After the muddy ordeal of the Mountain Bike World Championships on the weekend before last, the cream of the downhill crop did not have much time to recover before the next series of races.
Hello (liquid!) sunshine!
The Slovenian city of Maribor, situated just south of the Austrian border, was the venue for a packed weekend with two qualifying runs and two finals on two slightly different courses based on the same main circuit. That meant that the athletes spent four out of five consecutive days going head-to-head in races. Owing to the current situation, the idea behind this intense weekend schedule was to fit as many races as possible into a limited period, in order to crown the winners of a condensed World Cup season. Two more finals are already in sight: they will be held in Lousa, Portugal, on the last weekend of October. But not only the finals count towards the overall ranking – the qualifying times are included as well. This poses a difficult question to the riders: Should they play it safe in the qualifying races and aim for a good safety run in order to start earlier in the finals and secure a chance at riding the course before it gets torn up? Or risk going all in and aiming for the best possible time? An injury would certainly spell the end to such a short season. The right strategy can be decisive in making it to the top of the overall ranking.
After the extreme conditions of
Leogang many were hoping for better weather in Slovenia. However, training in Maribor started under dark clouds and heavy rainfall on Thursday, which made things difficult on the 1.9 km course of the first finals on Friday, even though this circuit is usually a favourite for many riders. Countless roots and deep tracks didn’t help, either. The steep off-camber stretches and the rock section in sector 5 soon turned out to be segments that could make or break anyone’s time. Apart from finding the best lines, skilful braking modulation was crucial to making it into the top 20. So, who managed to make the best of the situation and use these conditions to their advantage?
The weather forecast for the second finals on Sunday brought significantly drier conditions, promising action-packed races with riveting head-to-heads. The Elite category started off with the women’s race. Tahnée Seagrave of the Canyon Collective FMD Team came second in the qualifying, demonstrating clearly that she deserves a place on anyone’s list of favourites. She went into the finals fast and furious, but sadly fell victim to the poor conditions. Her 8th overall place (7th on Friday) is still a definite success after her injury earlier this year.
The subsequent men’s Elite category race was yet another demonstration of how close these races can be in the dry: the fastest ten riders were only 2.5 seconds apart. Troy Brosnan of the
Canyon Collective Factory Team got down a clean run on his Canyon
downhill bike, coming in 5th only one second behind the fastest time – and improving his standing by three ranks, making excellent progress towards a great overall ranking. Jack Moir was able to cope better with the rain on Friday (7th place), before once again demonstrating his current top form on the downhill bike with another placement within the top 15 (finishing 14th on Sunday). His teammate Mark Wallace was able to halve his result from the first finals (34th place), finishing within the top 20 on Sunday (17th place). Last but definitely not least, reigning Italian downhill and
enduro champion Loris Revelli, a.k.a. “Pesto Pete”, got to celebrate his best result on the international stage yet, finishing 18th.
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