World Cup racing is serious business and so are the fans. If you've ever been to a race venue in person, you'll know just how wild it can be, especially when Americans and the French bring the party and the costumes. At Fort William, the downhill event brings in over 10,000 spectators on race day and the roar of the crowd at the finish line can be heard from the top of the mountain.
Whether it's cross country or downhill, there's nothing like witnessing the speed and competition up close. Trackside, the speeds and physical strengths of World Cup riders are put into perspective at arms reach from the tape. You also get a sense for the dirt, grade of the track, and how unforgiving the rocks are. Not to mention, you can walk through the pits and ogle over prototype bikes and meet the racers to collect a few autographs.
What keeps the races going and the teams alive though is the fans. Even the top athletes will be sure to shout out and thank the spectators for amping them up. These are the kind of people that aren't held back by weather. They bring their chainsaw, face paint and chants. Remember Greg Minnaar's super fan that followed along the World Cup series for a few years?
If you can't view it in person, watching the live broadcast is second best. In some ways, it could almost be better as you get to see the majority of the track and watch the slow-mos. Red Bull has brought mountain bike fans incredible coverage for more than a decade, allowing us to tune in from around the world. On some courses, we have the opportunity to watch nearly the whole lap or entire run. The quality of the footage has helped push mountain biking into the mainstream.
Just because they're not there in person, doesn't mean those fans are any less passionate though. For super fans that aren't trackside, social media spoilers can also come out of left field. There's nothing worse than overhearing the results while out on the trail either. I've even heard of public yelling matches where the podium finishers were listed in reverse order, almost erupting into a physical fight.
Then there are mountain bikers that skim through the news as it rolls out or couldn't be bothered to hear any of the race news. Certainly, mountain biking can be about checking out of the news and getting away, deep into the mountains, without any care for who finished first.
Either way, racing gets people stoked to go fast on their bikes and the first World Cup DH of the year is just days away. There is plenty of excitement surrounding team changes, prototype bikes, and the return to Lourdes, France. The last time a World Cup was raced there, the tables were turned for the top racers as the rain came down, making the best in the world look like amateurs in the nearly unrideable, greasy conditions. That meant that we saw fresh faces on the podium and one rider take their first victory. What will this weekend bring, and will you be tuning in or checking out?