By Jay de Jesus, photos by Jon Pratt
Downhill qualifications are complete as the first day of competition has drawn to a close. It looks set to be another Star Spangled Scorcher as American Aaron Gwin has qualified 1st amongst the Elite Men (despite an apparent chain problem that saw him coasting through the entire last straightaway of huge double jumps!), with semi-local Richie Rude landing in 17th and 1st Junior — that is really special for young Richie as they qualify amongst all 180 of the Elite.
Jill Kintner is 4th in Elite Women, just over 4 seconds adrift. There are a handful of American contenders amongst the top racers all looking for more speed, less braking, smoother flow.
The courses continue to evolve, breaking in or breaking down depending on your perspective. Dust and tremendous braking bumps continue to be a factor as the dryness equates to increased speeds everywhere. Unfortunately it also leads to spectacular crashes and exploded equipment.
The Downhill finish line jump is a 50-plus foot booter and several riders came up painfully short in qualifying. Rebounding off the knuckle feet flailing and derailleurs shattering — World Cup speed and consequences are beyond comprehension, and you can thank these racers for the amazing trickle down of technology that we enjoy.
Of course, this event is about more than the World Cup racing, and the Windham organizers go over the top with creating such a festival of cycling culture. The citizen racing is open to anyone, and it is beautiful to see Joe Everyday biker, child or townfolk chatting in the lift-line or mingling in town with the international riders and staff, industry folk and US national riders. The crew from Wicked Wash is running the bike wash (first ever at a World Cup), offering a free professional bike-cleaning for everyone. As night descends the Windham Worlc Cup Street party kicks off, then the Brooklyn Steppers Marching Band will kick off the events tomorrow. World Cup XCO (as in Olympic) racing begins tomorrow early. Stay tuned!
Today’s feature is Cross Country for the Elite Men and Women, U-23 and Junior World Cup Series contenders and Olympic hopefulls. Following that, the Gravity East Downhil Series takes place for all categories, and numerous US and Elite World Cup racers who did not make the cut during yesterday’s DH Qualifiers will jump in today’s race, adding an international flair, and really upping the competitive experience for all amateur competitors.
I’m just in from my XC sighting lap, for my lead moto duties, and the course is rough, gritty, and dusty as heck. The extremely dry conditions and numerous training sessions have left bomb craters and deep pockets of silt everywhere. The intensity and speed of the World Cup racers is evident in the size of the braking chop and course degradation, and the seriousness of this international event really elevates the level of the citizen XC racing taking place tomorrow. It is also amazing to see how our mountain bike products advance and improve so dramatically as the speed, fitness, and intensity of all aspects of the World Cup evolve together. Lots of trick, semi-secret stuff being developed, and you can see it with a simple walk through the pits, well before it will arrive at your bike shop!
For now, the sun is blazing, the intensity is rising, and competition begins in 25 minutes — gotta run…