The team headed through the Monte Blanc tunnel to Val Di Sole in Italy for the 2021 World Championships. Bernard, Emilie and Sam would have the honor of representing their countries in the one run takes all World Championships.
Bernard was recovering well from a sprained hand at the Maribor World Cup and was looking to build speed and strength throughout the weekend. Emilie had previously announced that the 2021 season would be the last of her racing World Cups thus making this event her last World Championships.
Wednesday - Track Walk
A few much-hyped changes to the track added man made rocks and berms throughout but kept the classic Val di Sole feeling of steep, fast and rough. Some big rock slabs and rock gardens would test the bikes and riders throughout the weekend.
A fast start with a few jumps and berms sent the riders straight into steep and rough woods. With some big drops and a very high entry speed, this section set the tone for the rest of the track. More steep and rough woods followed with a wooden bridge after split two being the only let up.
The lower track gets steeper still, some added rock gardens made sure commitment was high even where the riders would be feeling tired. The classic Val di Sole step down remained before the final woods section spat the riders into the open finish area. The dry track and dirt looked like it would be cut up over the weekend, adding to the roughness and challenge, the riders couldn’t wait.
Thursday - Training
First day of training was as expected – rough, fast and dry. Bernard was building speed steadily, taking care not to aggravate his recovering hand. Learning his lines on the first run he started to let off the brakes and build the speed. The faster he went the better the track felt. Skipping over the top of holes and gapping huge rocks helped tame the tough track.
Although recovering from surgery on his injured shoulder, Eddie was at the race helping out with good vibes and line choice. Emilie was loving her custom bike paint job and was pushing hard at her final World Championships after 14 years representing Swiss Cycling. The loose dirt was proving a challenge, some sections were getting cut up and dusty, hiding the rocks and roots underneath.
Sam was enjoying the track, finding his braking points and the rhythm needed to keep the bike light and get through the track fast and safely.
Friday - Qualification
With the top 80 riders qualifying for the finals at World Champs the pressure to qualify is lower than at World Cups allowing riders to build the speed throughout the weekend.
Emilie set off down the hot and dry Black Snake track at Val di Sole. A hot and hectic run saw her finish 12th. Struggling with such a physical track and wanting more, Emilie was frustrated to be outside the top 10 in qualification.
Sam dropped in for his run and was riding well. Hitting some of the gaps in his run to jump the biggest rocks and smooth out the track. A fast but safe run left Sam in 39th, a good start but he knew there was more to come.
Bernard was using the qualifying run to see how he measured up against the competition. After a fast start Bernard settled into his run. Riding light on the bike, he was feeling good finishing qualifying in 25th with a cruzy run.
Saturday - Training
Another day of training between qualifying and finals is a quirk of the World Championships format and changes the rider’s perpetration. Emilie used her experience and took the day off the bike, resting her body ready to give 100% in the finals.
Dry weather continued and the track was getting rougher and more beat up each run. Bernard and Sam used the extra training to finalize lines, working on the extra details that would be needed for a World Championship ride.
Sunday - Finals
Emilie felt rested and ready to push hard for the finals. A confident start saw her gain time on her opponents down the track. Sprinting over the line to take the hot seat by over 4 seconds Emilie left everything on the track for her final World Championships run. Happy with how the rode the classic track at Val di sole Emilie was pleased to finish inside the top 10.
Sam set off for this first elite World Championship run as a slight drizzle of rain started. A fast start was not hindered by the rain, the first open turn was ripped up by Sam as he headed down towards the steeps. A small mistake in section 2 saw Sam lose a few seconds to the hot seat time but he settled into his run looking strong and fast. Crossing the line into 13th Sam was happy to put down a solid run and knock 6 seconds off his qualifying time.
Bernard was the last of the team to set off down the hill. A fast start saw him go green in split 1, holding his speed with some impressive commitment over the rocks and roots. A mistake between split 2 and 3 put Bernard behind the hot seat time. Clawing back some time towards the bottom of the track, he sprinted across the line in 3rd, less than two seconds back.
A fast and frantic race followed that showed the best of the sport. Bernard’s time held on for 16th overall, a great finish after a crash at the last World Cup. While Sam finished an impressive 35th in his first Elite World Championship.
A solid weekend for the team saw everyone leave healthy and ready to tackle the final few downhill races of the season.
As always thanks for all the support along the way, especially with the custom bikes for World Championships. The bikes were amazing and really added a buzz to the riders and team.