Graves came first, Gwin rolled in eigth.

Jared Graves won this year’s Sea Otter Downhill event and the bike he was on had twenty nine inch wheels. Aaron Gwin was also racing on a 29er.

Sea Otter DH men’s top ten

  1. Jared Graves 02:02.387
  2. Mike Day 02:04.469
  3. Josh Carlson 02:05.496
  4. Kiran MacKinnon 02:06.040
  5. Curtis Keene 02:06.371
  6. Bas Von Sternbergen, 02:06.755
  7. Marcelo Gutierrez 02:06.934
  8. Aaron Gwin 02:07.014
  9. Bruce Klein 02:07.178
  10. Jubal Davis 02:07.178

Now let’s not get too carried away here. The short and sedate Sea Otter course is quite a long way from the type of race courses found on the World Cup circuit – and 29ers have been raced at Sea Otter DH before – but it’s still an interesting bit of news that will further add to the hype about 29ers appearing in the World Cup DH this season.

Graves was actually riding a Specialized Camber 29 (tweaked in various typically Gravesian ways). Aaron Gwin was racing on a YT Jeffsy 29. Both of these bikes are firmly in the trail bike spectrum. Which just goes to show how mild the Sea Otter course is. Having said that, Gwin’s run was spoiled by his chain coming off in an early corner (he wasn’t running a chain guide on his Jeffsy 29).

In case you haven’t heard, there are strong rumours that some of the big teams in the World Cup DH this year will be using 29er bikes for some rounds and some riders. More and more big travel forks and frames are appearing on pro riders’ (and their mechanics’) social media accounts.

Will the 2017 World Champion win on a 29er?

It’s arguably not Graves’ win that’s the most eyebrow raising event here, it’s Gwin racing a 29er that’s the bigger story. Although the rumours that 29ers may appear in World Cup DH races this season, the general consensus was that none of the favourites (Gwin, Hart, Bruni, Brosnan, Rachel Atherton etc) would be on big wheels.

This consensus was partly due to what these racers had publicly stated in the past about 29ers and partly about these racers not needing the ‘help’ of 29ers to win races. The theory being that it was the also-rans of the World Cup DH scene who would be resorting to 29in wheels to help them on to podium in certain circumstances.

The opening round of the World Cup DH is this weekend at Lourdes, France. We’d actually be very surprised to see any of the favourites pull up the start line on a 29er this weekend. But we reckon some racers will be on 29ers.

And we wouldn’t be surprised to see some big names on big wheels at the World Champs in Cairns come September; if any World-level course suits 29ers, it’s Cairns.