The team made their way to Les Gets in France for World Cup Downhill Round 2. With a new track and mixed weather forecast it was set to be a wild week of racing. Crowds were expected for the race, and if the 2019 race was anything to go by, they would add a lot of noise and atmospheres.
Wednesday - Track Walk
The track designers and builders did not disappoint in Les Gets. A new track for 2021 was 70% freshly cut with a few sectors used in previous World Cup and Crankworx events. Starting in an exposed start but straight into a step down gave the riders no chance to warm up. A fast section traversing the piste took riders across the hill and into the first steep wooded section. The woods were where the track started to get really interesting.
Steep and taped wide, the majority of the track had all the riders excited. The fresh track had very few lines to see during track walk but would develop and change throughout the weekend. The layer of topsoil would quickly get pushed away and expose a web of roots.
Line choice and smart racing was going to be critical on a track that would change and develop hour by hour over the weekend.
Thursday - Training
Everyone was eager to get up the hill and attack the track. As normal, Emilie was first up and she opted for full mud spike tires. Suited to the steeper, more technical track to previous years and with a top 10 race plate she was feeling confident after a good day of training.
Eddie and Matt worked together during training to learn lines and test where insides or outsides were fastest. With ruts forming throughout racing it was a challenge to learn such a long track, only to have the lines change for the next run down the hill.
Sam continued to work with the team and absorb as much information as he could from riding and racing at the top level. He was enjoying the track and learning just how quickly World Cup tracks deteriorate with hundreds of the best riders in the world racing down them.
Bernard was loving the new track. Feeling confident and learning the lines, he felt good. Putting in a few full runs at the end of timed training to see how it would feel, Bernard finished timed training in 2nd! A great result and boosting his confidence even more.
Friday - Qualification
Emilie was building speed and confidence on the track throughout the weekend but with some gnarly and intimidating features she still needed to tick off before race runs. A safe run put Emilie into 10th for qualification, safely into the finals but with some speed to try and find.
Sam has been riding well all week and enjoying the new track. With top 30 splits coming down the hill, he was looking good to qualify for his first World Cup finals. Disaster struck in the last woods where a sniper root took his front wheel and spat him outside the tape. Having to stop and re-join the track, Sam was gutted to be so close but missed out on qualifying.
Matt unfortunately was still carrying the shoulder injury from the previous World Cup race and was struggling with the big hits and strength needed to push hard on this track. Lacking the strength and tight times across the field meant Matt missed out on the finals by a few seconds.
Eddie rode well and qualified in a safe 32nd ready to push on in the final.
Bernard was full of confidence and couldn’t wait to get a race against the clock. A few small mistakes in the first split saw him lose a bit of time but a great ride for the remainder of the track placed him 10th. He was super happy with the qualification and how his speed was building throughout the weekend.
Saturday - Finals
Race days started with training in almost perfect conditions. Dry roots and tacky dirt had everyone going faster and faster building to the race runs. With crowds allowed back at the race, the hill was getting busier and louder throughout the morning.
Slight rain started falling as Emilie made her way up the hill for her warm up. The conditions were challenging as Emilie set off, some sections wet, some dry and some mixed. Emilie switched to some of the more consistent and safer lower lines that she had been riding in training in anticipation of the rain. A tentative start saw Emilie 13 seconds down at split one, but she built her speed and found her flow in the lower woods. After a strong lower half of the course Emilie clawed back 7 seconds, crossing the line 3rd for a final placing of 11th.
Rain was falling harder and harder as Eddie dropped in. Attacking the first straight he went deep on the step down and was pushing the limits. Losing the front wheel on a slippery root, Eddie came down hard in the middle woods. Taking a bit of time to get back on the bike, everyone was relieved when he finished his run and walked away from a nasty looking crash with only minor cuts and bruises.
Bernard’s great 10th place qualifying proved to be a disadvantage with the rain falling heavier and heavier. A fully wet track with standing water, mud and slick turns gave him some of the hardest conditions of the weekend. Sprinting out the start he looked like the rain wasn’t going to affect him. Holding high lines and riding the gnarlier inside lines in the soaking wet conditions was super impressive to see. Attacking all the way to the finish and with a close call on the final corner, Bernard laid down an amazing run. Finishing 16th against riders on drier tracks, he was happy that no one else managed to better his time in the similar conditions.
The team comes away from an action-packed weekend of racing knowing the speed is there for every rider and loving having fans back at the races. As always, a huge thanks to everyone for the support along the way to make these weekends racing possible!