Disclaimer: The title image weather may be misleading…
After a short absence of the UCI World Cup coverage for the layman rider (cough..that’s us) here is a little preview of what’s coming up this weekend in Cairns, Australia for round 2 of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014. (Spoiler: it’s rain)
If you haven’t already done so, check out the track preview videos on YouTube (Claudio’s is linked below) for a good look at what the riders have in store for them. Dangerous creepy crawlies, deadlier plants and some lovely, cakey (peanut buttery!) mud. With average temperatures in Cairns for April in the mid 30’s, it’s going to be a sweatfest. Imagine your hot, steamy, post-muddy ride shower. They’re going to be competing in conditions akin to that.
Throw in some venemous creepy crawlies, mud that will clog up the gnarliest tyres, slime coated rocks and roots and you’ve got a recipe for an amazing downhill track run (for the sofa seated fan). We don’t know about you guys but for us, a world cup race isn’t what it is without watching the best riders push it to the limit in challenging conditions (ones that we wouldn’t even leave the comfort of the said sofa to go outside in).
Cairns hasn’t hosted any international mountain bike events since the mid 90’s so this track is on par with Pietermaritzburg with almost all of the riders having never ridden it! This means everyone is untested and has the same amount of time to prepare, in unique conditions.
It’s all up in the air on who’s going to be on top and only gueses can be made as to who’s going to take it to the next level based on the course and conditions: rain, mud, rocks and steepness. Local favourites Aussie residents Mik Hannah and sister Tracey are attracting a lot of media attention, but the proof will be in the pudding.
Timed results came in recently, although these don’t particularly mean much as some are going all out, others analysing what they’ve got to work with. Manon Carpenter, Rachel Atherton and Emmeline Ragot are the top 3 for the trial runs, although with 6 minutes difference between them, this can’t be taken too seriously.
With the men’s results Connor Fearon of KONA, Matthew Simmonds of Madison Saracen (our favourite team!) and Gee Atherton of GT finished within less than 3/4 of a second of each other. This being said, Aaron Gwin, the winner of Round 1 in Pietermaritzburg, didn’t even take part in the timed runs – so who knows. No surprise for us with Gee being on top – with the conditions as they are and the Athertons loving the rain as Rachel confirmed in a recent interview. They are accustomed to downpours and the mud, albeit in a colder environment.
Our goggles steam up before we even put them on… so I wonder how they’re going to fare in the jungle.
Maybe there’s a secret… is it washing up liquid?
The track at Cairns is fairly unique in typography, an initial steep decent with lots of twisty switchbacks in a short period of time. It is definately unique in it’s climate – never before seen in HD! No subtropical zone has hosted a DH event of this calibre for many years.
Keeping speed and control through this first section will be difficult, especially if there is a tropical downpour – that forest looks muggy as an otter’s pocket. As you may know, twisty, non flowy sections like these can be really draining as there isn’t much momentum propelling you forward from the bike after each turn.
Moving on from the initial switchbacks, a pedally section similar to Pietermaritzburg will have the riders gasping for air and really push their legs to their limits. The speed and pedalling needs to be kept up through this to propel them through the next sections after a climb. Slime and mud caked rockgardens, insane root sections slippier than a lubed up porpoise (remember buttress roots from geography?) draining, mud adorned step ups and a final singletrack esque route will be where the fittest of the riders show their true colours.
The roots are absolutely gigantic in some sections and will be forcing riders off their lines and off the mountain.Taking the correct line through the obstacle fields will be a major challenge not only in saving a few seconds but in staying on the bike. A mal angled wheel on a rock or a root could spell disaster and we expect to see a fair few falls, more if it rains.
So, for those of you wanting more, check out Claudio’s course preview here over on RedBull’s site.
Here’s a little snippet of today (24/04/2014) practice runs. Look at that RAIN!
Be sure to check back with us over the weekend for our take on Cairns and highlights!