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5 Things We Learned From the 2022 Lourdes DH World Cup

Mar 30, 2022 at 14:05
by James Smurthwaite  
Thibaut Laly of the Pinkbike Race Team rockting into the finish area.

1. Lourdes needs to sort out the funicular before it hosts another World Cup

It's probably not the first time you've heard the news but the funicular delays in Lourdes were the biggest issue of the weekend. Riders reported waiting 2.5 hours between each run, which is far from ideal in a 3 hour practice session.

The queues have been discussed in previous years, as this Dirt report from 2016 shows, but it seems to have been a particularly disruptive this round with a bumper field of 279 riders. Without exaggeration there were privateers who flew into France for this race, had four practice runs to learn the track, failed to qualify and then flew back home.

If we truly want downhill to be the F1 of mountain biking, it has to get the basics right. Maybe the solution is to start shuttling up the fire roads or maybe Discovery can buy a fleet of helicopters next time, whatever the case it needs to be improved for Lourdes to fully deliver on its potential.
Lots of waiting around as the furnicular line was massive. Sometimes close to 1.5 hours of idle time.

2. French crowds are incredible

On race day I was packed into the Lourdes finish area like a sardine next to a troupe of friendly 'nuns', deafened by their vuvuzelas and observing more hairy French arses than I was expecting on a Sunday afternoon. Simply put, French fans are a different breed.

The French crowd are by far the most enthusiastic of the season.
We haven't seen an official count on the attendance over the weekend but estimates seem to put it between 10,000 and 20,000, all of them cheering loudest for their countrymen and women.

While some riders are able to absorb that energy and harness it into race pace, for others it adds a lot of pressure. When every one of those fans wants 30 seconds of your time, it makes it much harder to get into your racing mindset. The access fans have to racers is one of the best things about World Cup racing but managing that is another challenge for riders to overcome, especially if they're on home turf.

3. This was one of the closest women's races ever

Camille Balanche emerged as the victor in Sunday's women's race but she did so by the skin of her teeth. Both Myriam Nicole and Tahnee Seagrave finished within a second of her and Vali Höll was only a further 0.7 seconds behind as well. The last time the top three in a women's World Cup were within 1 second of each other was nearly a decade ago when Manon Carpenter, Rachel Atherton and Emmeline Ragot battled for supremacy at Mont Sainte Anne in 2014.

It feels like we say it every year but the women's field is closer and more competitive than ever at the moment and we're expecting some titanic battles as the season progresses.
Camille Balanche held on tight for one hell of a ride down the brutal track to take the top spot of the day.

4. There were some early season woes

The track in Lourdes can bite back at any moment.
While one over-enthusiastic journalist may have predicted a French farce due to the weather, which thankfully never came, that wasn't the only issue that sprung up due to the early running of this event. March is unusually early for a World Cup start and truncated the off season prep the riders had. More than one racer told me they hadn't got enough pre-season competition under their belt to be ready to hit race pace from the get go.

There were other issues too, a lack of parts and spares meant that the only people who may have been slightly glad about the funicular queues were mechanics who may not have had all the kit they needed to fix broken bikes. Finally some privateers elected to miss this race altogether as the economics of travelling to Europe for one round 8 weeks apart from the rest of the season simply didn't add up.

5. BC racers are ready to take over

Moving away from the Elite ranks, where the French were certainly the talk of the weekend, two new stars are rising. Jackson Goldstone needs no introduction and he carried on his starward trajectory by taking the win by three seconds in his category. His time would have put him 11th in the Elite Men's field (albeit on a track in slightly better condition) and shows that he's ready to challenge for big results when he makes the move next year.

Keep an eye out also for Gracey Hemstreet. After racing only select World Cups last year, the young pinner from the Sunshine Coast put 7 seconds into a strong field of junior women who already had a full season of racing under their belt. If the Hemstreet name sounds familiar, that's because her dad founded the Coast Gravity Park. Watch out for her to put together a strong campaign on the Norco team this year.
Canada s Gracey Hemstreet styling into the finish area on her way to her first world cup victory.

