Should we be worried about Chain Reaction Cycles/Nukeproof leaving the World Cup?
Time to toll a death knell?
Yeti in 2014, Lapierre in 2015 and now Chain Reaction Cycles/Nukeproof in 2018. Yesterday’s big news wasn’t the first time we’ve had a team step away from downhill to focus on enduro but it was met with the greatest glee from the 'downhill is dead' club.
It's a mirror image of the Yeti story where the brand’s marquee rider and mtb legend (in that case Jared Graves) gives enduro a go, ends up winning and then the team and promising junior rider follow suit. For Yeti, it turned out to be a great move with Rude turning the sport on its head as a turquoise breaker swept over enduro for the next three years.
If Chain Reaction/Nukeproof can do the same then more power to them. We’ve followed this brand from the start and champion their bikes to this day. Sam Hill’s win was an incredible story but it was no fluke and there is every chance that domination is within his grasp. For a team that can't fund a full assault on the EWS and World Cups, it's a move that makes perfect sense.
There’s a clamouring that this latest news indicates downhill is staring down the barrel of a gun, on its knees and pleading for survival. Nonsense. There’s a place for both disciplines and a strong Enduro World Series does not cancel out a strong World Cup, that’s for sure.
In fact, both series are currently going from strength to strength. As enduro spreads its wings around the world, attracts more and more talent and solidifies itself as a spot, World Cup downhill ends its first quarter century by becoming more accessible for audiences while defining itself as a truly elite contest.
It’s now Red Bull TV’s jewell in the crown – the only thing that gets more viewers are the music festivals. With this kind of clout, plus all the associated press from specialist media, the marketing budgets that fund these teams are safely pocketed in World Cup downhill.
Downhill is still solid at the grassroots too. Local races sell out, a new National Series has formed in the wake of the BDS and progressive tracks such as the 50/01 line and Windhill Bike Park mean that downhill bikes are becoming a far more viable option for riders again.
There are certainly issues with the World Cups and nobody is calling out the crapper tracks on the circuit more vocally than us but at its core, downhill is one hell of a sport that more people are watching than ever.
This year, we've got two new tracks ready to shake things up, big moves happening in the off-season and piping-hot juniors rising through the ranks. On the back of an all-time season, the World Cup is growing from strength to strength.