Big Dave brings us his Maribor World Cup preview looking at the track and the movers and shakers from last season and the off-season.
The waiting is over and we’re almost ready for the opening round of the 2019 UCI Downhill World Cup and Wideopenmag’s team manager Big Dave has penned us his Maribor World Cup Preview.
It has been 243 days since we saw Martin Maes do the unthinkable and enter the DH scene off the back of an EWS win and turn the results on its head and take the win and finally its time to get back racing.
We’re all ready to see the riders at the pinnacle of the sport put their off seasons behind them and take to the track against the clock at round 1 of the 2019 UCI Downhill World Cup.
This year after a 9 year hiatus, its back to Maribor, Slovenia to kick things off in the 7 round series this year. There has been a World Cup here 8 times, with the last victors being Greg Minnaar and Rachel Atherton. Could we see these two topping the steps come Sunday? Quite possibly, lets dig into the facts and see who we think could be top of the pops.
The track is situated as part of the Bike Park Pohorje in Maribor.
As we all know, there has been an IXS there last weekend, and it seems like it will be the same track, we hope there will be a few changes that will catch out the large amount of riders that went along and raced the IXS.
There were a whopping 424 entrants across the categories, which when you consider they normally have in the region of 250, it’s pretty clear that a lot of people came to put in time on the track to make the practice week of the World Cup more straightforward, right or wrong, we will leave that for you to decide…
Junior World Champ Vali Holl and 2018 World Cup Runner Up Tahnee Seagrave did a track preview and this is what they found:
The track is described by the bike park as ‘legendary World Cup track since 1999/for pro riders /natural terrain/rock ‘n roll section/technical jumps.’ From the headcam, we can see that this is spot on. There are fast berms, loose corners, drops, tonnes of roots, off camber sections, loam, massive hucks and rocks on top of rocks, basically, you name it, the track has got it.
Back in the day, this track was legendary and a true racers favourite, general vibes from riders we have spoken to is that they are stoked that it is back on the calendar. What a perfect track to kick things off.
Bikes have changed considerably since the last time the World Cup visited Maribor though, so it might be more how the riders handle the bikes on the track rather than the track changing all that much.
Who is going to go well?
Last year perhaps caught everyone off guard a little, with 5 different winners in the mens’ category and 3 different winners in the womens’ category across the 7 round series. It was a changing of the guard and a return of the powerhouses of old. With the younger riders proving to be a force to be reckoned with and eventually overcoming the field with Pierron taking the overall with a round to spare.
Check out the top 10 from last year…
However, there have been some changes in the off season, most notably with Captain America himself heading up his very own new flying eagle Intense Factory team. With an injury after Fort William and ending up outside the top 10 in the overall for the first time that we can remember, you can guarantee that now he has got his name above the door, he is going to come out all guns blazing.
Overall, I think that it is perhaps the deepest field coming into a season that I can remember. Pretty much any of the riders that finished in the top 10 last year have ability to win a world cup and then when you think of just a few of the others that aren’t even in that list – Gwin, Walker (who won the IXS last weekend here), Minnaar (who won the last World Cup here), Moir for example.
The only male rider that has won in Maribor before that is still racing downhill now is Greg Minnaar on 26″ wheels, but the GOAT will have to dig even deeper this year to recapture his winning ways. Rachel Atherton took the win here in 2007 by over eight seconds, and her win at the opening round of the National Downhill Series suggests she can do it again.
For the womens’, Rachel Atherton overcame the strong challenge from Seagrave last year to take the win in the overall, followed by an outright decimation of the field at World Champs.
With Nicole out for the year, Seagrave is the most likely to be able to take the fight to Rachel, but with a reinvigorated passion for racing now that she has the family name on the bike under her, could she pull out a flawless season again to take the win and the overall again.
She won the last World Cup in 2010, which was her second win in Maribor, with her first coming a whopping 12 years ago. Tracey Hannah won the IXS last weekend and you can guarantee that she wants another World Cup win, with her last coming in all the way back in 2017 at Fort William.
Wideopen Staff Picks
Big Dave –
Gwin, Atherton, MacDonald
Atherton, Seagrave, Hannah
Matt Walker (UK), Gwin, Atherton
Atherton, Seagrave, Widmann
Rich’s tips –
Gwin, Pierron, Hart
Atherton, Hannah, Seagrave
Gwin, Walker (UK), Pierron
Atherton, Seagrave, Hannah