Author Info:
jamessmurthwaite avatar

Member since Nov 14, 2018
1,770 articles

  • 61 4
 I think many would disagree that Jackson had a "better" track when racing with the Juniors. Dak, on the Vital post-race podcast, said that he thought the morning track was slicker and slower (due to moisture down low) and that Jackson's time would be even better on the afternoon line. Who knows, though?
  • 31 3
 Yeah, why even mention it in the article. Not everything has to be caveated.
  • 34 1
 @kev-bike: Maybe they could have said "different track" instead of "better track" but it should be mentioned. If you are making a comparison of times, it should be noted that the times were recorded under different conditions, whether they be better or worse.
  • 58 0
 @kev-bike: everything said on the internet needs a caveat or it gets pulled apart (almost everything).
  • 1 1
 I think this is a confusing written error / unclear, the albeit should say JGs ride was on a wetter worse track due to condensation. IE, had JG ridden in drier conditions 1) his time couldve been even better or 2) had elites ridden in AM, results couldve been slower for many. Limestone is slippery AF when its even slightly moist. Point: Jacksons run was even rowdier than it looked
  • 7 1
 @Hogfly I think "better" and "better condition" are slightly different. I also think it's not so much about the track in that moment but rather how much it's changed since the last practice run. The track deteriorated alot - not necessarily got faster or slower but it was in worse condition, which alone can have a large affect as riders are simply going into the unknown. Sadly, it's just a consequence of the way race day is structured. It makes comparison so so difficult.
  • 3 0
 @henryquinney: That's fair. I know that riders were, evidently, changing their line choices up top just prior to their runs after hearing report on current conditions of the track. Jackson's track might have been very similar to what he rode throughout his practice runs (if he practiced in the mornings), which would give an advantage, even if it was slick.

But I did hear several riders comment on the fact that the track was slower in the mornings than it was in the afternoon due to moisture in the bottom sections creating slower rolling conditions.
  • 6 0
 @Hogfly: Yeah. I think you're right about the moisture. It was even getting dusty towards the end of the day.

I was speaking to Jackson's mechanic and he said that Jackson was one of the few riders to get two runs in morning practice and that it was a sharp turnaround to make it up in time for his race run. Theoretically, it could have been maybe a 30 minute between his practice and race run, and maybe only a handful of riders getting a run in.

Obviously, what he did was amazing, and seeing the precision with which he rode in person was just amazing. On that first jump, it might not seem much, but he went so far high right just to get as much downslope as possible. It was so close to the edge, and straight out the gate. But compare that to the couple of hours and hundred-odd riders it might be for an elite male rider and it will skew any comparison.
  • 3 0

The internet is a caveat
  • 3 0
 I know right, I love how everyone on the internet has to downsplain to everyone else on the internet!
  • 2 1
 @kev-bike: I agree, it should not have been mentioned. The facts are enough, leave subjective opinions out of it. Jackson did well. End of story.
  • 1 1
 Smurthwaite was referring to the pros having a better track, not the other way around.

Plenty of pros, mechs and media have all gone on record that it was slicker for Jackson's run making plenty of comments about how fast that means he is.

  • 2 0
 @blowmyfuse: the article's use of the word albeit indicates the author thinks the track was better for Jackson, no?
  • 2 0
 I agree, eating too much ice cream before bed is a recipe for disaster.
  • 5 0
 Holy mackerel. I wish I had gotten this detailed of feedback in my college creative writing courses. Y’all should start a book club
  • 1 0
Unless it's politically incorrect
(then the overlords just remove it)
  • 30 2
 Anyone else had this show up on their dashboard?

Pinkbike Offers Vowels as a Members-Only Perk to Reduce Server Costs
Read Story

At first I thought it was something to do with the CLLCTV. When you click on it, it says can't find what you're looking for. Weird.
  • 28 0
 tomorrow is....
  • 23 0
 That sounds like an article for tomorrow that got posted early
  • 14 0
 My guess is that its some kind of April fools article being cued up for tomorrow that accidentally went live early.
  • 4 0
 Same. But now every time I come back to PB, it's a new notification about the same thing I can't access.
  • 4 0
 yeah they dropped the ball on the april's fool a bit too soon, depending on your time zone lol
  • 3 0
 @rmarthaller Ah yes, I was forgetting tomorrow's date, makes more sense now.
  • 13 0
 it said "cn't fnd wht y'r lkng fr"
  • 3 3
 @Upduro: Just to clarify, "dropped the ball" means to lapse on a task, or in some way goof up-- not sure if you meant that... This phrase or idiom is is obviously derived from sports... But regardless of what you meant, sounds like someone did drop the ball, or "let the cat out of the bag" a bit too soon. Possible this cat only had one ball or something
  • 6 0
 @RobertGrainier: that did not clarify.
  • 1 0
 Thy drppd th bll
  • 2 0
 Fck prl 1st.
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 @blowmyfuse: n my dfnc t ws slghtlyt rly thgh.
  • 3 0
 Not too early here in NZ, nearly 11am on the 1st now. I came here looking for April fools and was dsppntd until I found this comment.
  • 1 0
 dn't cr nt pyng fr cntnt dmnt
  • 24 1
 Downhill bike racing is the sickest.
  • 5 0
 is it a leprosy sickness, or more of a gastro intestinal type sickness, or
  • 2 0
 @jokermtb: More of a Jimi Hendrix shreds his guitar for an hour than throws it on the ground and lights it fire sickness....if ya know what I mean.
  • 1 0
 @jokermtb: Dunno but I saw some runs on the TV...
  • 22 0
 #6 Amaury Pierron is still fast as heck.
  • 19 1
 Do we really want DH to be the F1 of MTB?
Restrictively expensive
Politically and morally corrupt
More drama in the press than on the track
Teams backstabbing and getting innovation banned.

