2012 Downhill World Cup Preview. Pt 1
The 2012 UCI Downhill Mountainbike World Cup kicks off next week in Pietermaritzburg. So as a big pre-match build up we'll be bringing you daily in-depth interviews with all the top World Cup riders.
Think of this as the un-cut version of Sven Martin's "Time Twisters...tarot cards and crystal balls" World Cup guide that we featured in Dirt Magazine issue #121.
Stay tuned for your daily dose of pre-World Cup features to get you stoked, amped, pumped and generally really rather excited about this year's race season!
2012 Downhill World Cup Preview. Pt 1
Words and photos: Sven Martin
2011 will forever go down as the year of change, perhaps fittingly so in the dawning decade. The previous five years of podium slots and titles were mostly dominated by the same handful of riders, namely Minnaar, Atherton, Hill, Peat and Barel. Others like, Blenkinsop, Beaumont, Fairclough, Smith, Leov, Neethling, Cole, Hannah and Gwin all had to be content with taking turns stepping onto the unfamiliar and much fought over box. Then came along 2011. A tipping point if you will, the change in the status quo first sparked by Gwin's maiden win in South Africa that then caught fire with Danny Hart and Brook Macdonald’s second and third place combo at Ft William. Like a flu epidemic it hopped the Atlantic and in no time at all just like a twitter hash tag, #youthgonewild was trending.
Next up to the plate was Bryceland with his second place finish in Mt St Anne, where little Troy Brosnan also served notice that he was old enough to play on the “big guys" track. The rest is already recorded in the record books, Gwin with the coveted series title and Hart with the much deserved rainbow Jersey that was won with nary a rainbow in sight, quite the opposite in fact. Minnaar and Atherton, while still solid and bankable as before, exposed a few chinks in their armour and some minor hiccups in their yearly repertoire that had far reaching repercussions in 2011.
Moving forward, trying to predict the 2012 World Cup downhill season is a complex task. One can attempt to analyse past performances against current trends, match rider strengths and weaknesses against venues and weather, then try factor in the unknowns of equipment changes and physical preparations and conditioning, only to have it all unravel by a mistimed crash, a shifted rock, a hidden root or lapse in concentration. Or maybe there is that one brilliant ride of lifetime that leads to a confident roll that knows no end.
With the sport seemingly near its pinnacle of performance, where even precious milliseconds are sought after and shaved off by advances in the sciences, be it technological (materials, construction and design) or physical (training, diet and regimen) I too turned to the sciences in trying to formulate some kind of future prediction.
It appears however two of the greatest scientific minds have already come to the same conclusions as me, although I’m sure they had grander projects in mind in doing so. Never the less even Albert Einstein concluded, “When the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large, scientific method in most cases fails." Niels Bohr, a Danish physicist was a bit more cynical and straightforward, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future"
Where does that leave us? Both are right about the future, it holds true for mountain biking, especially the downhill racing variety, there are just too many variables to consider when making predictions that you can't safely mortgage your house and throw all your savings into your “Dirt Fantasy DH team." That doesn’t mean we can’t try though, even if it means we have to look into a somewhat murky crystal ball.
What track/venue are you looking forward to most and why? Is it the track, the country, the fans?
Aaron Gwin : Hmm...I look forward to all of them for they're own reasons but right now I'm probably looking forward to the first one the most! I like South Africa, the culture and town are really cool, the fans are awesome and it's usually nice and warm!
Greg Minnaar : PMB and Fort Will, atmosphere is killer at both events. PMB doesn't have a great course but being a home race, you have to look forward to it. The high speed of Fort William and the crowd make it one of the best races on the tour.
Gee Atherton : Fort William, because of the fans. Best race of the year.
Danny Hart : My favourite track and race of the year is always Fort William, just because it is a phenomenal track, my family and friends are there. And the crowd is huge, all the way down the track!
Steve Smith : Val di Sole. I finished on a low with a broken ankle last year but the track is amazing and I like being in Italy.
Brook MacDonald: I’m pretty excited to head to Norway as it is a new World Cup racing and should be a good race venue, but I think Fort William for the fans and definitely Mont Sainte Anne.
Cam Cole : Norway. It looks like the hill has some nice terrain for a DH event. I have never been up to that part of the world so I'm excited to go up there for a look.
Troy Brosnan : Champery for sure! No pedalling and I have always done really good there! (Ed Note, there is no Champery on the Schedule this year Troy!)
Justin Leov : I'm looking forward to South Africa just because I feel like I have unfinished business from last year. I came down sick last year about a month before and lost some good ground with my training so this year hoping to be able to turn that around.
Josh Bryceland : I’m looking forward to South Africa again strangely enough. Round 1 you know lets get it underway! The track is average, but it’s a mellow start to the year and the fans are crazy and weathers HOT!!!
Steve Peat : You don’t even need to ask this question!!! Ft William is by far the best race of the season for me. I love the track, the home fans, the scenery, the organization, the town, the drive up there, the pits, the marshals, the place we stay, the deep fried mars bars, the party, the people and everything else about that place.
Sam Blenkinsop : I’m looking forward to the three new tracks and a new place to go that will be cool. (Ed Note, three new tracks? Only two isn't there Blinky? Val d'Isere and Hafjell!)
Andrew Neethling : PMB, even though I have not had the best of luck at home. Nothing like racing in front of a home crowd. Having friends and family there is so different because I don't get to experience that the rest of the year.
Brendan Fairclough: I would have to say it is Fort William even though I do shit there every year it always seems to have a good vibe with it.
What track/venue are you least looking forward to and why?
Aaron Gwin: Probably none of them, I think they're all fun.
Greg Minnaar: Bro, I’m just having a good time riding DH at the moment, I'll make the most of any track.... Like we did in Aus.
Gee Atherton: Mt St Anne, no atmosphere.
Danny Hart: My least favourite is South Africa, just because the track doesn’t suit me well, but I feel I have been training hard this off season and I'm going in stronger than ever! It’s always good to go and see the different cultures, but the track just doesn't do it for me.
Steve Smith: I’m going to say SA. This is a tough question because I try to find the good wherever I happen to be. SA is a very cool place and much different then anywhere else but the track is nothing special.
Cam Cole: South Africa. As I am not sure I will be 100% for that one at this stage. I am still not on the DH bike after my arm injury last year so there is still some uncertainty around this event for me.
Troy Brosnan: I love them all! Even South Africa!
Justin Leov: South Africa in the wet, ha-ha, it just doesn't work.
Josh Bryceland: Probably Val di Sole, the track was so beat up last year it was not much fun to race down. Saying that, with our new bike set up it might be a different ball game ;)
Steve Peat: Ft William because of the Midges!!! Ha ha
Brook MacDonald: South Africa, as it has lots of pedalling in it and been a flat pedalled rider makes it kinder hard but we will see…
Sam Blenkinsop: Don’t have one if you think like that you are more likely to do badly there.
Andrew Neethling: PMB, even though we work very hard the pedalling section hurts so much.
Brendan Fairclough: South Africa, because I think the track sucks.