WC 1: LENZERHEIDE
Downhill World Cup racing is finally back.
After a significant hiatus and arguably one of the longest off seasons the DH athletes have experienced, the UCI Downhill World Cup made its anticipated return this week. Lenzerheide, Switzerland was the first stop for the season. Famed for its rooty, steep, technical tracks, Lenzerheide was a guaranteed test for the athletes. The new lineup of Continental Nukeproof Factory Racing had their debut at Lenzerheide, with an incredibly impressive pit set up and four of the most exciting athletes on the Downhill scene in Ronan Dunne, Chris Cumming, Louise Ferguson and Vero Widmann, managed by Harry Molloy and Mark Cummings.
The new format of the UCI Downhill World cup took some adjusting to for the athletes, with practice on Thursday, qualifying Friday, then the new semi-final and finals both taking place on Saturday. First up to qualifying were Louise Ferguson and Veronika Widmann. Both made it into the qualifying 15 in a stacked and hugely competitive field. The semi-finals on Saturday allowed only 10 women to progress to the afternoon final. Lou and Vero narrowly missed out on those hot spots, but both gave incredible performances and building blocks for the season. The Elite Men's field is as competitive as ever with the addition of a few rapid youngsters making the leap to Elite. After showing huge speed in practice, Chris Cumming just missed out on the qualifying top 60 by one second – motivation for Leogang for the young Irish rider. Reigning Irish National Champ Ronan Dunne proved his talent in being Mr. Consistent by putting in a solid run to qualify 22nd on the blown-out Lenzerheide track. Overnight rain prior to finals day made conditions tricky, but Ronan laid down the 19th fastest time in the semi-finals to progress to the afternoon finals. The elite men’s field is hugely competitive this year and Ronan took home an impressive 22nd in the Final, less than 7 seconds from the winning time. An incredible achievement by the team, who are stoked and ready for Round 2 in Leogang next weekend.