5 things we learned from the 2022 Lourdes DH World Cup

1. Lourdes must fix the funicular before hosting another World Cup

It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard the news but the funicular delays in Lourdes were the biggest problem of the weekend. Runners reported waiting 2.5 hours between runs, which is less than ideal in a 3-hour training session.

Queues have been discussed in previous years, as this 2016 Dirt report shows, but it looks like this round was particularly disruptive with an outstanding field of 279 riders. Without exaggeration, there have been privateers who traveled to France for this race, had four tries to learn the track, failed to qualify and then returned home.

If we really want downhill to be the F1 of mountain biking, it has to master the basics. Maybe the solution is to start closing fire roads or maybe Discovery can buy a fleet of helicopters next time, either way it needs to be upgraded so Lourdes can fully exploit its potential.

2. French crowds are amazing

On race day, I was crammed into the Lourdes finish area like a sardine next to a troop of friendly “nuns”, deafened by their vuvuzelas and eyeing more hairy French asses than I expected. was expecting on a Sunday afternoon. Simply put, French fans are a different breed.

We haven’t seen an official turnout tally over the weekend, but estimates seem to put it between 10,000 and 20,000, all cheering the loudest for their compatriots.

While some runners are able to absorb this energy and harness it into running rhythm, for others it adds a lot of pressure. When each of those fans wants 30 seconds of your time, it’s a lot harder to get into your racing mindset. Fan access to the riders is one of the best things about World Cup racing, but managing that is another challenge for the riders to overcome, especially if they’re at home.

3. It was one of the tightest women’s races ever
Camille Balanche emerged victorious in Sunday’s women’s race, but she narrowly did so. Myriam Nicole and Tahnee Seagrave both finished less than a second behind her and Vali Höll was only 0.7 seconds behind. The last time the top three at a Women’s World Cup were within a second of each other was almost a decade ago, when Manon Carpenter, Rachel Atherton and Emmeline Ragot fought for supremacy at Mont Sainte-Anne in 2014.

It seems like we say it every year, but the women’s field is tighter and more competitive than ever right now and we expect some titanic battles as the season progresses.

4. There were some problems at the start of the season
While an overenthusiastic journalist may have predicted a French farce because of the weather, which fortunately never came, this was not the only problem that arose due to the early development of this event. March is unusually early for a World Cup start and has truncated riders’ off-season preparation. More than one rider has told me that he doesn’t have enough pre-season competitions under his belt to be ready to hit the pace of the race right off the bat.

There were other issues too, a lack of parts and spares meant the only people who might have been slightly happy with the funicular queues were mechanics who may not have had all the kit they needed to repair broken bikes. Finally, some privateers opted to miss this race altogether as the economy of a trip to Europe during a round 8 weeks apart from the rest of the season just didn’t pay off.

5. BC runners are ready to take over
Moving away from the Elite ranks, where the French have certainly made headlines over the weekend, two new stars are gaining momentum. Jackson Goldstone needs no introduction and he continued his stellar trajectory by claiming the three-second victory in his class. His time would have put him 11th in the elite men’s field (albeit on a slightly better track) and shows he’s ready to fight for big results when he takes the plunge next year. next.

Also keep an eye out for Gracey Hemstreet. After only racing some World Cups last year, the young Sunshine Coast pinner clocked 7 seconds in a strong field of junior women who already had a full racing season under their belt. If Hemstreet’s name sounds familiar, it’s because his father founded Coast Gravity Park. Look out for her to put together a strong campaign at Team Norco this year.

Wiley C. Thompson