Here we go! Our man Laurence Crossman-Emms is covering the World Cup Downhill for us in 2014 and he has just beamed over the first gallery of the season.
It looks dry and dusty down in South Africa and even with a few track changes it seems some riders are opting for modified bikes. Our own Bazza Heath is going for 'Strange' prototype, the Nukeproof boys are on a new short travel rig that we took a look at in February. Even though some are going for shorter travel bikes there are a whole heap of riders sticking to full on downhill bikes. The Santa Cruz Syndicate look to be on 26" wheeled V10's as are some of the Madison Team and Shimano BDS Round 1 winner Danny Hart is set to ride his DH bike.
Down the track Laurence catches up with Danny Hart, Manon Carpenter and Sam Hill to get their feelings on this weekend's race.
The downhill finish gantry going up for the first time this year. With the track taped, the pits setting up well, we are all almost ready to go racing!
On track it would be hard to tell but PMB has seen a lot of rain over the last few months causing the small river through the pits to burst its banks. The floods damaging the very bottom section of the pits and leaving it slightly soggy. Proof that it isn't always sunshine and lolly pops here in South Africa.
The usual track walk motor way traffic heading down the hill after the UCI decided to set a time on track walk. Not many big rule changes this year, but a few schedule upsets. At triple header rounds that include the XC and XCE, the downhill racing will be on Saturday! Make sure you take note.
Out in the hills with the strimmer making some last minute finishing touches before the spectators lace the track side! PMB pulling out all the stops again to make this another memorable round!
Although a lot of recent work has been done on the track, improving the top section and tidying up the jumps. Some of the un-used lines and bridges look a little worse for wear and look like they have barely been ridden since the last round!
Landing off the big jumps and straight onto the pedals, the long joining section seems even longer this year. A minute of pure gruelling sprint broken up by a couple of pump humps and jumps to make it even more taxing!
Autumn weather here is still a great deal better than the British spring time. Dusty, hard packed and green. Its amazing to see how much the surrounding foliage has filled in over less than a year, drying out the track even more.
PMB wouldn't be the same without those big table tops...but don't worry they have made their return once again! Gracing the tree line before the pedal section, these girls haven't gotten any smaller! Make or break section here for many riders.
Overall the track takes a similar line to that of previous years, with a few alterations and few flat landers the top section spits you into the infamous gully section. Looking familiar with its flat out fly offs and big senders.
Miles of cables keep the cameras rolling and primed on the track for Saturday's race.
Manon Carpenter is going to be looking for revenge this time round. After crashing out in her final run last year at Champs, she reflects on where she went wrong and looks to where she can put her self ahead of the other fast female riders. Audio with Manon talking about the track. "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/9_audio.mp3"]"
Few big changes to the top section of the track, with a whole new rock garden added, new lines out of the first corner and seemingly tighter taping of the track will make racing interesting. The original idea to bring along a fast trail bike may be reconsidered after seeing these sharp shapes in the ground.
Mick, Tracey and the team from UR Hutchinson are at full force here at the first round of the World Cup. With Mick's near miss result here last year and Tracy's amazing come back podium they will be looking to improve on last year and go for golds...at least they are well used to the temperatures.
Rolling on after his success at the first British National race, Danny Hart is feeling strong about the track and looking forward to getting on the bike. Audio with the man himself with his thoughts on the track. "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/6_audio.mp3"]"
Over the seas and deep in the hills, lay the small, productive town of Pietermaritzburg! Welcome to the first round of the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
First uplift of the season, heading up for track walk today. After a short scenic wander through what seemed like a jungle, perhaps the most in-direct route , you arrive at the sea of white vans ready to send you upward to the top of the track!
"6_audio". Released: 2014.
"9_audio". Released: 2014.
Downhill, XC & XCO all situated right out the back of a busy part of town. Perfect location to hold a World Cup, well organised and everyone working around the clock to get it all ready for the weekend!
Winding down the final part of track, this instantly recognisable section is the first sight you get from the finish line as riders crank on the pedal and hunt for the line! Just above here was where Sam Hill crashed out, injuring himself at World Champs last year. He talks about the track and his thoughts on going racing this weekend! "[audio url="http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/15_Audio.mp3"]"
The sun setting here on beautiful first day of the UCI World Cup here in PMB. Join us tomorrow for timed practice sessions and keep an eye out for who will be slaying the DH rides or opting the trail bike option!