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After what seems like an eternity, the new-look 2023 downhill World Cup season finally starts this weekend in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, and we’re lucky enough to be trackside following all the action.

With a new organiser and broadcaster for 2023, plus the format changes they’re implementing, there’s inevitably far too much to mention in one newsletter.

You’ll find a selection of our notes and images below but stay tuned for more in our online zine after the race.


Misspent Summers

Notes from Lenzerheide, Switzerland, Downhill World Cup R1 2023:

  • This is the gist of the new schedule for elites: day 1 track walk; day 2 practice; day 3 practice and qualifying; day 4 practice, semi-final and final; day 5 hangover
  • Course check: Flat out from start to finish following pretty much the same route as last year. A couple of (fast) gnarly off-cambers. Many (fast) turns. Some (fast) rock gardens. A (fast) steep straight-line through the woods. Plenty of jumps. Pointy rocks protruding from the dirt everywhere
  • Riders are going so fast and the ground is so rough that a lot of bikes sound like a bag of nails
  • Conditions check: There’s been a touch of rain this week but the course should be dry from top to bottom for racing
  • By the way, check out our online zine from Pietra Ligure Enduro World Cup here
  • Food check: Lenzerheide wins the award for the World’s Most Overpriced ‘street food’ burger at 31 Swiss Francs plus 9 extra for a bottle of water. This is after winning the Universe’s Expensivest Falafel in 2019
  • According to ESO, the organiser, there are almost 800 athletes entered across DH and XC races here – so many that the schedule had to be adjusted for Friday to fit everyone in
  • The juniors kicked off the week’s gravity competitions (there’s also cross-country short track and Olympic distance racing happening) on Friday with their finals race (which used to take place on the morning before elite finals)
  • Christian Hauser and Erice van Leuven won the hard-fought junior men’s and women’s races. It is amazing to see the depth of talent in both categories these days (there were 102 junior men and 23 junior women entered) and difficult to see any difference in speed or professionalism between them and the elites
  • Watch the junior men and women finals replays here
  • We’ll be adding all results (junior and elite quali, semi-finals and finals) to this page

continued below…

  • Myriam Nicole will unfortunately miss this round as she continues to recover from an off-season crash and concussion
  • On a positive note, Tahnée Seagrave is back in the mix after missing most of 2022 due to a head injury
  • Healing vibes to Aaron Gwin, Jenna Hastings, Wyn Masters, Luke Meier-Smith, Henry Kerr, Ben Cathro and others who had big crashes in practice and will be out of action for some time with variously ugly injuries
  • Riders seem to be hitting the finish line drop faster than ever, landing deep and in many cases nearly to flat. This is where Masters had a horror crash, blowing up on the landing and rag dolling over the line
  • The new course marking ditches plastic tapes and long ski-piste-style poles in favour of reusable ground level netting, small poles and foam pads (which we think look great). Quite a few of the poles and nets were torn out of the ground and not replaced during practice on Friday and team members, media and riders in the b-zone could easily stumble into the track without noticing – dare we say that the marshals might need a bit more training?
  • Amaury Pierron, Nina Hoffmann and Jess Blewitt all had heavy slams on quali day but will hopefully bounce back for finals (Pierron rolled down his quali run with a stiff neck but still finished in the top-60)
  • Spanners at dawn: Did we hear whispers of tool-throwing beef between two team managers in the pits earlier this week?
  • We aren’t scared to admit it’s scary being trackside. Riders are carrying incredible speed into every section and the danger level makes for awkward viewing at times – you really don’t want to see someone body slamming a tree or cartwheeling down a mountain or going headfirst into a boulder. Time to slow things down a tad?
  • Andreas Kolb and Camille Balanche took top honours in elite qualifying on Friday with confident and composed runs. Bravo!
  • It’ll be interesting to see how riders adapt to the new points-scoring semi-final run on Saturday. Will they hold back and save their best for finals or is there no slowing these people down?
  • Rachel Atherton is back – and she means business. Second place in qualifying is no mean feat and we’re excited to see what she brings to finals day

more below…

  • Saturday is semi-final and finals day
  • The top 60 qualified elite men and top 15 elite women go into the semi-final*
  • Then the top 30 elite men and top 10 elite women go into finals*
  • *Plus any top-ranked riders with protected status who didn’t make it through the qualifying or semi-final rounds
  • You can watch the semi-finals broadcast for free on the MTB World Series YouTube page from 10:30am CEST here
  • To watch finals, we recommend signing up to GCN+ as they are a dedicated cycling channel. Alternatively, tune in to Eurosport or Discovery+
  • Or, if you really don’t want to pay, find a local bike shop, bike business or café that might be up for putting it on a screen for customers like you to watch. (We’re showing it in our Finale Work Space office. Are we meant to have a license now? Hope the bogeyman doesn’t come round)
  • Random quali stats, elite men: 198 entrants from 31 nations; 172 finishers; 5 did not finish; 18 did not start; 3 disqualifications
  • Random quali stats, elite women: 43 entrants from 16 nations; 37 finishers; 3 did not finish; 3 did not start; 0 disqualifications
  • As usual, sharp shooters BorisSven and Seb are out here snapping all the best photos for Hurly Burly. Thanks to them for the hard work and Sven for the photos in this email
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