Windham, USA, hosted the fifth round of the Rocky Roads UCI Mountain Bike World Cup over the weekend, where Team CRC/Nukeproof rider Matt Simmonds took 14th place, Lewis Buchanan finished 21st, Joe Smith 32nd and Al Bond 75th.
Team Manager Nigel Page reports from the weekend of high-octane racing (click here to see our picture gallery from the whole weekend):
“The track at Windham was super fast and technical with some huge new jumps this year in excess of 45ft which made for a spectacular show for the fans. The temperature as well as the racing was scorching hot all week!
Dry, dusty practice
Riding behind other riders during practice was almost impossible because the riders couldn't see the terrain in front of them through dust being kicked up by the rider in front. According to the course technical delegate, Chris Ball, the track was about a foot and a half lower in places because the riders were riding so fast on the dust and rocks. The ground was just getting blown away with huge new rocks appearing all the time, taking riders out with crashes and injuries as well as claiming a lot of wheels and chain devices.
Qualifying on Friday was super tight with only the top 80 men making it through to Sunday’s Finals and less than 15 seconds separating the fastest rider with 80th place. Matti Lehikoinen was out injured from his previous week’s crash in Mont Sainte Anne so we were down to only four riders. All our four team riders made it through pretty easily, posting good times in their qualifying runs. Matt and Joe were ranked top 20 from the standings so far this year so were protected riders anyway for the finals on Sunday. (If you are ranked in the top 20 you make it through to the finals whatever happens in your qualifying, which is a good thing if you have a crash or mechanical in qualifying).
Another practice session was held on Saturday morning for finals riders to fine tune their lines and look for more speed from their qualifying runs. In the afternoon we headed back up the track to watch the World Cup cross-country and cheer on the riders. How fast they go around a lap is unbelievable and amazing to watch some of the sprint finishes.
Sunday came around and the downhill finals started at 2.00pm with the women. Rachel Atherton took a win in a very close race over Tracey Hannah in second and Emmeline Ragot in third. All three of these girls hit all the huge jumps which was pretty amazing to see.
Next up was the men’s final and our team’s first rider up was Al Bond. Al came up on split one with a good time – the third fastest so far – which ended up being the 26th fastest of the race. Unfortunately Al was pushing harder on the lower part of the track (as he said he had ridden way slower than he had been in practice on the top section) and as he came into a high speed corner in the woods before a big double jump, Phat Lip, his front wheel dug in a new hole covered in about a foot of dust which bottomed out his front suspension and spat him over the handlebars sliding across the rocky terrain on his chest and stomach. Al was really winded and had to lie on the side of the track to get his breath back for about 30 seconds. He then got up and carried on to the bottom at race pace again hitting all the huge jumps up. When I got over to Al at the finish line he looked like he was in a lot of pain (and he is a tough lad).
We went off to the paramedics for a check-up which resulted in a trip to Albany hospital for a CAT scan on his internals and five staples to close the hole up in Al’s stomach!
Joe ended his race in a very respectable 32nd position posting a time of 2.34.8, only 8.4 seconds down on the winning time. Joe was really disappointed with his result as he was riding super fast and we all know he is capable of much more as he proved only two rounds ago at Fort William with his seventh place. Joe said his run was too loose, making mistakes and having to dab his foot to stop from crashing out. I think it is a case of backing off just that little bit to go faster for Joe as in practice when he is riding at 95% he looks like one of the fastest riders.
Young Lewis Buchanan put in a great run to place in his best position so far this season in 21st. Lewis posted an amazing time of 2.32.8, only 2.4 seconds off the top 10. Lewis was riding great all week and used his head and thought about his race. Well done Lew – that was a great result and well on track to where we all know you can be. Bring on the next round in France.
Matt Simmonds, who was looking ridiculously fast in Sunday morning practice, put down another fantastic time and result. Matt is improving and looking faster at every race this season. Matt came across the line with a time of 2.31.1 placing him 14th and less than 1.5 seconds from the podium! Amazing stuff Matt once again. Well done and we all know you can keep progressing to that World Cup podium result you’re capable of and deserve.
So on the whole apart from poor Al and Matti getting hurt the team had some great results from our trip across the Atlantic. The fans in both Canada and the USA were great and loved our Nukeproof Scalp bikes and team.
Thanks to Brooks and Carl who worked really hard keeping the bikes running sweet; Stikman at Troy Lee Designs for the new helmets; Mavic for sending us over new rims and all our sponsors for their continued support. Also a huge thank you to Jeremiah Dylan Dean for all his help with transporting our bikes and tent.
A big shout out to Damien Spagnolo who looked like he was about to take his first ever WC win with an amazing top split and looking faster as he got further down the track only to be denied by a rear puncture.
We travel back to the UK now for a National round and the National Championships at Moelfre, Wales, before the next round of the World Cup at a new venue at the famous ski resort of Val-d'Isère in France. We can't wait.