Downhill World Cup Rd 2, Cairns: Some Thoughts

DH MTB Sideways

I am not really a fan of Red Bull as a drink, however I am a massive fan of the DH World Cup and Red Bull’s amazing free coverage.  I am so glad we get to see all the runs with Warner and Cunny’s hilarious commentary and plenty of camera angles and course coverage. As well as just chilling and enjoying the racing, I was thinking about training and just how strong those top riders need to be in order to stay competitive now.  To ride at this level you need to be a proper athlete.

Here are a few thoughts that I scribbled down at the time.  Have a look, and let me know your thoughts over on Facebook.

Staying Loose:  To ride this sort of mud and slop well, you need to stay loose on your bike, and let it do its own thing to a certain extent.  At first you may not think that this style of riding needs you to be super strong, but in fact it is the rider’s strength and mobility that allows it to happen along with a large dose of skill and big Kahunas!  Can you relax and let the bike flow if you are in a death grip at the extremes of your upper body strength?  Can your knees stay soft when your thighs are pumped, burning and ready to give out?  The answer is, ‘No’ and the only way to improve these factors is to be stronger and better conditioned.

Hitting Your Lines:  Letting the bike step out of line, means that at some point you need to pull it back and put it on your line. By using your feet, hands and body to regain a line, this puts a considerable  strain on the muscles and joints, especially with a 35 lb DH sled underneath you and all that momentum.  Seeing the way the riders manhandled their bikes into some of the tight and tech corners and in particular into the left hander at the top of the rock garden was amazing.  They made it look easy and smooth, and it was so impressive to see.  Obviously this comes from moving their body weight around, but guess what?  You can’t move around on your bike like that if you are weak and/or inflexible!

3 Days of Riding:  With practice, qualifying, more practice and then racing, the riders are putting in a serious amount of riding over a few days.  Add to that the demanding nature of the course, the peanut butter mud, and the tropical heat and humidity and you have a tough race overall.  This is where the winter conditioning and all the road miles really come in.  Quite simply the fitter a rider is, the more quickly and easily they can recover from a hard effort like a practice run.  If a rider has done the winter miles, then their cardiovascular system will be super efficient, both during and after riding, and this means that they will be better prepared to complete multiple high effort runs during practice and still pull out a top performance on race day.

The Finish Straight:  Like it or loathe it, the end of the race was dominated by a long, mostly flat sprint to the line.  It was controversial, but who cares?  It was there and all the riders had to dig deep if they wanted to do well, and it was the same for everyone.  The simple fact is that the most powerful and best conditioned riders would have the most to gain on this crucial part of the track.  That time in the gym, time doing hill sprints and anaerobic endurance training paid off for the top riders whilst it was clear to see who had not put in as much work in the winter months.

I am just getting excited finishing this off now and thinking about Fort William in about a month.  It is going to be amazing, and it will show again that these amazing men and women are true athletes and if you want to get to the top and compete with them, then bike skills alone won’t be enough.

Stay Strong

Ben