2016 DH World Cup Preview

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By James Cornford

Round 1 of the 2016 DH World Cup Season is just around the corner and we can’t wait, it seems an eternity since Aaron Gwin pipped Loic Bruni to his maiden World Cup win, at the final round, in Val Di Sole.

Aaron Gwin delights the American fans
Aaron Gwin delights the American fans

Although Bruni has started this season off in similar fashion to last, winning the CrankWorx Rotorua DH title, this tour of downhill’s international circus is set to look very different, with new teams, new bikes and some farewells.

Silly Season Movements:

Team movements have felt pretty static for the last few years, but this year, things have been mixed up. Perhaps the biggest news was Gwin leaving Specialized due to financial reasons and bringing YT onto the World Cup scene. This left room for 2015’s World Cup bridesmaid, Bruni, to take his new rainbow stripes, which were once so synonymous with French downhillers, to the big S. Like Vouilloz and Barel before him, he now swings his leg over an American steed. Will that be the only aspect of his career that he shares with his dominant compatriots?

Atherton Racing in Wales, United Kingdom on the 04 November 2015
Atherton Racing in Wales, United Kingdom on the 04 November 2015

The other big move of the off season, was a new home for the Atherton’s! GT has been replaced by Trek. Will this be the move that Gee needs to reinvigorate his racing and how will it impact Rachel’s title defence? Only time will tell.

The Farewells

steve peat, bds, ae forest, 2016
Peaty in WC warm-up mode at last weekend’s BDS Rnd 1 – Pic: James Vincent

2016 is Steve Peat’s farewell tour. Having missed World Cup racing in 2015 through injury and surgery, 2016 is set to be the big mans final season, which means what ever the results on the track, it’s going to be a win off the track. What is not known just yet, is what round 1 will look like for Peaty. Needing 30 UCI points to compete in Lourdes, he headed out to Portugal in March, where a win would have given him all 30. Coming in 9th, it appears his only option now is to race in a British Cycling jersey and hope he earns enough points at Rd1, to continue racing for the rest of the season.

ragot
Ragot retired at the end of last season.

The big one in the women’s field, is the retirement of Emmeline Ragot, although not new news, the impact is set to be felt throughout the year, during 2016 she really pushed Rachel Atherton, placing 1st, 3rd, 3rd and 5th, before going down hard in Mont-Sainte-Anne. With a new career in physiotherapy, following 6 years of studying, Emmeline decided that this injury would mark the end of her racing career, but not necessarily her presence in the paddock.

The Tracks:

Looking at the venues, there are no big surprises – Windham takes a year off, Pietermaritzburg remains off the calendar, but there is a return to Cairns, bringing back memories of the mud baths and crashes of 2014.

Rd 1 – Lourdes, France, April 9-10.

A brand new addition to the circuit in 2015, we head across the Channel once more. This track is pedally, rocky and in the French Pyrenees in April, meaning if the track doesn’t get you, the weather could.

Last year saw dominance from the French and British riders, with the British men taking 5 of the top 7 spots and the women taking 3.  Emmeline Ragot wowed the local crowd claiming a home victory by 2 seconds, while Loic Bruni was denied a similar feat, by Aaron Gwin.

2015 Results:
1. Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing)
2. Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic)
3. Mike Jones (CRC PayPal)

1. Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker)
2. Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing)
3. Myriam Nicole (Commencal Vallnord)

Rd 2 – Cairns, Australia, April 23-24

Unforgiving sums up the Cairns course, wet, slippery and Muddy, this track took it’s toll on riders and fans alike the last time we visited, in 2014. None more so than Adam Brayton who crashed hard splitting his leg open and broke the leg of a spectator. If that wasn’t bad enough, Ben Bunny McGowan, the guy he asked to bring his bike down, decided to tackle the Australian track himself and got knocked out cold.

It was so technical (read sideways) in the wet, that flats became the choice of the day, with some riders not fully prepared for that, Gee Atherton had to swap shoes with a spectator.

If the track remains dry, it will be fast and action packed, if it rains again, then it could all be down to a riders roll of the dice.

2015 results:
1. Gee Atherton (GT Factory Racing)
2. Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
3. Neko Mulally (Trek World Racing)

1. Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing)
2. Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen Factory Racing)
3. Myriam Nicole (Commencal Vallnord)

Rd3 – Fort William, Scotland, June 4-5

fortbill-saturday-1

A favourite of fans and riders alike, Fort William has a real mix of technical and flat out riding. With an exposed top section and the motorway towards the bottom, there’s a lot of places a race can be won and lost.

