It’s hard to look past Lourdes as we make our final preparations to head to the Pyrenean town for the first round of the 2017 World Cup season, but there was an important race last weekend that also requires some attention.
Losinj, the new World Cup venue for 2018, hosted its final race before the downhill circus turns up next year. The event can probably be considered a bit of a tester for the real deal and is the closest we’re going to get to knowing what a World Cup there might look like.
Here are five things we learned:
Big improvements have been made to the course
The track we saw when the announcement was made was a bit rough round the edges – a wooden plank and some scaffold for a start ramp followed by a fireroad pedal out of the gate didn’t really scream “World Cup”.
Now though it’s all change. Big jumps, a proper start ramp and a more technically demanding course will be a proper test for the riders. We’re a bit less sold on the new urban part of the course though, but more on that further down.
Times are going to be tight
Markus Pekoll took the win in the men’s race with a time of 2:37.188, so we can expect to see times pushing the 2:30 envelope next year. Yes, that seems short but it’s roughly on par with Windham and Maribor.
All we know is that 150 seconds isn’t much to separate the world’s best and you can expect the smallest mistake to cost you a lot of positions here.
You’ll need to be fit
There’s no denying there’s a lot of pedalling involved for a short track, especially in the final urban section that even looks to have some slight inclines. It reminds us a bit of Cairns where the race could well be decided by who’s got the best set of lungs for the final push. Tyre choice is going to be crucial.
It will take some casualties
On both bikes and bodies. The rough rocks will be fatiguing on the body and tough on wheels – second placed finisher Jure Zabjek suffered two punctures in one morning’s practice alone. More than anything we’re excited for the raw videos of bikes pinging off those rocks.
Markus Pekoll told mtb.si: “The track is demanding and dangerous, I was trying to find a smooth line and I think I found it. We have to get used to the finish part on the street, but the rest is challenging, there is no place to relax.”
It’s an amazing location
We love that Losinj is something totally different from any venue we’ve visited in the past few years – this is supposed to be a World Cup, not an Alps Cup after all.
Awesome sea views, a historic town and a little harbour for the finish area, it’s a very cool place.