Team CRC Mavic riders Mike Jones and Elliott Heap raced at the final round of the Downhill World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy over the weekend.
Team Manager Nigel Page was there to bring us this report:
Val Di Sole was the venue for the last race of the World Cup series, and it didn’t disappoint. The track is famous for its technical difficulty, steepness and being brutal on both the riders and their bikes.
This year was no different, the course designers had made a few positive changes adding in a few new sections and corners as well as fixing up a few of the really beat up sections of the track that have been in since 2008 making for, I would say, the best Val Di Sole track in some years.
The weather stayed dry and as always some huge holes opened up on the track as it deteriorated with the world’s best DH riders doing run after run, trying to get to grips with the track. It’s a track that rewards the strongest, mentally as well as physically and basically anyone who can hold on and attack the wild track the hardest and stay on their bikes with no crashes or mechanicals.
Practice on the new Pulse
Both team riders were enjoying the track in practice on their new 2018 Nukeproof Pulse bikes and looking really fast. Val Di Sole has never been kind to Mike Jones even though Mike favours the steeper more technical tracks and he had actually never made it through to a final here in the past with crashes and injuries.
Top 30 qualifying
Elliott had a good run in qualifying to come in 30th – easily making it through to the finals – and Mike managed to have a steady run to come in 23rd also easily into the finals and overcoming his nerves due to his and his history with the track.
Saturday came around and it was just a couple of practice runs before the race. Mike was looking determined and positive after we walked and studied the track again after qualifying looking for smoother better lines to carry more speed. Elliott was also fired up and ready to give it his all and was looking good in the morning practice session.
About two thirds of the way down the track there is a huge high speed step down in the trees which fires you back up a hill and into another steep section. This section is one of the fastest parts of the technical track and the step down is a big pull. Mike’s front wheel caught one of the big roots in this section which spat him off line straight into a tree at full speed with a sickening crash.
Mike was pretty battered and dazed but came off lightly from how bad the crash was, but he badly tweaked his ankle he injured a month or so ago at the National Championships.
Young Elliott Heap was up for this race and he gave it his all. Elliott started off a bit badly as he unclipped as he pedalled out of the gate and his foot unclipped a few more times on his run at the top of the track but as we watched Elliott on the big screen he was flying down the track hitting some big lines and keeping our nerves on edge. Elliott crossed the line with a very respectable time to place him 27th for the day, another good result for the first year Elite rider.
Mike kept his ankle submerged in cold water right up until he needed to go up for his finals run and after having his ankle taped up for support by Martin the Masseur (thanks Martin as always) he decided to go up to give it a shot even though he couldn’t really put any weight on it.
Mike gave it his best shot and gritted his teeth but as he came into the first rough rock garden he realised he couldn’t bend his foot enough to get his left heal down and couldn’t slow down to hit his lines. He pushed on for over half the track but eventually the pain become too much and riding like this became too dangerous. Mike had to give up and rolled down the last part of the track. To say he was disappointed to end the season like this is a big understatement and it was hard to see him this upset. These riders give it everything and sometimes the luck just isn’t on their side and it’s been a tough year for the young Welshman. Keep positive and focussed Mike, it will come together.
A stunning win for Gwin
Aaron Gwin kept his nerve and gave the crowd another jaw dropping perfect run taking the win over Pierron and Loic Bruni to clinch another World Cup title, a huge well done to both him and Greg Minnaar for giving us one of the closest and most exciting battles in the history of the sport.
Thanks to everyone that helped out with the team this week: Brooks for mechanic duties, my family and Elliott’s family for the food and help this week and all our sponsors for the continued support.
Just two races left now this season with the Downhill World Championships in Australia in two weeks’ time where Sam Hill will race probably his last downhill World Champs and then the Enduro World Series finals in Finale, Italy, at the end of September.