Photos: Seb Schiek

Alps

This part of the world is truly stunning
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The Alps are the heart of the World Cup series with a glut of events gracing these ancient peaks. 65 million years of erosion have seasoned them to perfection.

Bikes

The Santa Moos coming together.
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Could it have been anything else? The finest bikes in the world hurtle down the tracks and we're lucky just to see it happen.

Crashes

World Cup #2 Cairns 2016 Practice
World Cup #2 Cairns 2016

Crashes are an unfortunate part of the sport but if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Drops

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WC_Lenzerheide_2016_82A3403

Expectations

The plate that everyone wants is Bruni's... for now
World Champs Val di Sole 2016

There are so many riders who have the pace to podium at a World Cup but the mind games of a race weekend separate the wheat from the chaff.

Fans

Fort William finals 2016 World Cup-24
Fort William finals 2016 World Cup-24

A visit to a World Cup is like going to a party where everyone loves bikes as much as you. There may be lots of drinking and heckling but, more than anything, spectators are there to appreciate the best riders in the world. The races would not be the same without them.

Gaps

It was close all the way to the line and less than a hundredth separated the two men in the end.
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Sure there are gaps on course but the only ones that matter are displayed in green or red at the bottom of the track. A matter of hundredths can separate glory and defeat.

Heckling

Crowds seem to get bigger, louder and more inventive every year. This year chainsaws were an (obvious) favourite
Wild The crowd was simply astounding Where did they all come from

Intense

shaun-palmer-intense-team-2014-01
shaun-palmer-intense-team-2014-01

Very few bikes have had as big an impact on World Cup racing as the Intense M1. It had its finest hour in 2002 when Kovarik put 14 seconds into the competition at Fort William and Sam Hill won the junior World Championships.

Juniors

Finn Iles took a nasty spill but pulled himself together for a fourth fastest run in the juniors
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Never forget the youth at a World Cup weekend. If it wasn't for their number plates we'd have trouble telling them form the Elites. Absolute pinners.

Kings

Downhill at the 2013 Leogang UCI MTB World Cup Finals, Austria.
Downhill at the 2013 Leogang UCI MTB World Cup Finals, Austria.

Downhill is a sport of champions, gladiators in mortal combat with nature. Those who emerge on top of the pile are truly kings among men

Lines

Loose Laurie in sight of the finish line
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Globules of time can be made by spotting a safe passage through choppy tech. By the same token go off line and you may as well cruise to the bottom, your day is over.

Mistakes

We were in the lift above Brendan Fairclough when he took a seriously harsh crash washing the front wheel out in a high speed right hand berm the second big crash of the event for Brendog.
bren

Is there another sport where mistakes are punished so harshly? With only one chance to stake your claim every corner counts.

No-Handers

Another no-hander from Sik Mik
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Because, why not?

Oceania

Track Walk World Cup #2 Cairns 2016
World Cup #2 Cairns 2016

We don't often get to visit our southern hemisphere cousins on the World Cup circuit but when we do it's a treat... except for the spiders.

Pinning

Gwin within sight of the finish line but he knew that the race was lost. A crash early on meant he was done, but interestingly he had the fastest final split.
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Is this not what is't all about? Riding on the ragged edge, tyres ripping up soil, bodies battered? Speed is the only currency on these mountains

Queens

Rachel Atherton finish line
Rachel Atherton finish line

Rivalries

fort william world cup val di sole macdonald atherton smith
fort william world cup val di sole macdonald atherton smith

Palmer vs Vouilloz, Gee Atheron vs Stevie Smith, Rachel Atherton vs Claudio Caluori. Downhill is littered with intense rivalries (although we in the media are as culpable as anyone in stoking them).

Shaun Palmer

shaun-palmer-intense-team-2014
shaun-palmer-intense-team-2014

The man who changed it all. We really do wonder where the sport would be had Palmer not rocked up in his moto pants and gold jacket.

Taping

...which led to her disqualification. Two bad weekends in a row for Carpenter. She looked devastated.
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How many controversies has taping caused over the years? It seems so innocuous but (reportedly) even the first World Championships were won with a cheeky course cut.

Undefeated

Count 'em. Rachel Atherton has now become the only person to have won 10 consecutive World Cups in a row. What an achievement.
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We make that 15 wins in a row...

Vouilloz

Nico Vouilloz, who along with Steve Peat totally dominated the years from 1995-2004, winning 28 of the 66 World Cup races
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You don't win 10 World Championships and 16 World Cup races without being very good. Maybe even... the best ever?

Whips

World Cup #2 Cairns 2016 Practice
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No caption necessary

 Excess

lenzerheide world cup91U4029
lenzerheide world cup91U4029

'X' is hard, ok? We couldn't let this post go without mentioning the legendary after parties though.

Young guns

2016

World Cup #2 Cairns 2016

Loic Bruni

There are a lot of fast young riders out there at the moment. The top 10 could look very different in a couple of years' time

Zip ties

barsstems-19
barsstems-19

Even the pros use them