Race Preview: UCI Downhill MTB World Cup 2017 Round 1: Lourdes

25th April 2017

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Kade: Moonhead Media 

A brand new Trek Factory Racing DH Team head out to Lourdes this year with new riders Kade Edwards and Graeme Mudd super-stoked to rep the TFRDH World Cup team – and to tackle a brand new track!

It will be 17 year old Kade’s first ever World Cup (he’ll be racing as a Junior) and Muddy’s first World Cup outing as a supported Factory rider, while at the other end of the scale Gee and Rachel will tackle their 15th and 12th season respectively (Rach first raced a Junior World Cup at Fort William in 2004 but missed 2009 after a run in with a truck during the team’s California training camp.)

Rachel is of course flying high on 15 consecutive World Cup and World Championship wins but she insists that she never focuses on previous results – either good or bad; its all about the job in hand. Gee will want to put the trials of 2016 behind him; his season was seriously hampered by a shoulder injury at Fort William which persisted, and indeed grew more painful as he crashed on it repeatedly throughout the remaining months but a small op and some intensive rehab later and Gee’s looking strong, focused and ready to ride!

The Trek Session 9.9s are very familiar to the riders now after a full season onboard with Trek.
In the past three months they have been through a brutal regime of testing in California, San Remo and Lousa with Trek and Fox engineers on hand to help the tech team ensure that set-ups are perfect.

Riders: Gee Atherton, Rachel Atherton, Graeme Mudd, Kade Edwards

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Gee in training this winter: Moonhead Media

Mechanics: Head technician Joe Krejbich is supported by Pete Michaliszyn (Polish Pete!) who’ll be looking after Gee for the 7th Consecutive year and by new-boy Sam Farrar who previously worked with Joe at Cyclewise in the Lake District and will be first port of call for Muddy and Kade.

Support : Team Director Dan Brown will take charge of team cohesion and the massive logistics involved with supporting 4 riders at this level. Coach Nick Grantham will be on hand to analyse performance and to support the riders at his first ever World Cup MTB race and Physio Fiona Lundie will represent our partners Altius Healthcare, also for her first time with the team. Tim from Podium Catering the team’s long term chef of choice will provide nutrition, Sven Martin will take his trademark banging shots to document events and Gill Harris will take care of communications and keep the home fires burning back in the UK.

Bikes: The Trek Session 9.9
Muddy said “After getting set up on my new Trek Session I’ve found it easy to understand how it’s the most World Cup proven bike out there. The bike has everything a racer needs and nothing you don’t.”

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Muddy warming up at Round 1 BDS 2017 : Dan Hearn  – at Nant G the heavy mud  on the lower pedal section favoured Graeme’s power…fastest through the speed trap

Race guide: Lourdes is scary and brutal – so of course it’s already become a favourite with the team! Rachel says “It’s how all World Cup tracks should be.” The course has been a feature on the World Cup circuit since 2015, its not a long track (just 1.75km) but it’s fast and it takes no prisoners. There’s very little pedaling, with just 5m ascent against 432m descent across the course.

Overall, it’s steep, scary, fast and super-demanding with plenty of technical tests, including a rough nd open top section with loose dirt and jagged rocks in abundance. There’ll be loam, roots, big jumps and turns in the mid-section and a high speed sprint to the finish! It’s sometimes said that Lourdes is as tough on the riders mentally as it is physically – a claim borne out by both Gee and Rachel’s previous experience. Rachel said “ Last year was so gnarly, I knew that Tahnee had smoked me in qualis, even with a crash so it was always going to be all or nothing, crash or win! It was mad how hard we had to push it. But with the weather and the track changing so much I wasn’t sure how much I could push!”

Weather forecast: Weather forecasting in Lourdes is notoriously difficult, its likely that tyre choice will be a pretty last minute affair! Temperatures look mild (climbing from 10 degrees in the morning to 19 degree peaks) After rain on Wednesday there are a couple of sunny days shown to dry out the track – until Sunday when heavy showers look set to turn Finals into something very unpredictable. Once this course gets wet it’s lethal with plenty of slick exposed rock and hardpack mud.

History

In 2015 Rachel took the only 2nd of her flawless 2015 season here (to Emmeline Ragot) . It was an otherwise clean sweep of victories which remains unbroken to this day. In 2016 she took the win by 4.5 seconds from Tahnee Seagrave with Manon Carpenter in 3rd.

, during the 2016 UCI MTB World Cup, round one Lourdes, France.

The Lourdes crowd cheering Rachel home : Sven Martin 2016 

In 2015 Gee rode his Finals run with a suspected broken hand velcro’ed to the bars after a practice crash. Only somebody as tough (or as crazy) as Gee would have faced the Lourdes course in that state but it was strategically important that he protected his elite timed training session in Fort William! In 2016 he laid that particular ghost to rest with a solid 7th. In both 2015 and 2016 Aaron Gwin took the win.

If the rain does show as forecasted it’s likely that the slippery conditions will suit Gee, Rachel and Kade, all of whom are well used to riding in the rain! Even Muddy is beginning to get the hang of it after a few months in Wales!

Current Perspectives:
Gee: The track here literally has everything. I can’t wait to get out there. It can be a hard track because it’s fast and its short so you’re pushing for every tenth of a second of speed but it’s gnarly so you can be caught out so easy. I know two things about the weekend already, that none of the British riders will be put off by the rain if it comes and that I’ll be telling young Kade to back off a bit!
Rach: I love the track and the crowd here are always totally wild, its part of why I love the top rock-garden, its so hard and everyone goes up there to cheer us on! Last year when I rode here I was getting over the flu and I feel kind of the same this year – I hope things go as well as they did then. I’m so stoked for racing to get started and I’ve vowed that I’m going to take time to really enjoy this season.
Muddy: I’m so stoked to be here and dying to show what I can do. I do feel quite bad handing the dirty work over to Sam all the time. I’ve always done all my own spanner spinning so it’s pretty nuts to be able to 100% focus on my riding and let him put his skills to work on the rig. I have ridden some of the other World Cup tracks before this year but I haven’t ridden Lourdes before so its going to a steep learning curve from the word go!
Kade: My bike is amazing, I love it! I’m super-excited to be here, I’ve never ridden Lourdes before either so I’ve been watching a couple of Gee’s GoPro runs but in some ways the real work starts now, the brin-work, I’m going to studying the track super –hard tonight.

, during the 2016 UCI MTB World Cup, round one Lourdes, France.

Rachel after last year’s first victory of the Perfect Season : Sven Martin

Schedule:
Friday Timed Training
Saturday Qualifying
Junior Men 12.30 local time (11.30 BST)
Women 13.30 local time ( 12.30 BST)
Men 14.00 local time (13.00 BST)

Sunday Finals
Junior Men 10.30 local time (9.30 BST)
Women 13.00 local time ( 12.00 BST)
Men 14.00 local time (13.00 BST)

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