From the best mud tyres to some amazing British riders, this is what happened at the unbelievably muddy and wet UCI World Champs
An unseasonably autumn UCI Mountain Bike World Championships delivered lots of mud and tortured components.
The Austrian Alps hosted one of the wettest World Championships in memory. In a year where disruption has is the broad theme relating to everything, riders raced the elements as much as their rivals.
In terrifically muddy conditions, this is what we learned from 2020 World Championships…
1. Tom Pidcock is a phenom
Although the young Yorkshire rider is scheduled for a lucrative road bike career with Ineos Grenadiers in 2021, he proved that technical mud-terrain mountain biking is very much his forte. Pidcock used his proven cyclocross experience and mercurial bike handling skills to win two gold medals in Leogang: in the eMTB event and u/23 XCO.
Riding two very different bikes (a 150mm dual-suspension Specialized Turbo Levo and the latest Specialized Epic), Pidcock’s bike skills were evident. If any of road cycle pro racing’s Grand Tours run into foul weather next year, on an Alpine descent, Pidcock should be smiling whilst the rest of the peloton are panicking.
2. These are the best mud tyres
With both the XCO and DH courses at Leogang devolving into a churned mudslide of ruts and roots, the oft-ignored mud tyre became paramount to all.
Expect a flood of hastily arranged marketing material from Bontrager, Specialized and Vittoria. The Italian tyre brand managed to roll Jordan Sarrou to his men’s gold medal in the XCO race, with a Barzo, whilst Pidcock’s u/23 win happened on Ground Controls.
Trek is sure to be happiest, with its Bontrager G5 Team issue rubber helping Scotsman Reece Wilson to victory, in the even steeper and more technical downhill race.
Update: secret squirrel cameras have shown that Wilson actually used Schwalbe Dirty Dan tyres on his race run
3. CushCore for the win
Despite downhill tyres not getting any cheaper or lighter, they still require rim inserts to prevent pinch flats, racing over truly rocky or rooty terrain.
This is especially true if one is either a very large framed rider or a smaller bloke with superlative technical skills, courage and all the speed. Reece Wilson is very much all of the latter and the new Downhill World Champ validated the quality of CushCore‘s inserts during a winning race run.
They might add 260g of rotational mass to each of the 29er wheels rolling Reece’s Trek Session 9.9, but those CushCores also gave the Scotsman peace of mind to attack the Leogang course with complete abandon.
Wondering how they work? CushCore’s released an edit (above) of Reece dominating technical terrain on his Trek Fuel EX trail bike to illustrate the point – on some rather pointy rocks.
4. Electronic shifting – is tough enough
Mud and electronics aren’t usually compatible, but SRAM will be feeling smug with after its SRAM AXS drivetrains operated without issue in Leogang.
XCO racing delivers brutal shifting under power. Combine the ability of athletes to brutalise drivetrain components, compounded by atrocious mud-clogging, and Leogang was an excellent reliability test for AXS. Which it passed, with flying rainbow striped colours.
5. Mudguards matter in DH, not so much in XCO
In truly biblical conditions, you would imagine that the benefit of front and rear mudguards would be obvious, especially to pro-level XCO mechanics and team managers.
Reducing the mud build-up on down tubes and seat tubes would be obvious to anyone who has ever carried a pound or three’s worth of terrain with them on a ride, but the pro field XCO bikes mostly ran ‘clean’, without fenders. The DH field had a predictably had more comprehensive assortment of fenders, although the mud was so dense that sometimes it clogged the fenders and ended up causing loss of control in some key riders; medal favourite Marine Cabirou seemed to slide out due to a mud-locked-up front tyre, for example.