RD 1: Snowshoe, USA
Snowshoe, USA played host to the penultimate round of the 2023 Downhill World Cup series. Renowned for its technical rock gardens and slick conditions and the spot that Continental Nukeproof Factory Racing ace Ronan Dunne secured his podium last season, the team were stoked to piece together the Snowshoe puzzle.
Fall time was ramping up in the West Virginia track with the leaves falling on the track and changing conditions as the week progressed causing riders to reasses each lap and push the boundaries. Thursday saw practise and the team were loving the challenge of the track, getting up to speed quickly and getting very stoked for the weekend ahead.
The first run against the clock for timed training showed the full team were up to speed in no time and Friday's qualifying round continued this trend.
Louise Ferguson was first down for the Continental Nukeproof Factory racing team and put in an incredible ride to more than secure her spot in the Semi-Finals in 8th. Team mate and close friend Veronika Widmann, Italian National Champion was next down the track and pushed herself into Semi-Finals too.
The Elite Men followed swiftly with line choice having been opened up and a little more mud on those slick rocks from their practise runs. Chris Cumming has been pushing hard all season but just hadn't caught a break until Snowshoe 2023, the young Irishman put down an absolute heater to land himself a spot in the Semi Finals (not without a nail biting last 5 riders to ensure he was safe though). This has been a long time in the works for Chris, three years of solid graft in World Cups and his first spot in Semi-Finals, what an incredible achievement and the start of great things for Chris.
Fellow Irishman Ronan Dunne was last down of the team honouring to his consistent top 20 results throughout the season, Ronan proved his class and consistency once again with a comfortable 10th spot, easily securing himself in the Semi-Finals.
What was about to happen, its safe to say nobody could have predicted what was about to happen next...
First up in the Semi-Finals were the Elite Women, Veronika Widmann was first out of the gate with arguably the trickiest conditions of the day with a slick layer of moisture on those all important rock sections. Vero had a mindset shift for Snowshoe and it showed with a spot in the final and an overall 8th spot. Vero has proved the pace is back and she is back firing ready for the final round in Mont Saint Anne this weekend.
Lou Ferguson was next out the start hut, having missed this race in 2022, this was an entirely new track for Louise. Her pace was there but the elusive spot in the final wasn't meant to be. We are buzzing for Lou to show her speed and talent at Mont Saint Anne.
An ecstatic Chris Cumming was the first of the Continental Nukeproof team of the Elite Men, Chris posted a competitive time and we are stoked to see his hard work paying off, we know its just the start.
Ronan Dunne had something to prove from the start of this week with last year's podium in his head. Following an impressive Semi-Final run, Ronan cemented himself into what was to be a history making final. The weather gods were being kind and the track remained largely unchanged for finals.
As the final 10 set off, the times were looking exciting, Ronan looked his usual determined self as he set off on what was about to be his most successful race to date. Crossing the finish line it was obvious Ronan was going to trouble the top steps with fastest splits across the board. Sitting proudly on the hot seat in the number one spot with only a few riders to go, the excitement was hard to beat.
As the final five riders dropped, Ronan's long term competitor fellow Irishman Oisin O'Callaghan put down the run of his life putting himself at the top to an incredible response from the audience and only Loic Bruni was to drop in. A very unlucky crash put Loic out of contention and history was made with two Irish riders in 1-2 with Oisin O'Callaghan winning his first ever Elite World Cup and Ronan Dunne taking second with his career best.
An unforgettable moment for an Irish team run by an Irish family that will go down in the history books. We are incredibly proud of the whole team and are stoked to see what the final round can bring.
Check out the Continental Nukeproof Factory team in action
Watch the highlights from each round here