Downhill World Cup MSA: The big comeback


Downhill race in Mont-Sainte-Anne was maybe the hardest and the most important for us so far in the season. This is where all of our DH rider made a comeback after their injuries, and they needed to test their bodies and minds on the probably the hardest track in the World Cup – one that is hosting fastest riders for three decades!

 

This time around we came to Mont-Sainte-Anne with full support of Devinci and Unior USA, which made our lives much easier and the whole trip to Canada way better. At the same time all these great people around us created even better atmosphere and feeling of a home away from home.

MSA race weekend started with the “thunderstorm Thursday”, a practice day with several heavy showers that made training extremely hard and at one point they even had to cancel the session. Our riders struggled like everyone else, but after being away from their bikes for a while – especially Rudy & Jure – they just tried to take the best out of the day. From there on it was a classical MSA – sunny, hot, faster and faster, with more and more rocks sticking out in your way.

Qualies were nervous since none of our riders had a protection. Dak went on the course first, played it “safe” and easily qualify. So did Jure, despite the fact that he still doesn’t have the full strength in his arms. Rudy however wasn’t that lucky on his first full downhill run after the crash in Lošinj! He finished in 69th and will have to seek new opportunities on Crankworx and later in La Bresse.

 

Sunday finals

Last practice session before the finals was great, Jure found all the right lines and Dak all the right feelings on his Wilson 29. They went up on the mountain with confidence and ready to improve on their qualifications results. Jure went out first, did a solid run, but was clearly loosing time towards the end; the arm is still not at full strength. Dak followed shortly and was fast as hell, close to the top split times at the time, and even a second up on the split 3. But top result vanished in a single moment when he lost the grip under the tire and hit the floor. He’s all right and went forward as fast as possible, but lost too much precious time. Dak will have to buy beer for Jure tonight, Jure beat him by the slightest on margins – for 0.01 second! They finished in 42nd and 43rd place.

Jure Žabjek: “I was back on the World Cup after the 12 week absence due to injury. The whole weekend was very hard for me, also due to changing conditions on the track. We went from completely wet terrain to almost dry track that is physically very difficult. I didn’t come to Canada with a specific result in mind, I just wanted to find the right feelings on the bike and do my best. I was fast in the top part of my final run, but then I started to feel my hands and I backed down a little bit. I didn’t want to risk another crash and injury. I know I’m not as strong for now, this is why I’m happy with my result here in Mont-Sainte-Anne.

I’ll work on my settings in the time to the world champs, and also do more strength exercises; what I wasn’t able to do in the summer basically. I already look forward to Crankworx and the rest of the season, but also to the World Champs on this venue in the next season. I think I can do really good here.”

 

Dakotah Norton: “I think after several weeks off the downhill bike and recovery from injury I really didn’t get up to speed like I wanted to at the US Open. The plan unfortunately fell apart with that rain there and I didn’t do the runs I wanted. But coming into this weekend I was just struggling to find comfort on the bike, I knew I was capable of going really fast. But I also needed to wrap my head around the fact that that I was injured. The basic thing was to find comfort on my downhill bike and I did that today. I’m pretty unhappy with my performance, unfortunately sliding out on the bottom. It was just a lack of focus. But I think there are a lot of positives to take away, I’m healthy and riding well!”

 

Results

Jure Žabjek – 42nd, 4:28.692 (+15.979)

Dakotah Norton – 43rd, 4:28.702 (+15.989)

Rudy Cabirou – didn’t qualify for the finals

 

Race photos by Keith Valentine, wrenching photos by Grega Stopar