Maybe not?
  • 6 1
 Think about the endless possibilities:

-Virtual safety bike
-Front and rear aero wings
-DRS zones
-Pit stop during race for new rubber
-Magnum for the winner

What's not to like?
  • 7 5
 Totally!! Came to post exactly this. F1 is boring ss FUCK. AND elitist as FUCK too
  • 3 3
 @naptime: Boring? Username checks out
  • 2 1
 @mi-bike: yawn......
  • 2 0
 @naptime: stopped watching F1 ages ago. Caught some highlights recently and found myself skipping through it.

  • 2 0
 @excavator666: I liked when I was younger, when they stopped refueling is aboot when I got booooored of it zzzzz time for a nap
  • 19 3
 The funicular thing is unacceptable-Lourdes is a course, racing was super exciting this year, but considering the demands of elite racing, venue amenities need to be considered. Looking forward to watching the rest of the season.
  • 12 4
 I agree with that. But I don't agree with the global negative tone of the paper. The funicular. The crowd as a problem with wich to manage, especially if you're at home (who won?). The fact that the course is an early season one. It was an incredible event. The weather was beautiful. The track was awesome and Pierron helmet cam is crazy.
  • 11 1
 It is a 10.000 ppl city not a ski resort and the idea of using helicopters for that is illegal in France, plus not the best for the environment. The trail was nice in Lourdes, I was surprised to see Lourdes again. France has the best Ski infrastructure with Switzerland and Austria. Not a fan of the article tone, Pinkbike forget that Whistler is stuck in the 90s with their 4 seats chairlifts and massive lineups in the village.

I pay 30 euros per day to ride in the Porte du Soleil ( Chatel, Morzine, Les Gets, Morgins and Champery) for Whistler it is $80-90. At the end of the day I prefer the PDS.
  • 2 0
 @Ba1rog: We attend the Pass'Portes du Soleil, ignore the official event and play in the bike parks, eat their food before attempting to drink the bar dry at the end. (And we have succeeded with the last part more than once Smile )
  • 10 0
 #6: DH doesn't give a s... about concussion. I'm talking about Myriam here. We need doctors alongside the track and some kind of protocol, rugby managed to do it a few years ago.
  • 3 3
 I think still decicion to race was Myriams. And it should be hers to make. I know the DH racers are some rowdy crowd, and many will be in a race mindset ready to risk all. On this issue i am pro choice. After all it is their own head they are risking. Now in a case where the concussion would have impaired rational thinking (temporary amnesia etc.) she should (and would) have been removed from the race against her will.

My opinion it is all about informing the rider and letting them decide WITHOUT external pressure from teams.
  • 10 0
 @sokantoivo: I hear you. And I disagree. The decision must be made by an independent physician. Otherwise the pilot will always want to run. You can't get rid of external - and internal- pressure. This is what happened with rugby. When it was player's decision, or team physician's decision, players were not really protected.
  • 4 0
 @sokantoivo: if you’ve just rattled your head you may not be a suitable person to make that choice. It should absolutely be someone independent (a medical expert of course) who carries out the head injury assessment and makes the call. That’s the trouble with head injuries, it might not be immediately clear to the affected person how bad the situation is.
  • 2 0
 @mashrv1: Yes, that's it. Henry, Ben and James talked about it in the pinkbike racing podcast episode 2. Other than that, I've read nothing about it, even in French MTB websites.
  • 9 3
 I mean it's not just women's racing getting insane, at the end of the day. It's just all of the racing. Almost every rider had a "moment" in their run, and if that moment turned into an actual off the bike you were instantly below top 10, no questions asked. Warner kept mentioning that you used to hear about dudes coming off the bike and still winning in mens. It'd happened quite a few times in womens not so long ago. But that shit doesn't fly anymore.

This track was just TIGHT, despite how challenging it was. So long as you stayed rubber side down, the times were tight. But Amaury putting nearly a second into Finn after coming unclipped, off line, and having to pedal out the low side of a flat section is... Otherworldly.

