RD 1: Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Downhill World Cup racing is finally back.
After a significant hiatus and arguably one of the longest off season 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 look 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 practise 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 what is a stacked and hugely competitive field of female athletes. The semi- finals on Saturday just 10 women progress to the afternoon final. Lou and Vero narrowly missed out on those hot spots, but 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 a second. Motivation for Leogang for the young Irish rider. Reigning Irish National Champ Ronan Dunne proved his talent in being Mr Consistent putting in a solid run to qualify 22nd over 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.
Check out the Continental Nukeproof Factory team in action
Watch the highlights from each round here