There's more to World Cup DH than just who wins
There’s more to World Cup DH than just who wins. There’s bike tech, mind games, team politics, gossip and outrageous rumour and hype. Bring it on!
1. Aaron vs Jack
All the talk about Aaron’s move to Intense has been exclusively Gwin-centric. We’re arguably more interested to see how Jack Moir reacts to the move. Before Gwin joined Intense, Moir was the team’s number one and a genuine title contender. It’s going to be interesting to see how having two World Cup Overall contenders on the same team is going to play out. Is it going to lead to a tense Senna vs Prost situation? Or will things be kept friendly and, more importantly, free of any ‘team orders’? Which brings us to…
2. Battle of the generations
Will 2019 be the last hurrah of the Old School generation of riders (Minnaar, Gwin, The Athertons, Hart, The Hannahs and co)? Or have they already had their day and we’ll now see the likes of Matt Walker, Laurie Greenland, Tahnee Seagrave and of course, last year’s Men’s overall victor Amaury Pierron taking over the podiums?
3. Vali Holl vs Elite women
AKA Vali Holl’s times versus the Elite Women’s times. It’s something of a given that Vali Holl is going to dominate female gravity racing pretty soon. So much so, that stats peepers are already keen to point out where her Junior winning times would place her if she was competing in the Elite category. This will continue in 2019 and will continue to be fascinating.
4. Atherton Bikes
In a funny sort of way, the Athertons and their own Atherton Bikes can’t really win this conundrum. If Rachel keeps winning, no one will give much credit to the bike she’s on. If Rachel looses her grasp on the World Cups then plenty of folk will be singling out her new bike as the culprit. To a lesser extent the same goes for Gee Atherton; if he keeps on with his recent good form, the bike will get glossed over, if he slips down the results table then eyebrows will be raised.
AKA bikes with 29in front wheels and 27.5in rear wheels. There are already a fair few riders who have done some extensive testing and even some racing on a frankenbike setup: Danny Hart, Loic ’29er hater’ Bruni, Finn Iles, Mick Hannah, Wyn Masters and Alexandre Fayolle to name a few. Truth be told there is a couple of themes to the frankenbikers; they’re either on the short side (and the rear wheel hits them up the bum on steep stuff) or they ride bikes that can’t really run 29in rear wheels.
6. The return of (bonkers) Cannondale
Cannondale are returning to downhill racing after an absence of roughly yonks. And just like the good ol’ days they’re using a rather unique bike. This time Matt Simmons will be racing on a bike with a rear shock that’s split into two units: a spring unit and a damper unit. Separating the spring stuff from the damping stuff is a sound idea that allows for plenty of adjustability and consistency. Simmons doesn’t quite have enough UCI points to get automatic place in the finals so he’s technically in B-practice and will try to qualify for the race proper during the run-up. Which he is almost certainly going to do. He is rather fast.
7. Ratboy racing
Cannondale are back in DH. Cannondale have signed Josh Bryceland. Thus the internet warriors are out in force chattering about a potential return of Josh to World Cup racing. Which, we think, is highly unlikely.
8. The new Claudio
Claudio Caluori won’t be doing his course preview videos (his brain injury is still a big factor). Gee Atherton will most likely be doing the official Red Bull-sponsored course previews. But what videos will take the place of the ‘amusing and entertaining’ slot that Claudio’s vacancy affords? One worth keeping an eye on is Fox and their wry-tastic Jordi’s new ‘Dialed’ series of edits.
America has some more potential race-winning riders. Gwin has carried the Yankee can single-handedly for ages now. The World Cup is also visiting the United States of America (Snowshoe) this season which will add a further bit of oomph to the ‘Murican racers.
10. The overlooked
With all the talk being either about Aaron Gwin or The Athertons in the off-season, there have been plenty of overlooked riders who will be out to prove something in 2019. Reece Wilson, Adam Brayton, Dean Lucas and Phil Atwill are all on new teams and totally different race bikes to what they’re used to. Monika Hrastnik has joined Dorval AM team and will have a proper factory team back-up behind her this year.
11. Britain vs France
France ruled the races last year. For 2019 it looks like British racers are likely to claw back some ground and possibly even take the top spots away from the French. Just look at some of the Brits racing in World Cup DH this season: Matt Walker, Danny Hart, Laurie Greenland, Gee Atherton, Reece Wilson, Adam Brayton, Bernard Kerr, Phil Atwill, Matt Simmons, Rachel Atherton and Tahnee Seagrave. Blimey.
All this and we haven’t even touched on: the move back to ‘natural’ tracks (no more bike park domination), our predicted overall winners (Jack Moir and Rachel Atherton if you must know), Martin Maes and Myriam Nicole aiming for the World Champs rather than World Cups?