Stoked for Cami. She absolutely made that track hers. Which is crazy when you saw the little bobbles everyone else had. She is the pinnacle of 'smooth is fast, fast is smooth' for the womens field. Hoping Tahnee finds that flow and stays on the podium all year.
  • 2 0
 I don’t think there’s really all that much parity. Vergier came to a dead stop on one of the fastest parts of the track, got back on, and still got 12th. There are five dudes who win!
  • 2 0
 @owl-X: I mean that's what I implied. As soon as you go down down, as opposed to just missing a line, you're outside top 10.

Vergier ended up going fastest in the key section. Had he stayed rubber side down, he wouldn't just be top 10. He'd probably be top 3.

The good news is, all this narrative about tight racing (which makes some sense on a track like this) will get a good shake at Fort Bill to see how tight fields really are. Particularly in the women's field where at a certain point that track just comes down to fitness. I think that's a 5+ minute track
  • 1 0
 @lepigpen: so stoked to see this season at ft bill. With how good the last year of racing has been it’s bound to be fire
  • 1 0
 @sudochuckwalla: I'm a sadist. I hope it's greasy ice there and it's a challenging race. Love UK climate/riding. Also would be tremendous whip lash from super fast, dusty France.
  • 1 0
 @lepigpen: I wouldn’t be mad at that. It wouldn’t be a real ft William if it wasn’t rainy
  • 2 0
 @sudochuckwalla: wouldn't most people would prefer rain at Ft Bill because it keeps the midges away?
  • 1 0
 @Maxcommencemal: I dunno much about midges, just a lowly California boy here all I know is sun and dry and flys. From watching cathrovisions in the past my understanding is ft william does really good in the wet, the rocks get really grippy when wet apparently
  • 4 0
 Bullshit that late March is to early for a WC! They obviously happen in drier ecosystems where the riding is prime at this time of year. Track looked next level mint. Summer thunderstorms can be way worse than spring rain, as we have seen over the years. The riders all want more races, buzz kill to wait til late May for the next round. Stack them up and let’s get a culture outside of some whack UCI guided scenario going! The riders want it!
  • 2 0
 It could've been a very different story had the race been this weekend..
  • 4 1
 We need a block of early season races in the southern hemisphere - Aus, NZ, Brazil, Chile, Thailand and other developing markets.
Then a block in Europe in the early summer, and over to North America late summer.
Have I missed anywhere?
(Russia isn't gonna happen, obvs)
  • 1 0
 @chakaping: late summer could be a bad bet for western canada and western states due to forest fire threat/ smoke from fires and complete forest closures which are now the normal.
  • 4 1
 I read Gwin's post about waiting in line forever on practice day as well. Do they have something to limit the number of people that are showing up to try and qualify for the big show? I think of golf or other individual sports where they have pre-qualifying tournaments or events to cut out some of the people that aren't quite up to standards.

I know they like to compare it to F1 but it isn't quite the same. You don't have some random bad ass showing up in jeans and his privateer F1 car who could potentially win on any given weekend (like you do in DH).
  • 10 0
 You can't just turn up and try to qualify. You need to score points at other races recognised by your country's federation.
  • 3 0
 No amount of rate limiting would have solved the problem. I think it was mentioned each train takes 35 riders and bikes. Trip time is ~15 + 7-10 min to load/unload. That's an average rate of only 85 riders up hill an hour. 279 riders with _at most_ a 5 min run down. You would have to dramatically cut down all fields in order for that uplift to keep up.

The funicular was doomed before the first practice. This was a huge planning miss by the organizers and the UCI.
  • 6 0
 The amazing crowds at French races can also be explained by one simple thing : no tickets, free access
  • 2 0
 It's great to see a couple Junior Canadians doing well but hopefully they don't get pushed too much into the spotlight and feel too many high expectations put on them to win. A lot of younger people in their position aren't used to, and possibly don't handle the newly placed attention and pressure that can come with it. I think that's what happened to Vali as she was coming out of Juniors. There seemed to be a lot of talk that she would show up and dominate in elite but she's had her struggles, much of what seems to be mental and it took a while to find her stride.
  • 3 1
 I thoroughly enjoyed the ball up due to the funicular. Not only did it make for some good behind-the-scenes banter and whining (Gwin is secretly hyped he couldn't practice), but it seemed to bring some uncertainty to the field when it came to sussing out line choice. Extra stress, pretty sick. I like my DH season like I like Mario Kart: ice level beach level dirt track stadium level...maybe even have one under the lights, let's get XFL on this mofo!

I'll watch these guys race anywhere. Love it.
  • 2 1
 All I could think of watching that up lift queue: "The spirit of enduro."

