Words: Mike Rose 

Photos: Nathan Hughes 

The Italian resort of Val di Sole is another classic on the downhill World Cup circuit and is widely regarded as the toughest and most technical on the calendar… in the dry. Well, the ‘Valley of the Sun’ didn’t quite do its thing this year. ‘Just add water’ and the steep, wooded, rooty, rocky, and rutted track goes from a life-changing experience to a living hell—one that no rider will forget.

Some changes had been made to the track, with a couple of hundred tons of earth and gravel brought in to try to fill in some of the holes and hollows from previous years, but when nature calls, you are almost fighting a losing battle. As the rain poured down (there was even some snow higher up earlier in the week), the ground became soaked, constantly being fed as the water made its way from the mountaintops to the valleys below. Springs popped up in some pretty odd places mid-track as underground waterways looked for an easy route down. It has, of course, been doing this for millions of years, but when it comes to the Val di Sole World Cup, it’s normally time to get the deck chairs out rather than the umbrellas.

So, the weather certainly played its part, but things started out well with some great qualification results for our two elite women. Lou Ferguson (IFR) placed 12th, and Eleonora Farina (MS) placed 10th. However, it was not to be, as both women failed to make the ten-rider cut into the finals, with Lou finishing 13th (less than half a second off qualifying) and Eleonora finishing 14th. With teammate Tuhoto Ariki choosing to race the Innsbruck leg of the Crankworx tour and David Trummer still injured, it was down to Jacob Dickson to fly the MS flag in the elite men. He did well with 51st in qualifying, but he also couldn’t make it through to the finals, finishing 50th in the semi and missing the 30-rider cut-off.

For our IFR junior riders, it was a mixed bag. Oscar Griffiths crashed in qualifying and didn’t make it through. "Val di Sole was a hard one. I showed some promising speed but didn’t put it together when it counted.” It was a different story for Ryder Lawrence; his 14th place in qualifying meant he was through to the main event. He followed that up with a good run, finishing in tenth place in the final. A great result, “I had a really solid week on the bike with lots of progression. We tweaked my practice plan a little, which really helped me deliver a run I am stoked with.”

Then there was IFR’s Joe Breeden. Coming off the back of a great result in Leogang (where he finished 20th), Joe once again put in a great performance. Thirty-eighth in qualifying, then an amazing ninth in semis, which of course meant he would be coming down with all the ‘big dogs’ in the final hour of racing. On race day at the top, the cloud kept coming up and down the mountain, so visibility was variable, to say the least. In his run, Joe looked smooth and light on his bike, taking some great lines, especially a crazy-looking inside left midway down. Some may say ‘risky’, but they looked calculated to me. He was slightly off the pace at all the splits and came across the finish into a very credible 15th. He would eventually end up in 23rd, scoring more points for the overall. All of the categories are so competitive these days, especially the elite men’s, so to make it through to the final is a victory in itself.

“I’m stoked with my speed and creativity. Sitting fifth at the last split and ending up ninth in the semis was super encouraging. I was frustrated with how the weather influenced the finals, but it sure has me fired up for Les Gets in a couple weeks!” Joe Breeden 

 And that’s right, racers now have a short break until the Les Gets rounds of the World Cup on July 6th.