The Downhill World Cup is a series of races organised by cycling’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). Many, but not all, of the races in the series are run alongside the other World Cup disciplines, cross-country (Olympic) and cross-country (eliminator). Points are awarded to riders depending on their position in each individual race, with the overall winner crowned at the end of the year.
The World Cup began with a cross country event in 1991, with a downhill competition added two years later, when the champions, both German, were Jürgen Beneke and Regina Stiefl. Since then, the most successful rider in the men’s division has been French legend Nicolas Vouilloz who won five titles (1995, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000) as well as finishing second in 2001 and third in 1994. The most successful female riders have been French stars Sabrina Jonnier and Anne-Caroline Chausson with five titles each.
The male champion in 2013 was Stevie Smith, the first ever Canadian to win the title, who pipped Britain’s Gee Atherton by 78 points thanks to a victory in the final race of the year in Leogang. The women’s series was won by Brit Rachel Atherton, fighting off competition from France’s Emmeline Ragot and fellow Brit Manon Carpenter.
The 2014 downhill series began in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in April, where American Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing DH) and Carpenter (Madison Saracen Factory Team) took the wins in hot, dusty conditions. Other races in the series were due to take place in Cairns, Fort William, Leogang, Mont Sainte-Anne and Windham, before the competition wrapped up in Méribel in August.