If you were to take a poll of all the fans at an American football game I bet you'd find that many of them can barely remember the last time they actually played football (or ran further than from the couch to the refrigerator for that matter). Conduct the same poll at a mountain bike race and I'm fairly certain you'd have very different results - spectators at a mountain bike race tend to be regular participants in the sport themselves, even if it's not at the level of the athletes that they're watching.
Now, I've long since accepted the fact that that I'll never, ever be able to dunk a basketball, throw a football farther than ten feet, or make contact with anything other than a slow pitch softball. For that reason, when I watch any organized team sport I'm firmly in the role of a spectator. There's no part of me that thinks, “Put me in coach – I could do better.” Put on a downhill mountain bike race and it's a different story, and before long I'm sitting at the edge of my seat, imagining what it would be like to be there.
Of course, that's pure fantasy – World Cup DH tracks are waaay gnarlier in real life than they appear on the screen. Take Fort William, for example. I remember thinking that it didn't look that hard based on the photos and videos I'd seen over the years. Those white rocks almost seemed smooth, a cobblestone sidewalk that wound its way down the mountain. No big deal, right? Wrong. I had the opportunity to check out the race as a spectator a few years ago, and the brutality of the track took me by surprise. The sound of rims being smashed into oblivion was the first hint that it was rougher than I'd envisioned, and then a closer look revealed just how nasty that course truly is. It's full of punishing, jarring rock sections, and even if it was in my backyard I'm not sure that I'd want to ride it more than a few times a year.
That's the case with many of the World Cup tracks – even the ones that armchair commentators call out as being too 'bike parky' are full of frighteningly fast sections, big jumps, and sections that are much, much steeper than what the average mountain biker would feel comfortable riding.
That's the basis of this week's poll – if you were given the chance to drop into a World Cup DH track, would you?