In 2015 the British women claimed 4 of the top 5 positions, with only the now retired Ragot denying a clean sweep of the top 4.

Steve Peat will want to sign off in style on home soil, but it was Danny Hart (MS Mondraker) and Mike Jones (CRC PayPal) who got the crowds cheering during qualifying, both making the top three, but missing out on the Sunday.

2015 Results:
1. Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
2. Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing)
3. Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (Giant Factory Off-Road)

1. Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing)
2. Tahnee Seagrave (FMD Racing)
3. Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker)

Rd 4 – Leogang, Austria, June 11-12

AKA the greatest run of all time. Not much needs to be said about the 2015 event, other than Connor Fearon, who looked to be getting his break through victory, was beaten by
Aaron Gwin, without a chain!
We expect more normal proceedings in 2016, but you never know.

2015 Results:
1.Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing)
2. Connor Fearon (Kona Factory Team)
3. Remi Thirion (Commencal Vallnord)

1. Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing)
2. Tahnee Seagrave (FMD Racing)
3. Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker)

Rd 5 – Lenzerheide, Switzerland – July 9-10

In Switzerland 2015, Greg Minnaar became the most successful male World Cup winner, with 18 victories, deposing friend and team mate Steve Peat. Whilst all eyes were on Minnaar’s record chasing win, Rachel Atherton continued to prove that he has a long way to go to reach her winning rate. After topping the podium in Lenzerheide, Mont-Sainte-Anne and then again in the final round at Val di Sole her ending tally so far is 26.

2015 Results:
1. Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
2. Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic)
3. Dean Lucas (Devinci Global Racing)

1. Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing)
2. Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen Factory Racing)
3. Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR)

Rd 6 – Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada – August 6-7

Does Mont-Sainte-Anne offer us a window into 2016? The three B’s! The return of Bryceland and a close fought battle with Brosnan and Bruni, these are the current and future dominating riders of downhill! Hot on their hills are a batch of young riders, including Connor Fearon and Mike Jones, who are fast, but on the edge. Once they have tamed the beast, they will be regular contenders as well.

In the women’s race, it was business as usual for Atherton, hopefully someone will step up and bring her some competition in 2016.

Mont-Sainte-Anne 2015 Race summary video

2015 Results:
1. Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
2. Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic)
3. Troy Brosnan (Specialized Racing)

1. Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing)
2. Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen Factory Racing)
3. Myriam Nicole (Commencal Vallnord)

RD7 – Vallnord, Andorra – September 3-4

Bruni acquired the coveted rainbow jersey in Vallnord earlier this year
Bruni acquired the coveted rainbow jersey in Vallnord in 2015

Last years World Championships venue and the home of Commencal, will be the final round of the 2016 Championships. The Atherton’s have always performed well here, bringing home a famous triple victory in 2008 for Dan, Gee and Rachel, but it’s also the venue that saw Loic Bruni claim his stripes. This is set to be one of the most exciting races of the season, Andorra never disappoints.

2015 World Champs Results:

1. Loic Bruni Lapierre Gravity Republic)
2. Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate)
3. Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate)

1. Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing)
2. Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen Factory Racing)
3. Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR)

2015 Overall:

1. Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing)
2. Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic)
3. Troy Brosnan (Specialized Racing)

1. Rachel Atherton (GT Factory Racing)
2. Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen Factory Racing)
3. Tahnee Seagrave (FMD Racing)

James’ 2016 Predictions

We enter this season with less injuries than last year, although female podium favourite, Miriam Nicole has just come out of shoulder surgery, but with new bikes and the question of who has put in the most training over winter, the first round is always an eye opener.

My predictions for round 1 in Lourdes…

Men: If it’s wet Bryceland, Hill and Macdonald, if it’s dry, it will be more about fitness, which usually means, Atherton, Gwin and Minnaar.

Women: A British 1,2, 3; Atherton, Carpenter, Seagrave. Although Tracey Hannah may upset those plans.

For the rest of the season, I’m expecting Manon Carpenter to return to winning ways, Troy Brosnan to be in regular contention and for Connor Fearon to step it up. I’m also hoping for the return of Stevie Smith to the top end of the podium, where he belongs.

FortWilliam 2015 RatBoy
Our top tip for the weekend – Ratboy. So long as it rains.

Comments (2)

    It’s been a long winter. Bring it on.

    What are your predictions for rd 1 Darren?

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