This pandemic-shaped year has robbed us of many things, including the joy that is watching Downhill World Cup finals – live. Fortunately, things are looking up. We won’t be getting the full three course meal, but we’ll be going straight to dessert as the world’s best descenders squeeze in four World Cups in a fortnight.
By Sean Badenhorst
We got a little bitter-sweet taste of it this past weekend at the 2020 UCI World Champs. But with the foul weather conditions in Leogang, we were already in pessimism mode as we watched riders unable to display their true talent as they slipped and slid their way down the steep, mushy Austrian mountain slope.
While it was great to see (slightly) more controlled runs by the medallists, with a fresh-looking podium in both the men and women’s events, we know that a dry(er) course would have delivered a very different afternoon of racing.
Let’s face it, many of us wouldn’t be into watching the DH World Cups if Greg Minnaar wasn’t a perennial podium contender. The 38-year-old Santa Cruz Syndicate ace holds the record for World Cup wins (21), just two more than Aaron Gwin.
Gwin gets a (long) shot at matching Minnaar’s tally in 2020, but by the same token, Minnaar gets a shot at extending his win count further. Minnaar’s Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) label isn’t under serious threat though. Even if Gwin does draw level on World Cup wins, The Intense rider is yet to win a World Championship, of which Minnaar has three.
But putting that rivalry aside though, both Minnaar and Gwin sustained serious injuries last year, which saw them sidelined and having them both back racing is a wonderful gift. After that mudfest at Leogang last weekend, every rider is going to be looking for redemption on the rough, fast slope at Maribor this week. Rain is expected on Thursday, for qualifying, so conditions will be wet but not almost unrideable like Leogang.
The list of title contenders is long, and mentioning every one is rather fruitless, especially considering Leogang wasn’t a great indicator of form. Other South Africans to watch out for are Sharjah Jonsson and Niko Velasco.
The schedule for this week looks like this:
UCI World Cup #1 Maribor
Wednesday 14 October: Timed training
Thursday 15 October: Qualifying
Friday 16 October: Finals
UCI World Cup #2 Maribor
Saturday 17 October: Qualifying
Sunday 18 October: Finals
The finals will be live on Redbull TV (if they’re not on SuperSport in South Africa – we will confirm).