Ya get one look then it's race time boiz n girlz!!!
  • 2 0
 So we all know the French are by far the strongest nation in DH, but is there any chance that they would have had an advantage from having ridden the Lourdes track more previously? With the limited practice available for this race, I mean. Not a statement, a genuine question.
  • 1 0
 I have not seen many (if any) teams or riders going to Lourdes earlier this year (even last year ?). It's not 100% sure, but usually they are communicating on the spot they are training/preparing on (i.e commencal test track, San Remo...)
I'd say the ones that have ridden the last WC in 2017 might have had a little "+" as the track was not dramatically different from previous editions.
But in the end we could have the same statement for Fort Bill for example, I mean a guy like Minnaar probably know every inch of the track, that's for sure an advantage compared to a new comer / less experienced guy !
  • 4 2
 The problem with the uplift is that there are way too many riders at the world cups in the first place. It is supposed to be the pointy end of the elite. I don’t see why there should be any more than 50 elites men even there and maybe 25 elite women. Also Kaos Segrave said that the course changed so much that practice was irrelevant anyway.
  • 1 0
 Fact #6 : hundreds of journalists, photographers, bloggers, video crew, trainers, team personnel and hangers on, including some on E-bikes, were happy to take the place of riders in the funicular instead of taking a 45mn walk up the track, and in doing so dramatically increasing the waiting time for racers. All that so they could then report and moan about it later in such articles.
  • 6 6
 As for the funicular and "whatever the case it needs to be improved for Lourdes to fully deliver on its potential"

I agree that the lift is a problem but when it came to race day, Lourdes delivered. Maybe this is a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it?" Maybe the course would've been too blown out by the weekend if riders have more practice time.
  • 10 1
 If you were a rider having flown a few thousand miles to get 4 runs and go home would you still think that?
  • 3 7
flag rustiegrizwold FL (Mar 31, 2022 at 14:56) (Below Threshold)
 @justanotherusername: Probably, unless I did well, but isn't the entire point of professional sports to produce entertainment. Were you not entertained?
  • 4 0
 not putting the 'fun' in funicular, was the real problem..........
  • 1 1
 Given that race positions can be decided on such thin time margins, I'm surprised not to hear more about aerodynamic features on bikes/accessories. I've heard references to skinsuits but don't know the full story on that.

Not only would an aerodynamic stem with special low-friction surface coating shave off valuable microseconds, it would also give manufacturers a chance to jack up the price on a super-premium component. I'm (half)joking there
  • 13 13
 I am convinced that if Valentina Holl had had a 27.5 in the rear she would have been faster. It's happening to him like Troy Brosnan in 2020. Greetings.
  • 6 0
 Agree. Normally, people of fairly short stature are affected. It should alternate according to the circuits, in Fort Bill better full 29, but in the twisted areas of Lourdes it looked clumsy...
  • 3 0
 @trisquel Exactly ;-)
  • 4 0
 Troy when he put a 27.5 returned to the podium.
  • 2 0
 @trisquel And winning spectacularly in Leogang, in that technical area :-)
  • 22 2
 @MattP76 you gonna tolerate this? Where are you?
  • 2 0
 I remember, in the forest area his stopwatch came out green.
  • 3 0
 I thought she tested the trek mullet all winter and was on it?
  • 4 0
 @henryquinney: oh no you summoned that garbage juice
  • 2 0
 @yakimonti I should go back to it, it's my humble opinion ;-)
  • 4 0
 @henryquinney: this is the kind of moderating we need. Thank you.
  • 4 0
 @henryquinney: Keep scrolling down, you'll find him eventually.
  • 2 0
 How big was the send at the bottom. Looked huge
  • 4 1
  • 7 0
 How does this writer mention BC and not mention Finn? He is still our fastest and all of 22years old. .06 behind Amaury at int 4 !!!
  • 3 0
 @forecast01 Totally agree. Unforgivable..I think he's going to be the successor to our dear friend Steve. Greetings.
  • 2 0
 2 months til' the next Round!! WTF!!!!
  • 1 0
 Gracey did this really cool video a few years ago:

  • 2 0
 Today I learned a new word, "funicular". It's pretty neat, eh?
  • 3 1
  • 1 0
 Did I miss the post or are the fantasy league results late?
  • 1 2
 Who even won?!? All I know is FINN GOT SECOND !!
  • 1 2
 First loser
  • 2 0
 @mi-bike You say it because of Ayrton Senna's phrase. That second place tastes like victory to him, Finn since he went to Elite had problems with solidity in the races, Congratulations to Finn, on the right track.
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