GOING BIG IN XCO
When we walked the Smithfield XCO course in 2013, we were stunned at the size of the drops, gaps and rock gardens that were being built into the course, and we wondered what was happening to XCO. Glen Jacobs from World Trail, who designed and built the trails, was adamant that he wanted to see riders running fullsuspension bikes all the time, and dropper posts. And while Cairns was, and still is, the most committing and technically challenging course on the World Cup circuit, other courses are getting harder, with more built features and demanding lines. It’s great on television, but is it time the equipment racers use catches up? We counted eight riders in the top 10 seeded U23 women using dropper posts, and Jolanda Neff won her title with a dropper post on her Kross hardtail. Pauline Ferrand Prevot had one on her Canyon too. But what of protection? World Cup winner Yana Belamoina crashed heavily in practice, as did Emily Batty. They both reportedly had concussions, so should XC helmets be changed? And should the UCI prevent racers starting if they’ve had a head injury in practice? This is a normal procedure in many other sports – so while the progression of the sport is great to see, maybe equipment and safety measures need to catch up as well.