In late April the 2019 World Cup Downhill season kicks off in Maribor Slovenia. This year the series has a total of 8 rounds culminating in Snowshoe USA in September and is set to be a thriller. As a prelude to the
Andrew is a commentator for the Crankworx World Tour, shreds bikes for Scott and is a part owner of the Hanger Bike Co bike shop. Having spent 14 years campaigning on the World Cup circuit, Andrew is more than familiar with the World Cup contenders and indeed, the pressure cooker like environment when racing at that level. His insights are somewhat unique and although he may be retired from World Cup racing he stills shreds like a boss, as you can see ….
BN: Andrew, welcome to Bike Network and thank you for being here. Let’s dive right in, reigning World Cup champ Rachel Atherton, how do you see here 2019 season rolling?
Andrew: It’s up to her motivation. She has won it all twice, three times, four times, a million times. Had injuries. Bounced back. It seems like she is enjoying the new bike and the process of preparing which will help her do well. A happy Rachel on and off the bike is very difficult to beat. It seems with
BN: Then, Tahnée Seagrave, an absolute pinner and perhaps the biggest threat to the Atherton dominance — give us your thoughts on Tahnée.
Andrew: Tahnee can win. She does not have that much to lose. She is still
BN: 3rd in 2018, Tracey Hannah, an
Her experience is her thing. Maybe what she should do is pick her tracks and really focus on the ones in the season that suit her and that she likes and not force the other ones. Tracey on her day is so bloody fast. She is great for the sport and excelled at a very young age. She is very driven, pushes her limits and the sport loves her.
BN: Myriam Nicole, a somewhat disappointing 4th place for Myriam in 2018, she will want more than that going into 2019. We hear she has returned back to the 27.5 wheel size. Your thoughts?
BN: To the lads now, Andrew what are your thoughts on the defending champion, that crazy Frenchmen, Amaury Pierron?
Andrew: Phew, he had a remarkable breakout season, he is the danger man. Who would have predicted three wins in a row? What was fascinating was how he dealt with that pressure and it brought out his best game. Then, as the season went on the pressure was eased off for him. Now though, he has had a whole offseason to reflect and realize what he has accomplished. He has now put himself into a whole different category of rider. He is now the guy who has won a World Cup overall so now people expect him to win, his sponsors will pay him more and he himself is probably gonna put himself under more pressure. He has done it you see and is going to expect to do it most weekends — and that’s the challenge he has now. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying he is a one hit wonder, he has always been real fast, the speed was there but he was a bit of a loose cannon. We thought he was riding above his skill but he was just clearly inexperienced back then. Now he has maybe
I would want to say to Amaury, who is a happy, fun loving guy to not change his approach. He should make sure he does the same thing for 2019 in terms of approach to racing. Don’t change too much. Go in with the same presence and mindfulness that he did before he was World Cup Champion. And that’s having fun, being one of the young kids, stick to the basics, manage his expectations. It will be harder because Gwin will be back, Greg will be back. You know, he might put a good run in and finish 4th so he needs to manage his expectations and try not to reinvent the wheel for himself.
BN: 2nd place finisher, your former team mate, former World Champion and still the wildest guy on the mountain, Danny Hart, how do you see his season rolling?
Andrew: Danny — the silent assassin. Normally he is not the silent assassin — you know — he is loud and proud and looks like he may crash and is riding over his head coming into the finish of a race — but I think he is learning to manage his riding and what works for him. Look, he had a great season by all accounts with multiple podiums and I think that might make him hungrier for more. Danny is a threat week in and week out. He can be a top 3 guy in the overall, he has proven that now. Winning World Championships and finishing 2nd overall in the World Cup – he is a real threat. It will be interesting to see if he goes to 29ers. He is more experienced and maturing into his racing now. He recently got engaged and his home life is stable — that’s important — so he is just going about his business and he loves to ride his bike. Another thing with
If one or two things go his way he can be the World Cup Champion. You know Danny was almost too famous too early with that incredible ride in Champerey when he won World Champs and then he had a dip, there was a lot of expectation on him. I think now he is maturing as a racer and can set his eyes on an overall.
Danny Hart’s 2011 World Championship Downhill run at Champéry
BN: Troy Brosnan, a 3rd place in 2018 sounds like an amazing result, but we kind of expect more of the Aussie right?
Andrew: You can just see when this guy is going fast and it takes time to build confidence into a new setup and he has done that now with that bike. He is racking up podiums. He is really good under pressure and is consistent. That’s why he is up there as a top 3. You know all these guys are coming of age. That’s why they can start rivaling someone like Greg and Gwin who are just so consistent. What’s nice about the Southern Hemisphere riders is they are getting to go home more and don’t need to spend so much time in Europe which is smart as it allows them to reset and recharge in the middle of the season. Back in the day riders were on the road and away from home for like 5 or 6 months and that makes it tough to perform at the highest level.
BN: Loris Vergier – your thoughts?
Andrew: He is a
BN: A top 5 for Laurie Greenland in 2018! A superb season for sure. How do you see his 2019 season going?
