Mont-Sainte-Anne feels like it only happened yesterday but the World Cup racers have already made their way south to Windham, just over 100 miles inland from New York City in rural New York State. The track was destroyed by flooding in 2011 and had to be rebuilt by the local community. Its people are obviously proud to have the race come to them. With this being the penultimate round of this year’s World Cup series, and with most overall positions still up for grabs, the riders are going to be pushing harder than ever. Here are 10 things to watch out for…
1 Neck-and-neck racing
All the tracks so far this year have been over three minutes long, with most being over four minutes. This weekend’s track could well have a winning time of under two-and-a-half minutes. This means riders will need even more of a perfect run to bag the win. With times likely to be the tightest we’ve seen all year, one small mistake could be the difference between fifth and 10th and cost riders a lot of points. Length aside, the track has a lot in common with Mont-Sainte-Anne, with high-speed open bits, intimidating rock sections and East Coast dirt.
Check out some footage of the track back in 2012:
2 Peaty not backing down
After an incredible performance in Cairns, where he finished seventh, Steve Peat’s season has somewhat gone backwards, with him often finishing outside the top 20. He’s shown some impressive speed at Windham in years past ,with a podium and a first place in qualifying at the venue’s World Cup debut back in 2010. Can the biggest legend in downhill finish inside the top 10 at 40 years old? That must be some kind of record.
3 Privateers keeping it pinned
While the top riders on the top teams are paid decent salaries, the majority of racers have to work hard all winter to be able to fund a summer of racing. Some of these riders have been doing extremely well recently. Ones to watch this weekend include Adam Brayton, Harry Heath and Eddy Masters.
4 The Madison Saracen duo
Both Sam Dale and Matt Simmonds will be ones to look out for this weekend. Simmonds is getting painfully close to the podium and only has two more attempts at it this year. Dale has finished outside the top 10 in the last two races after an incredible streak of top 10s to begin his season. They’re possibly the two biggest riders on the circuit – could we see one of them on the podium this weekend?
5 A repeat winner?
The unpredictability of the men’s series continued last weekend with a fifth winner in five rounds. The same could always happen again this round, but the guys who’ve already won are all on great form and looking to repeat their previous success. Could the string of new winners finally end and someone take control of the men’s series this weekend?
6 Manon inching ever closer to the series win
The rest of the Elite women have one last real chance to stop Manon Carpenter this weekend. If she wins, she’ll have enough of a points cushion to just ride it home at the final World Cup. If Emmeline Ragot or Rachel Atherton can steal some points from Carpenter this weekend, then their title hopes may just get brighter and it’ll go down to the line at the final round. Manon can afford to lose some points but a crash or a mechanical could still get in the way of her winning her first Elite women’s World Cup overall title.
7 The ‘home town hero’
Aaron Gwin actually lives as far from Windham as English riders do from Leogang but everyone will call this his home race. For a long time the American fans didn’t have any top riders to look up to, and now that they do, they’ll expect nothing but a win from him this weekend. Gwin has raced on the East Coast a lot during the pre season and looks comfortable on that style of track. He now sits third in points and realistically needs to win this weekend to have a chance of becoming the World Cup champion for a third time. Will the American fans get their fairytale ending?
8 A real battle in the Juniors
American Luca Shaw took the points lead last weekend and now sits ahead of Loris Vergier by a mere four points. Can Loris keep it together and avoid the race run crashes that have haunted him? Or can Luca use his home advantage well and run away with the series lead? Loris has experience of winning the title but Luca has a small lead.
9 Lapierre’s time to shine?
Sam Blenkinsop and Loic Bruni have both qualified first at races this year but they haven’t managed to follow that up come race day. Both are incredible riders – could one of them steal a win from the top four this weekend and make it six winners in six races? Loic got on the podium here when he was still a Junior so obviously has great speed here – could we finally see him take his first win in Windham?
10 The fan favourite
Once everyone has finished ordering their new pair of flat pedals, they’ll tune in to see if Sam Hill can repeat last weekend’s success. Hill has just as much of a chance here as he did at Mont-Sainte-Anne, with the ‘bike park’ tracks well and truly behind us. Like Gwin, if Hill wants to win this title he needs to get a win this weekend. Was last weekend a one-off or is the ‘fastest man of a generation’ back for good?
Tune in to Red Bull TV at 7.15pm BST on Saturday to watch the race live, and check back here next week for our report!