Words by Mike Rose
Photos by Ale Di Lullo

As the old saying goes, it never rains but it pours, and that pretty much sums up the second round of the UCI Downhill World Cup from Les Gets in France. When the heavens opened mid way through Saturday afternoon’s race what had been dry and grippy turned into wet and greasy. Full-on and flat-out turned into tiptoeing and treacherous.

After a brilliant qualifying round on Friday, first year elite rider Seth Sherlock found himself in 34th position, but before racing had even started disaster struck. During the morning practice session Seth crashed and badly injured his hand… he was out. A trip to the local hospital showed that there was no break, so hopefully he’ll be back between the tapes very soon. With team mate Neko Mulally failing to qualify (73rd) all focus was now on Aaron Gwin (30th). But as his start time grew nearer the rain began to fall… steady, solid rain.

This all-new track had won many fans, some claiming it to be the best World Cup track they had ever seen. Relentless, with multiple line choices, wooded sections, jumps, massive gaps, ruts, grassy pistes… it had a bit of everything, a real meeting of old school and new school. For the previous two days the track had stayed dry and bedded in nicely, but what was tough in the dry was nuts in the wet! Large sections of the course had become packed down hard by hundreds of wheels from the first two days of riding, but with the rain this ‘hardpack’ turned into a slippery, greasy, shiny trip into the unknown.

You could see that the conditions made some of the riders cautious, nervous and uncomfortable. How hard to push, what tires to use, whether to adjust set-up… so many variables come into play when the weather changes like that. For Aaron it was a steady run, one that would leave him in 36th position just over 12 seconds back (3:46.181) from the eventual winner Thibaut Daprela. And we must mention Thibaut here. On home soil this was a special win from the Frenchman. Just over a week ago he was airlifted off the mountain after a big crash at the French Cup. Black and blue, he had also almost bitten his tongue off and had only really been able to eat through a straw for the last week! Amazing.

There is now a six week gap until the next World Cup, round 3 in Slovenia (August 14-15).