The last time the World Cup visited Snowshoe was more than 15 years ago, well before any of the team were competing at this level. Everyone was excited for the new venue, and to be back racing in the USA after a few years without an American round.
Wednesday – Track Walk
The riders were eager to see the totally new track and weren’t disappointed. The track started out with a cool, right-handed hip jump, straight into some fast ski-piste turns and a huge road gap, which had Bernard stoked. Using the natural terrain on the hill, the track builders had made some cool features over huge rocks before the track flattened out slightly and the amount of rocks increased.
The final 30 seconds of track started with a 150m sprint across a ski piste before a fun step down to four rollers that could be either doubled, tripled or singled. The speed remained super high as the riders came out of the woods and into the finish area. One last jump over a shipping container fired the riders across the line where, on race day, they would be spinning out in their biggest gear.
Thursday – Training
A short, sharp shower on Wednesday night made sure the clay-based mud on track was slick and sticky for the first training in the morning. Emilie found the flatter rock section toward the bottom of the track challenging and chose to soften up her suspension to keep the wheels tracking.
With the track drying out surprisingly well for the men’s training just after lunch, Bernard and Matt could carry more speed through the trickier, rockier sections toward the bottom of the track. Bernard was loving the jumps at the top of the track, playing to his strengths and having fun on the bike.
Matt was going well through the janky rock sections. Plenty of practice at carrying speed during the Enduro races had him used to letting off the brakes and finding the fastest line through these sections.
Meanwhile, Eddie was on track with the Red Bull Media team, analyzing the track and interviewing riders trackside. They produced a brilliant video that showcased some great riding with a load of classic Eddie Masters comedy and wit.
Friday – Qualification
Waking up to thick fog on the morning of qualification, riders found the track was back to slick and loose. The mud on the braking spots had become slippery and braking traction was limited. Riders were having to ride smooth and calculated to carry speed.
The sun came out for the qualifying round and the track started to run faster. Emilie was our first rider down the hill and looked good over the last jump, crossing the line at more than 48kph. A mistake in one of the rock gardens saw her lose all her speed at a crucial point. Continuing to push, she qualified 8th and was happily surprised how close her time was to the podium spots, despite her mistake.
Bernard came down next and, although he was back riding, his hand was still a bit stiff following a big week racing at the World Championships. Riding well but a bit much within himself, Bernard crossed the line slightly worried he hadn’t done enough. Qualifying in 54th,Bernard was happy to make it into the main event and was ready to push hard for finals.
Matt made a big mistake in the first split, almost stalling and coming to a standstill for his qualification run. Pushing hard to gain time back on the lower section, Matt looked fast and composed. Qualifying mid-field, Matt was happy to make it into the finals for the last World Cup race of the year and was keen to put down a good run for all the American fans.
Friday – Finals
Huge crowds were expected for the finals and didn’t disappoint. Despite the remote location, people had made it there from all across the U.S. to watch the race.
Emilie started off strong, going big and stylish off the first jump before settling into her run. Emilie was less than one second back a split two. A great exit on the tricky rock garden saw her carry speed all the way through the sprint to the finish line, where she posted the fastest time so far. Emilie knew her run wasn’t perfect but after some time in the hot seat, she eventually finished in 7th, a great result on a track that didn’t fully suit her strengths.
Bernard was the next Pivot rider to drop in and was going hard. Peddling anywhere he could and pumping all the terrain, he looked to be riding well. Crossing the line more than 2 seconds up, Bernard was happy with his run. but now had a long wait for all the other riders to make their mark.
Matt dropped in a few riders after Bernard and was looking fast on the big screen in front of the growing crowd. Matt was within touching distance at the first few splits, but going too fast off the first in a tricky series of drops caused him to get bucked and almost stop before the next drop. With super-tight times, this was enough to drop Matt back a number of places, finishing in 44th.
Following an incredibly exciting race, Bernard finished in 26th. He was chuffed with that result and some fast split times showed that his speed was coming back following his hand injury.
With the overall titles also decided at the weekend, Bernard and Eddie positioned in an impressive 26th and 27th, despite missing two and three rounds respectively. Emilie climbed up to 6th in the overall, which is a great end to the season following a tough start with a niggling shoulder injury.
The team also managed to finish 10th in the team overall, another reflection of a great year despite two riders missing multiple rounds.
Emilie will be heading home now for some rest and recovery before focusing on next year. The busy schedule continues for Matt and Bernard as they head straight to Red Bull Hardline for some huge jumps and a fun weekend in the Welsh valleys.