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.
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.
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.
4. There were some early season woes
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.
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.
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.
The internet is a caveat
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.
Unless it's politically incorrect
(then the overlords just remove it)
Pinkbike Offers Vowels as a Members-Only Perk to Reduce Server Costs
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.
Politically and morally corrupt
More drama in the press than on the track
Teams backstabbing and getting innovation banned.
-Virtual safety bike
-Front and rear aero wings
-Pit stop during race for new rubber
-Magnum for the winner
What's not to like?
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.
My opinion it is all about informing the rider and letting them decide WITHOUT external pressure from teams.
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.
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
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)
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).
The funicular was doomed before the first practice. This was a huge planning miss by the organizers and the UCI.
I'll watch these guys race anywhere. Love it.
Ya get one look then it's race time boiz n girlz!!!
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 !
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.
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
Open your eyes SheePeople
Join Pinkbike Login