Three is better than two
This weekend Aaron Gwin joined Ric and Cedric in the TV booth and the commentary was coloured full with racer insights, analysis, entertainment and credible authority. It was a big improvement from the previous rounds. Viewers want coherent and fluid commentary with technical insights that are always better when delivered by ex-professional racers.
Historically, many or most of the World Cups broadcast by the previous team didn’t have cameras the entire way down the track, meaning a portion (or portions) of the race went unseen by global audiences. Watching complete, top-to-bottom race runs of the world’s best, is amazing, even if it’s only possible in the highlights package released a few hours after the event.
So much is being said about the lack of communication from the new organizers, to the riders. This began in the off season and hasn’t improved. All the racers should be treated equally and with care. In the end, the racers are the product. A lot of the riders are very unhappy right now and a lot of their concerns are valid. The fix is easy; it begins with regular communication.
Warner Bros Discovery are however doing incredible work as far as the overall presentation of the sport. The podiums look great, the finish line area looks incredible, the course marking is more professional and the general look and feel has been elevated.
When inclement weather impacts on the ability of the medical teams to [quickly] gain access and attend to an injured rider, surely it is the correct call for the organizers to postpone or cancel an event. Let’s be adults on this one.
Semi-final race format
We are now five races into the season with the new semi-final race format [that trims the field down before the finals] and it has changed things. The main upside, in my opinion, is the racing is more intense now as every rider has to race the quali and semi-finals, pretty much fully pinned, to make the finals. Consequently, in finals, the best riders have often unlocked new levels of speed and it’s very exciting to watch.
However, a massive downside to the new semi-final format is World Cup racing is now, in my opinion, too exclusive. It is now almost an impossibiliity for a privateer, riding with limted to no support, to make it into the finals. Historically, these van-life and rags-to-riches rides from little known privateers is where some of the best stories of World Cup racing originate. [Quick shoutout to Connor Finnis, a young South African privateer, living out of a van, who is regularly on the quali-bubble. We see you Connor! – and all the other Saffas that are giving it a go, from their vans! Go guys!] Another downside is we may very well see highly talented riders that regularly miss qualifying, exit the sport, in search of more eyeballs in other gravity formats. A solution is needed. Or at very least an explanation on why the semi-final format has been re-introduced this year.
Vali could clinch early
Loudenvielle was the fifth race of an eight race series and despite a Women’s field that is more stacked and exciting than ever before, Vali Höll is the clear favorite to take the overall. In fact, her 444 points lead over second placed Nina Hoffman opens up the possibility of her clinching the series title, in Les Gets, this weekend. With a maximum of 400 points available for winning qualis, semi-finals and finals – mathematically it is possible for Vali to clinch the series with two rounds remaining. What is remarkable is how quickly young Vali has adjusted to racing in the Elite field and how refined her race craft is. Will this change her race strategy for Les Gets? Probably not, as Vali is always fully pinned.
Men’s overall is wide open
There’s around 300 points seperating the top seven riders in the men’s series and at this stage, the title is very much still wide open. Loic, Loris, Laurie, Finn, Jackson, Thibault and Andreas are in the running still. This is one of the most compettive seasons, ever.
Who is due for a win?
First off, nobody is owed a win. In fact, this sport is brutal and doesn’t owe any rider a single thing. What I do believe is there are always a bunch of riders who have done the work and have the talent, making a win, more likely. With what we’ve seen of them so far in 2023, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see Marine Cabirou, Laurie Greenland, Benoit Coulanges or Greg Minnaar take a win, soon.
How short are Bruni’s cranks?
Does anyone know? They look way shorter than what the other teams are on. Does this allow Specialized to run a crazy low BB on that new prototype bike of theirs which would boost corner grip et al. Anybody?
Images: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool