Maribor – World Cup 1

After months of rumours, watching repeats and counting down – the 2019 world cup downhill season finally kicked off! Round 1 saw us head to Maribor, Slovenia and we weren’t disappointed.

The track itself is no stranger to hosting world cups, you may recall some absolutely epic sections from classic Alex Rankin ‘Sprung’ films. One of the memories seared into our brain, from that era, is Sam Hill coming off the fire-road back onto the track too fast and losing the front end before sliding down the entry chute! But anyway, enough of the past – there were some changes to the track that were well received, in fact there was an IXS Cup race the weekend before so all the niggles were really sorted out.

Finn Iles was merely knee high to a grasshopper last time the World Cup circus was in town.

With it being the 1st World Cup of the year there were some changes to wrap your head around whilst watching the weekend go down. Think team/kit/bike changes – we got there in the end! By and large it seems 2019 is a continuation of the 2018 season with the French riders showing they are the ones to beat in the men’s class whilst the British, again, appear to have the upper hand in the women’s categories!

Some points of interest/debate:

  • Greg Minnaar didn’t make the finals cut for the first time in forever, no protected status and a crash in qualifying meant he was spectating come Sunday. It was a quiet weekend for Luca Shaw as well, x rays confirming he had injured himself a few weeks earlier & a broken collarbone will see him out of action until Fort William.
  • Talking about quiet teams, Intense Factory Racing didn’t quite come out of the gates guns blazing but no doubt give them time!
  • Finn Iles is looking super fast again but just like Loic Bruni & Loris Vergier before him he hasn’t quite figured out the balance of risk/reward – he crashed in the top section of the track.
  • Speaking about Loris, he also crashed!
  • Atherton Bikes didn’t have a fairy tale debut – admittedly taking 2nd under Rachel is nothing to sneeze at but the Atherton’s have lofty levels of success/expectation!
  • In the juniors Vali Holl continued her form from last year comfortably taking the win. Thibaut Daprela took the junior men’s win but not by as large a margin as Vali, it was good to see Aussie Kye A’hern in 3rd place.
  • Shout out to the Zwar brothers, Oli & Ben, who finished 29th & 30th respectively!
  • Yes Deano we saw you dabbing away in the finish area after your race run!

The new school is coming (maybe it is already here) with the likes of Matt Walker on the podium for the first time this weekend in 5th. As Rob Warner mentioned with such a small number of races a year but such a high quality field getting the win is truly an amazing achievement for anyone with the top riders all capable of putting it together it just has to be their day!

Brendan Fairclough – 36th place.
Tracey Hannah’s 3rd place is a strong start to the year.
First senior podium for the former junior world champion Matt Walker.

In the end with Loic, Tahnee and Thibaut Daprela & Vali Holl in the juniors taking the wins in their respective classes it wasn’t a unexpected set of gold medal winners but the action was around them on the podium. Who knows by the end of the year who will be on the top step…

We head to Fort William in a month, for some it will be time to reflect on what needs to be tweaked to gain those vital seconds, for others it will be a matter of keeping on keeping on! See you there.

Images: Andy Vathis (Instagram)

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