The highs and lows at Sunday's dramatic race in Lourdes
A technical, crumbly track. A massive French crowd frothing at the mouth. The culmination of months of offseason preparation.
No one could ask for more from the debut race of the 2022 World Cup season. And while the Trek Factory Racing DH boys experienced highs and lows, each rider can take positives away from the experience.
The highlights: Reece Wilson laid down a strong run to take seventh, and Kade Edwards took 13th in one of his best ever elite World Cup performances.
Wilson is a World Championship and World Cup race winner, so it’s no surprise to see his name near the top of the standings. Edwards, however, is a younger rider who has been gradually learning how to channel his unrivaled bike handling and physicality into speed. Sunday showed that he is on track to keep rising in the sport.
Edwards started the day 31st in qualifying, but on his final run, he went for broke in the lower portions of the track, going full-send off the final jumps, including an absolutely harrowing leap that allowed him to essentially cut out one last turn. That bravery was rewarded with a long sit in the hot seat. Edwards’ time was easily the fastest of the day at that point, and it remained the fastest time through the next 17 riders to take the track.
Dakotah Norton, who was 13th in qualifying and finished 11th overall, finally unseated Edwards by going just over a second faster. But Edwards’ long day as the race leader should give the 22-year-old a massive confidence boost. He finished higher in an elite World Cup just once when he took ninth in Les Gets last year, but that result was aided by sloppy conditions for the fastest riders in qualifying. Nobody can take anything away from Sunday’s result.
Edwards’ teammate Loris Vergier finished 12th, one spot ahead, but he’ll rue what could have been. Last season’s No. 3 overall World Cup rider was on a potential winning pace through the first two splits. But heading into the third, Vergier couldn’t find traction with his rear wheel going around a dusty berm and slid out.
Vergier got back on his bike quickly, and still managed to finish just outside of the top 10. That fact alone confirms that he’ll once again be a force to reckon with all season. He’d no doubt like another crack at Lourdes, but the good news for Vergier is that he’ll have seven more chances to take another World Cup in 2022.
Charlie Harrison had a disappointing day, crashing just before the second split. The good news: All’s well for a rider who has struggled with injuries in the past. Harrison had a clean qualifying run as well. And now with six weeks until the next World Cup race in Fort William, he’ll have plenty of time prepare and potentially get back to his place in the top 15 or better.
Lourdes gave all of the TFR riders a lot to chew on as they look forward to another race on a legendary track. If the first race is any indication, this season is going to be wicked fun.