Gravity Check –
It has been an exciting year for Australia on the international stage. The resurgence in the DH scene has been great to see, not forgetting the exploits of Troy and Connor the last couple of years, while the competition at World Cups is back to the pinnacle it once was. And to see so many Aussie faces on the full-time circuit will no doubt only fuel the next generation coming through.
Downhill is one of those rare sports where 99 per cent of the time a winner-takes-all approach is required to be successful. But you also have to remember that seven weekends a year (eight if you include World Champs) we only see one winner and also 200 odd losers. The build up from the last qualifier to the first is electric, and you only have to listen the reactions of the crowd (or your mates in front of the TV!) to know that you’re seeing something special that can only be done by the best in the business.
The same can be said for the Enduro World Series - while the series itself is pushing through growing pains like a prepubescent teen, it’s not holding the competition back from ever-increasing speeds and amazing amounts of terrain that can be covered in just one day of racing. The research and development of equipment seems to be moving so quickly that we are nearly reaching a point of custom race machines, normally reserved for the wealth of motorsport competition. With DH building up speed over a three-day weekend, it is becoming very rare on the EWS circuit that you will get more than two practice runs of each track, with riders then having to balance the risks over a much longer distance and time, with less knowledge of the terrain.
Heading into the ‘off season’ from the world circuit means it’s the time of year when Australia is starting to kick into gear for its national season - although to call it a season is an overstatement. Sure, the seasons have changed from winter into summer, but these days it’s a mix of more oneoff events that draw in the numbers - and nothing draws in numbers like getting the chance to race against those same guys you get to watch on TV. It must be said, we are very lucky in Australia as most of the top guys don’t stay at home and shy away from racing the local events. Of course, everyone needs a break, but it’s great to see guys like Dean Lucas still turning up to all the Vic DH Rounds, the same events where he learnt the skills that got him to the position he is in now.
One more thing to add while I write this here in Italy on the eve of the final world round... if you thought racing Enduro in Australia is too pedally, or that there is too much uphill, it is nothing compared to Europe. So you best be dusting that road bike off, or the ‘only used once’ XC rig in the back of the shed, and start getting some pre-season miles under you belt. One more thing to add before I go: Death to all Magpies.