Andrew: This guy is fast and I know he can ride so well but I was maybe a little surprised to see him in 5th overall for last year. One could argue he had some help, but then again so did some others with Gwin, Greg and Loic getting injured. Now I am not taking anything away from Laurie or saying he doesn’t have the speed – I mean the more it gets gnarly and rough it seems the more he turns it on. He spends a lot of time in NZ in the off-season, working and training hard. What I like about Laurie is he is bringing the fun back to World Cup Downhill and good on him for that. It’s a really nice time in general. I would look to Laurie as someone who has a point to prove, you know he understands he had some luck but maybe that makes him hungry. Maybe he is going to show everyone that he can do it. It would be great to see him move up the results even further.
BN: 6th place in 2018, Brook MacDonald, your thoughts on him for 2018?
Andrew: A fan favorite who was written off a few years back then moved to a new team and
BN: Loic Bruni, the Champ, if he stays fresh all year can he take a run at the World Cup overall?
Andrew: What a disappointing position for him. I mean after all that preparation he comes out and injures himself before the first qualifying session. That knocked his whole season back. What was impressive is the work he put in to get back up to speed after the injury. Then he comes back and wins MSA. You know he comes back to speed so quickly after such a tough start to the season and then obviously goes on to win Worlds, — again. This guy is incredible. Loic has got a really good team around him, he is happy there, his personal life is going well. He is healthy. He is a guy who can look at this World Cup overall now. He can do it. He can beat Gwin.
BN: 8th place Luca Shaw showed so much promise in 2018, what do you think he needs to do to get that elusive win?
Andrew: On paper his 2018 season does not do his riding and speed justice. He was almost the man to beat but it was not meant to be. Luca is probably the guy that ended up with the most pressure last year by virtue of his multiple
BN: 9th placed Gee Atherton is on new bike and on his own new team, do you think this perhaps will make him dig just that little bit deeper out there and continue his end of season momentum?
Andrew: Well, he is obviously getting on and he has been dealing with injuries and the confidence takes a long time to get back. Near the end of the
BN: Connor Fearon rounded out the top 10 in 2018, where do you think he needs to focus to move up the standings?
Andrew: I think Connor is great for the sport. He has a lot of speed – we have all seen that. Lately, he has developed his consistency and he now just needs to kind of morph those two together. You know, keep the consistency but dial the speed back up again. I think now he can turn the speed back up on some tracks and be right up there. He is one of the greatest riders to watch on track. He is fast and can pull off bigger results.
BN: Jack Moir, back in 25th on the overall but we all know he is capable of so much more. Where do you think he will be
Andrew: Jack is a hungry man and a
BN: Aaron Gwin ….
Andrew: Phew, this guy landed on his feet after a crazy turn of events with team swops in the off-season. I guess the thing with Gwin is he bets on himself, demands what he wants for a paycheck and has all the on-track confidence to back that up. I think the new team is going to be a good fit for him honestly. It’s a local brand,
BN: Brendog? 33rd in 2018 but capable of so much more….
Andrew: He is just hands down one of the most gifted guys on a bike and I am not saying that cause I am his buddy. I mean I went to
BN: The G.O.A.T – Greg Minnaar
Andrew: Crazy to think he still has the speed which is
OK Needles, let’s spitball some predictions and thoughts here.
BN: Not asking you to hang yourself but give us your predictions for 2019, your top 3 for elite men?
Andrew: Safe money on Gwin at the top. Bruni in top 3. Wild card Luca Shaw into the top 3.
BN: Who would you like to see win a World Cup this year?
Andrew: Brendon. I mean not because he is a mate of mine but
BN: Then, for those riders who are outside the Top 20 right now but are looking to move up, what 3 things would you say they should focus on to do so?
Andrew: 1. Most importantly I would say they must focus on enjoying what they are doing. Just
2. Then, to talk and act like you are one of the top guys. Not in an arrogant way! I mean, in reality, there is not a big difference between the guy who is 40th and the guy who is 15th. If you go to a World Cup and watch practice, the guy who has number plate 75 on comes by at an incredible pace, because he can do it in sections. I mean everyone is so gifted. It boils down to fitness and the mental game largely. So believing you can do it is half the game won already.
3. Lastly to make sure they have a pre-race plan. For the race weekend. Have everything mapped out. All the top guys have this. They are able to perform close to their best more often because of this. For Example : You won’t always be able to stick to it BUT know how many runs you are going to try do, what specific things you want to focus on in each run. Make sure by the time you get to qualifying you have done every piece of that track at race pace. So that when you crank the speed up in the race you are comfortable and know you can ride each section at that pace. So go work out that speed, but in stages. By doing that you can sit back and know you have prepared as well as you can.
BN: What about stressing over setup, you know for the top 40 riders, how much attention should they give to this?
Andrew: Find what works for you. Don’t waste time chasing your tail around setup. A World Cup is not the place to play with too many different things. That’s what the
BN: Do you think riders should stay off of social media on race weekend?
Andrew: Ja its an interesting time for all this. Its testing and I would say it depends on the rider. For the most part
BN: Thanks so much bud!
Thank you to RedBull for the images.