The team was back together racing at round 7 of the UCI Downhill World Cup in Val Di Sole in Italy. The three weeks of training at home and in Morzine left the team ready to start a busy final portion to the 2019 season with back-to-back races in Europe, Canada and the USA for the next nine weeks!
A super steep and rough track in Val Di Sole is a challenge even for the best riders in the world and the forecast of wet weather was going to make the challenge even greater. During track walk, riders saw little change from their previous visits with some sections taped wide that offered up more line choice; but with no big changes, the racers would be up to race speed within a few runs.
Suffering with a broken hand from a training ride back home, Bernard was gutted to be missing the race. Despite this, his spirits were high and he was trackside, helping the other riders with line selection, bike set-up, and keeping motivation high.
Thursday – Training
There was no sign of the previous night’s rain when training started on Thursday. The loamy, soft dirt soaked away all the moisture, but was hiding rocks and roots ready to catch anyone out. Training remained dry all day, but the rain was always in the back of each rider’s mind as they discussed lines and how they would deal with the predicted wet, slippery roots.
Emilie was feeling good on her bike after a great training block at home following the previous round. She was enjoying the multiple lines offered on the course, and she was working out the fastest way down the technical track.
Eddie had an eventful day on the Black Snake track. After getting up to speed quickly, he suffered a flat tire. No sooner was this fixed than he crashed on a steep, rough section on the very next run. He was lucky to not be injured, but felt a little beaten up, so he chose to sit out the rest of the day’s training.
Matt was looking fast on track, taking the direct approach to lines and rolling through and over the big obstacles instead of wasting energy going around them. This was impressive to watch—seeing the bike working underneath him, definitely fast.
Friday – Qualification
Heavy overnight rain made the track treacherously slick for Emilie’s morning training. Tackling the track required concentration and perfect wheel placement. A small mistake caused her to catch a wheel in a hole that resulted in a small over-the-bars fall. No damage was done and she was ready for qualification in no time.
Emilie dropped in for her qualification run on a track that was significantly drier than her training runs. From the big screen, you could see her pushing hard out of the gate and attacking the track. Qualifying in 6th, Emilie was happy to put in a solid run, but knew she could have pushed harder on the drying track. With fast conditions expected for the finals, she was ready to let loose on Saturday and risk that extra little bit needed for finals.
The first drops of rain started to fall just as the elite men took to track for qualifying. As more and more riders came down, the rain got heavier and heavier and the track wetter and wetter.
Eddie dropped in for his run in some of the most horrendous conditions. Limited visibility, heavy rain and insanely slick roots made for a wild run. Catching his trousers in his chain ring, his pedals locked up and caused him to hit a rock and snap his chain ring. Knowing he was protected and guaranteed a ride in the final, Eddie composed himself and continued to the bottom safely.
Matt didn’t have the luxury of protection. With worsening weather, a lightning strike on the gondola forced the race to be postponed. After almost an hour delay, and with the rain starting to ease, Matt hit the track. Visibility was better, but the mud was becoming gloopy, slow and being dragged onto the rocks and roots. A good run, except for two off-track excursions, left Matt pleased to qualify for finals and hoping for better conditions.
Saturday – Finals
Although the track remained slick for training in the morning, come race time, the track was dry and running fast. Full commitment was needed and an exciting race was guaranteed.
Emilie was ready to attack the Black Snake track and set off hard. Putting over 3 seconds into the current leader at split one, she pressed home her advantage, crossing split 2 with more than 6 seconds advantage. A fast start was always going to be a bold strategy, but Emilie showed her determination and strength to finish 7 seconds ahead of the current leader.
A long stint on the Mercedes-Benz hot seat followed, with Emilie only getting knocked off with two riders to go, guaranteeing her a podium finish. A thrilling elite women’s race ended with Emile finishing in 5th and scoring another fantastic podium finish at one of the most challenging tracks on the calendar.
Matt was the next of the Pivot riders to take to the track. Riding a drying track, it was difficult to know how hard to push. Matt attacked hard and was looking good on the big screen. A few mistakes and an admittedly scrappy run cost him some time, but Matt still crossed the line into 2nd place and was in the hot seat for some time.
Eddie had been feeling good in morning training and was ready to lay down a fast run. A first split specialist, Eddie was up by 0.1 at the first time check and looking speedy. Hitting one of the rocky shoots fully pinned, he hit a wet rock, which spat his rear wheel sideways. There was nothing Eddie could do to save the inevitable crash. The spectacular crash left Eddie with a few cuts and bruises, but he was happy to walk away with no serious injuries.
At the end of the racing, Matt posted the 40th fastest time of the day, a little off from where he wants to be, but happy to have qualified and survived such a challenging track and weekend.
Matt and Eddie will now travel to Whistler, B.C., to take on the next round of the Enduro World Series. The remainder of the team will race Emilie’s home race in Lenzerheide before joining the boys for Cranksworx Whistler.