Course preview, how to watch and more to help you get read for the season kickoff!
The downhill World Cup season is getting a much earlier start in 2022. Lourdes led the order from 2015-2017 before going on a brief hiatus. In that span, it never appeared earlier than April 10. By beginning on March 27 this year, organizers are risking even colder and wetter conditions than usual.
For riders, that could mean a rough time in the “warm-up” round of the season. For viewers who enjoy chaos, there may be no better way to kick things off.
The Trek Factory Racing downhill boys have gone through the paces at team camp and set ambitious goals for the season. They’re ready for anything that could possibly be thrown at them, which is good: The course in Lourdes is varied and demanding, and that’s before factoring in potential inclement conditions.
Reece Wilson and Loris Vergier have thrived on sloppy tracks before, and they’ll be among the favorites to win. Charlie Harrison and Kade Edwards both have their sights on top 10s. It’s going to be a wild debut weekend.
The forecast calls for precipitation in Lourdes in time for the start of all qualifying on Saturday and the men’s elite finals on Sunday. Rain isn’t expected to make as much of a mess as it has in the past, but riders may still have to contend with evolving conditions. And for the junior and women’s riders who race early in the day, Sunday could also be cold.
The track is a favorite among riders and fans alike. Lourdes is a picturesque town and steeped in history as a religious pilgrimage site. The course isn’t neatly groomed like many on the World Cup circuit. The top half is fast with bumpy rock gardens and steep drops, including the infamous “Wall” about a quarter of the way into the 2-kilometer run. The bottom half features lots of wooded areas — and especially slippery roots — as well as two nearly back-to-back jumps just ahead of the finishing straight.
With five years in between World Cup races, the organizers in Lourdes will have some surprises in store, too, like the VERY jittery “Hollywhoops” section. Good scouting will be critical to getting down the run in one piece, much less taking a podium spot.
How to watch
Red Bull TV is once again broadcasting Mountain Bike World Cup events FOR FREE. Click here, and you can watch the women’s elite downhill final on Sunday beginning at 6:25 a.m. ET (12:25 p.m. local) and the men’s elite downhill final at approximately 7:45 a.m. ET (1:45 p.m. local).