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:: UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU ::
All the fuss about the smoothness of the track: Unnecessary. The wheels of these riders have barely touched the ground since they powered up the timing. It’s more a case of buckling up, spinning out the gate and bouncing down 50% airborne… albeit with an extremely high degree of precision, aggression and in some cases, style. Without a real-life front row seat, the speeds through, over and into the rocks are genuinely unimaginable, especially to those less familiar with the sport. The crashes and the bicycle brutalization have been leaving what few spectators that have so far arrived and most marshals, stunned. And how about those times!?
There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team America’. Except for the fact there is… And those at the sharp end of the 2014 DH series know it only too well. Each one of them is out for themselves, looking for the win that can push them out in front. Or in the case of Troy Brosnan, further out in front. The young Australian sits in the season-long hot seat, on top of the pile with 799 points, closely followed by Britain’s Josh ‘Ratboy’ Bryceland on 757 and team-mate Aaron ‘all-American’ Gwin on 727. As we now head south from Quebec for round 6, Sam Hill is dangerously close to the front of the pack with Atherton, Minnaar and Hart all in hot in pursuit like gorillas chasing a man with a front pocket full of blueberries. The East Coast track of Windham where we now find ourselves, has a short 3 year downhill history and only 2 winners. Atherton stole the overall from Minnaar here back in 2010 and Aaron Gwin took 2 home-soil wins in the following years. This time we find the track tacky, relatively smooth and as short as ever. Times will be tighter than tight. None of the forerunners can afford an off-day, or even so much as a missed pedal-stroke. Yup, it’s getting ‘ronery’ at the top.
Finals - MSA - Canada - WC 5
What can we say? It’s been a while. Four years is no short weekend, but after all this time, the one and only Sam Hill is back setting the kind of pace we used to know him for… the fastest kind. Qualifying off the back, but still in touch with 6th, he was more a wildcard pick than any kind of dead cert. Problems with his brakes in that run may have held him back from throwing down all his chips and giving away early his master-plan to destroy this infamous Canadian raceway when it mattered. It comes as a more than welcome surprise addition to the history books, as we see five winners from five rounds and indeed, the return of the king. Sam Hill at long last comes home to roost in the place where he won the World Championships and raced his first ever World Cup all the way back in 2001; the mighty MS of A.
REVIVING A CLASSIC
Steve Peat, Chris Kovarik, Sam Hill, Greg Minnaar, Aaron Gwin and Stevie Smith all walk into a bar…. And they raise it. These are the names to have stood on the top step of the mighty MSA podium in the last 10 years of Quebecoi race history. Some of them more than once. What’s more, just about any one of them could do it again at the weekend, as we get back to business after what feels like some kind of apocalyptic eternity (actually just 6 weeks) of World Cup hiatus. Ok Peaty would be a long shot and Karver would be at least a thousand to one seeing as he hasn’t entered. In fact it’s going to be no stroll for any of the others either, with the new guard- Brosan, Bryceland and Hart to name a few, all ready to take it down to the wire. So pull up a chair for a front row seat as we boulder our way down the legendary race course for the first time since Smith blazed the trail in 2013 and join us in beginning to fantasize about how it might look to see some of these great names in action a-top it this season. Welcome to Mont St Anne and the beast’s new look.
:: Miami Bryce ::
Josh Bryceland. The Ratboy. Miami Bryce. The kid goes by a few aliases, but today you can call Ratty Skidson, ‘champ’. The mountain bike hall of heroes welcomes a new member to join around the giant oak table to wear cloaks and swig liter beers with all the greats as we can assume they must do. A firm and dry Austrian gauntlet brought fiery pace, big air and race times close enough to be influenced by how many flies exploded against the race plate since leaving the gate. 2014 gets better every round and this time there was more to marvel at than ever. The racing lines, the drifts, the crashes… A completely tyreless run from Aaron Gwin that was nothing short of bicycle genius. It was all-round one totally astonishing weekend of racing. Thanks for reading everyone, we’re off to watch the replay just one more time.
Leogang, Austria - DH World Cup 4
In the calm after the literal storm this afternoon, it was Gee Atherton who pushed hardest to stoke the racing furnace at a 3:31.5 and with Manon Carpenter less than 30 seconds behind. Quite a terrifying revelation for anyone at home who still thinks top-flight ladies are slower than them. Anyway no need to get all anxious about your crippled masculinity now, there’s not much we can do to restore it today. Let’s just enjoy the bicycles and the dirt and the interaction of those excellent things. Mountain biking… Yehoo.
CENTURION - The Greg Minnaar Interview
My exclusive interview with Minnaar as he goes a hundred times across the line:
World Cup 3 SCOTLAND
Two point eight kilometers. Start to finish. That’s all it is… It might not sound like too much, but you know mere physical distance is no way to measure this beast. To scale up this highland monster you’ll need to think in pedals, you’ll need to think in breathes and heartbeats. And actually it’s best to factor in all the gravity-defying bunny hops, butt-clenching drifts, tricep-tearing pumps and wet-yourself death grips, before you chuck in the hail, the midges and the loose boulders. And a load of sweat. That’s if you can make it down alive. How far is 2.8km? We can say it’s far enough…
Medals Of Honour
Today an elite platoon of fine young men risked life and limb for their countries, sponsors and perhaps any attractive onlookers they happened to discern from their mud-spattered peripheral vision at 60kph. This special-ops unit consisted of 5 highly trained seals who were all to impact on their respective top 5 targets before ceasefire. Blenkinsop, Gwin, Minnaar, Masters and Dale… ‘Aus-pocalyse Now’ was a upon them and they fought bravely from their flooded foxholes. It may only be qualifying and tomorrow the list of heroes may be rewritten, but points and pride were on the line here today. These are champions of the slop, kings of the goop… masters of wet dirt. Give them each a medal. We must also honor the female troops who endured the same ordeal and came out alive and on top; Atherton, Carpenter and Ragot as well as the brave boy-soldier, Loris Vergier.
World Cup Round 2- CAIRNS, Australia… Where’s the Rainbow?
How do you fit two of every creature on Earth onto a wooden boat only 300 cubits long? What did all the other animals do wrong? Why should we bring mosquitoes aboard, and indeed, what the funk is a cubit?
All very poignant questions after today, well done for asking. The rains came down from the heavens early on and there is little sign so far of reprieve from the Father’s clear disapproval of our outdoor activities here in Cairns. Flooded pits, waterlogged camera bodies and prunified fingers will not stop this race, however. The show must go on. Some riders hit the showers early in disgust or despair, others stayed to session what is surely a course that simply can make no recovery before Saturday’s race. If it continues to rain grip levels will arguably be improved on the alternative grease level of sunnier days ahead. We are locked in for a slip n slide and nothing mixes up the scoreboard more than steamed vision, deep puddles and super-slick roots. You don’t get a rainbow, so take that silver lining and enjoy a very different Australia World Cup than we might have expected…