challenge to Tahnée Seagrave, the last rider on the hill? Atherton looked fast and was fast, crossing the line a massive five seconds up from Nicole. It was all down to Seagrave, alone on the mountainside. With the pressure on, Tahnée had an excellent run, shaving five seconds off her qualifying time but sadly it wasn’t enough, crossing the line 0.7 seconds back from Atherton. A comparative hair’s breadth of a margin, but a win nevertheless.
Spectator tickets can be purchased online via Lenzerheide’s information/tourism offices prior to the event or on the day. Tickets cost 16CHF (Adult) or 10CHF (Child) for a day pass on Saturday or Sunday, or 26CHF (Adult) or 16CHF (Child) for a weekend pass. Tickets include a trip up the mountain railway’s first section (up to the Scharmoin middle station). If you’re feeling particularly swish with funds, there’s a VIP package that will get you up-close to the finish line, as well as other little luxuries, like an executive shuttle to the venue, a VIP lounge in a luxury hotel, and a pass for the mountain railway. VIP package start from 199CHF for a day or 359CHF for the weekend.
Pinkbike will be providing you with the best daily coverage from our hardworking team of photographers in Lenzerheide this week. There’ll be the usual stunning photo epics from the track walk on Wednesday, practice on Thursday, qualifying on Friday, and finals on Saturday, as well as tech reports and WynTV throughout the weekend. For a full rundown of the racing schedule, check it out here
For the Elite Women and Elite Men finals, you can watch the action live on Pinkbike via Red Bull TV, or via a local broadcaster (e.g. The Bike Channel in the UK) from 13:00 local time/CEST on Saturday 8th July (12:00 BST // 04:00 PDT // 07:00 EDT // 21:00 AEST // 23:00 NZST).