Atherton favourite to defend her crown but can Loic prevent a Gwin?

Val di Sole in Italy is the venue for this Sunday’s UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Championships – better known as the .World Champs’.

The World Champs is different to the numerous World Cup races that happen throughout the season. Those World Champs is a one-off race. A one-off race where the pro’s race for their country rather than their sponsor.

>>> Poll: Which is the best looking World Champs bike?

Although it’s arguably less impressive to win a World Champs than to win a World Cup series, there is something special about a World Champs win. You can’t really get a pass into the realm of ‘MTB Legends’ if you’ve never won one.


Aaron Gwin (Pic: Red Bull Content Pool)

The favourites

For the defending World Champion, Rachel Atherton (GBR), 2016 also marked her fifth overall title (2008, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016) and a record-setting World Cup winning streak that now stands at a mind- boggling 13 races.

Her biggest threat comes from fellow Brit, Manon Carpenter (GBR), who finished second at last year’s World Championships and third last year in Val di Sole.

For Aaron Gwin (USA), the 2016 men’s elite overall world cup winner, Val di Sole is a chance to claim his first-ever World Championship.

At last year’s World Championships in Vallnord, Gwin crashed in the forest and finished 74th. Last week in Vallnord, Gwin played it safe – finishing 55th but still winning the World Cup overall  to claim his second consecutive overall title – by reserving his energy he should ready to make his best ever run at a World Championship.


Danny Hart (Pic: Red Bull Content Pool)

But what about Danny Hart (GBR) eh? With three back-to-back World Cup wins, Hart has the momentum. And he’s won a World Champs before remember – how can you forget Champery 2011?

The course

Nestled in the Dolomite Alps Mountain Range in Northeastern Italy’s Trentino province, Val di Sole hosts the World Champs for the first time since 2008.

With a 519m vertical drop and a 21% average descent, the 2.2km downhill track presents riders with one of the shortest, fastest, most intense challenges of the season. All eyes will be on the skies; the steep and technical track is slippery and dangerous when wet.

Last year at the World Cup series finale, the daunting Wall section took out Greg Minnaar (RSA). The Mickey Mouse section is next, filled with straight lines and roots. The Snake is a twisting wooden bridge that is extra dangerous when wet. Teo’s Dog Stone is a steep drop with lots of lines, roots and trees. The Hell is a quick descent that elevates the drama with steep turns, big rocks and roots. Pippo’s Jump is a step down before a sharp turn leading riders out of the forest and into several jumps before the finish line.


Reigning Champ Loic Bruni (Pic: Red Bull Content Pool)

Watch it online

Red Bull TV will broadcast the World Champs from 11:30am UK time – online and on mobile via Android, iOS and Windows Phone, as well as Apple TV, Xbox 360, Playstation 3+4, Amazon Fire TV (US), Chromecast and as a pre-installed channel on Samsung Smart TVs (2011+) in 194 countries.

That’s quite a lot of devices isn’t it?