Words: Mike Rose
Photos: Nathan Hughes

“One of the sketchiest, muddiest tracks I have ever ridden in my entire life.” Aaron Gwin

After the high speeds, heat and dust of the previous World Cup from Andorra racers crossed the Atlantic for round 6 in Snowshoe, USA. Snowshoe has always made for great racing, we’ve seen some of the tightest battles and nail biting finishes that the sport has ever produced. Usually when the World Cup visits Snowshoe is bathed in sunshine, with dry racing conditions, but 2022 was to be a little different. It rained… a lot.

Go behind the scenes with IFR rider Dak Norton as he takes on Snowshoe.

What was already a technical challenge became somewhat of a nightmare for the vast majority of riders. It was more of a case of survival, of keeping two wheels on the ground and staying upright, which are not ideal race conditions. Sure it was a real test and a challenge, but when the world’s best are crashing out on the already slick, but now mud covered, West Virginian rocks… it was a test for sure.

Follow Aaron Gwin in his vlog ‘Snowshoe Slip’n Slide’.

Both IFR team riders Aaron Gwin and Dak Norton were protected riders for the race, meaning that they had automatically qualified for the main event, but positions were still important for the overall points race. They qualified in 22nd and 23rd respectively, but it was bad news for teammates Joe Breeden and Seth Sherlock, with neither of them qualifying for the main race.

This was Joe’s first race back from an elbow injury that he sustained in Fort William earlier this year, and Snowshoe was a ‘slap around the face’ as a reintroduction to World Cup racing. Definitely not the best place to help you get back up to speed. Seth has been concentrating on the Enduro World Series this year, which takes a slightly different mindset and approach compared to full-on downhill racing.

After his podium result in Andorra Aaron was on a high, but conditions just didn’t suit him in Snowshoe. In his race run he blew his feet out of his pedals and then hit a tree. He would finish up in a respectable 14th, and who knows what could have been if it wasn’t for those lost seconds?

“An awesome week racing in front of the home crowd. The weather and track changes made for maybe the toughest track I’ve ever raced. I feel like my riding in the mud is improving but a few big mistakes in my race run kept me off the podium. Still a solid weekend and making more progress to where I want to be. Excited for Mont Sainte Anne.” Aaron Gwin

Dak had a tricky weekend. The track, the conditions, the pressure of a home crowd, who knows? Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. In the end he crossed the line muddied and downbeat in 48th position, but we have to give props to Dak and is beautifully cheeky and sneaky (but fully legal) inside line of the second part of the double drop. And importantly both he and Aaron are still protected riders for the next round this weekend (Aug 5th) in Canada.

“When I saw the forecast for the full week of rain at Snowshoe I knew we were in for it. The track conditions were some of the worst I had ever raced, and I never really got in a groove all weekend. The start of the woods seemed good to go until it was too late and I was on the ground. Both from a tire choice and a race preparation I felt like I misread the race, and the results showed that. It’s not very often you have to deal with feeling so slow in a race run, but that was the pace and it was hard for me to understand that. Happy to be healthy and on to MSA.” Dakotah Norton

“It was so good to be back with the team for the first time post injury. I felt we all worked together really well, giving ourselves the best chance of performing in those very challenging and inconsistent track conditions. I am very happy with how I managed my elbow and I felt good in practice, but unfortunately I failed to pull together a run in qualifying.” Joe Breeden

“A challenging race for me. I struggled to find confidence and wrap my head around the muddy conditions and ended up having a crash in qualifying which put me on the sidelines for finals. I definitely need to work on my riding in those kinds of conditions. Off to the next three EWS rounds for me now. Excited to get some redemption this coming weekend in Whistler.” Seth Sherlock

“Definitely not the conditions most were hoping for in Snowshoe. With some momentum at the moment, events like this are a bit of a wildcard. I know it’s the same for everyone, but it’s a bit more difficult for the riders to manage as they push forward in their performance. I honestly feel some great lessons were learned by all riders this weekend, and everyone will finish this season with strong results. The riders are definitely capable of the speeds to finish near the front.” Todd Schumlick (Team Manager)