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Hi there,
Last weekend was the high point in a season of intensely exciting downhill racing.
Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, the classic of classics in the downhill World Cup calendar (it’s been hosting World Cups since ’91), the eighth and final round of the 2023 series, was a race for the ages.
Massive spectator turnout, a brutal and brilliant track, epic racing and fairy-tale results – MSA had it all.
You’ll find our notes below, with photos by Boris Beyer and Sven Martin.
Hope you enjoy looking through.
James and the Misspent Summers team

LET IT ROLL: Notes from Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, downhill World Cup R8 2023

  • We wrote about the points standings and early week goings-on in our last two newsletters. Check them out here and here for a recap
  • What a bonkers race. Riders flying off-course left, right and centre. Wheels imploding and tyres exploding. Slippery rocks catching out almost everyone. Big results despite massive race run moments. It was wild and electric and brilliant – downhill racing at its best
  • Full results (elite and junior qualifying-semis-finals) here
  • Watch our favourite videos from MSA here
  • Downtime Podcast’s MSA post-race show provides the perfect audio summary of the event with lots of tech insight and analysis from racer and bike maker extraordinaire Neko Mulally and rider coach Olly Morris. People were gluing tyres to rims!


Here’s a quick recap of the race:

  • Junior women: With the series title still hanging in the balance and one of the most competitive crops of juniors ever, all eyes were on Friday’s finals. In contrast to the elite race, juniors got a coating of slippery dust on MSA’s unforgiving rocks. Valentina Roa Sánchez took the win and in doing so claimed the 2023 series overall too – bravo! Sacha Earnest and Lisa Bouladou (who crashed but still managed a flyer of a run) took second and third spots in the race. World Champion Erice van Leuven went down in clouds of dust after the Stevie Smith drop but luckily wasn’t injured and had enough points to claim third in the series overall, with Bouladou finishing second
  • Junior men: Wheel explosions, crashes, punctures and hairy moments galore but, above all, incredible, committed riding from everyone. Series winner Ryan Pinkerton was out of the running after a practice crash (he’d already won the series last week in Snowshoe), as was Bodhi Kuhn, who had been second in the rankings before MSA. Nathan Pontvianne put in a relentless run to take the race win by over 3.5s and move into second in the series overall (Kuhn still got third despite missing the race). Pontvianne’s Goodman Cycles-Santa Cruz teammate Mylann Falquet took second in the race, with Kimi Viardot making it a French 1-2-3 in MSA
  • If you’re wondering why Pontvianne and Falquet are listed as riding for Pinkbike Racing in the results sheets, it’s because PBR helped register them for the season and gave them pit space for the races – a class move, bravo PBR
  • In Aaron Gwin’s commentary on both junior categories, he proved his modesty, interest and encouragement for the next generation. As he noted, sometimes the speed comes before the strength. When this generation gets stronger, they’re going to be dangerously fast
  • Watch an action-packed junior finals replay here
  • Elite racing on Saturday was doused with light rain throughout the morning, leaving the course slick and unpredictable in places, not least in the unforgiving lower rock gardens where thousands of spectators had gathered
  • Elite women: Vali Höll had wrapped up the series title at R7 in Snowshoe and, with nothing to lose, she was out to make a statement in MSA. Höll smashed it out the park, going all-out from start to finish and mastering the slimy rock garden to put in a time none of her competitors could come anywhere near. Höll won the race by over 13 seconds and saw the season out in style
  • Not as much style as Nina Hoffmann though, who battled her way through an on-the-edge run full of near-disaster, culminating in a front tyre blowout on the final jump to somehow cross the finish line alive and take second in the race and the series overall (listen to her interview with Sven here)
  • Veronika Widmann was just behind Hoffmann in third to equal her career-best result. Marine Cabirou crashed out in MSA but finished third in the series overall
  • Elite men: Rider after rider threw themselves at the course, some coming away unscathed and with decent times, others crashing hard. The course was treacherous – a dangerous middle ground between dry and wet conditions where it’s fast as ever but blink and you’re going down. Jackson Goldstone was oblivious and rode it with absolute certainty, hopping from one section to the next and making downhill racing look like a whole lot of fun. The enormous crowd went wild as Goldstone crossed the line to become the only two-time men’s winner in 2023, taking the victory in front of an adoring home crowd
  • In some respects, the drama had already cooled before Goldstone’s run – Loic Bruni had been leading the World Cup rankings on arrival in MSA but only by a small margin. He needed to put in a heroic run to ensure the series, but with the whole world looking on and a young whipper snapper (Goldstone) clearly riding on another level, the pressure was enormous. Bruni loves stress – or at least he’s very good at channelling it. Going hard from the start, he put in a fast, if not perfect, run, rising to the occasion like nobody else can and confirming his third World Cup overall title

more below…

  • Ethan Craik pinballed down the course, chasing lost seconds from an early-run sideways moment and clawing back enough time to take an incredible second place in the race, a well-deserved step up into the podium riders’ club for the talented second-year elite
  • Craik’s result was also a nice parting gift for his sponsor GT-Continental Factory Racing – by all accounts the team is disbanding after this season. Or at least GT will no longer be the title sponsor
  • Bernard Kerr took fourth place on the day and, as he told Wyn Masters, he was the only elite male rider in the top-20 at every 2023 race. We haven’t fact-checked the stat – anyone care to check?
  • Gaëtan Vigé harked back to his junior days (when he regularly battled with Finn Iles for race wins) and took fifth place in only his second World Cup of 2023
  • In the enduro race, Hattie Harnden took top honours this week with fifth place on the podium. Gloria Scarsi and Richie Rude rounded out the top-three in 16th and 17th
  • Why was someone rattle-can painting a legend’s bike in the back of a van early week?
  • A surprise for fourth- and fifth-place series podium finishers was that, er, they weren’t on the podium. New for 2023, as discovered in MSA, is a three-person series podium. Individual races had five all season – how many podium spots will there be in 2024?
  • Five person podiums are seen as part of the fabric of mountain bike World Cup racing, but they haven’t been around forever. As Martin Whiteley mentioned in this article in Hurly Burly 1, two extra spots were added to the podium for the 1994 Cairns World Cup: ‘…prior to Cairns 1994, the World Cup podium was only three riders, but after a young 17-year-old kid called Cadel Evans from Australia had sat in third place for most of the men’s Elite XC only to fall to fifth in the last half lap, I made a special request. I asked the UCI and title sponsor Grundig if they could make an exception to allow five riders on the podium so the Aussie fans could salute this incredible young rider. After the presentation ceremony was done, all agreed that it looked pretty awesome, and since then MTB racing recognises the five best on the day. Great for riders, teams and sponsors.’
  • A bumper WynTV had from-the-heart interviews and insight from most of the top racers (watch it here), including Greg Minnaar’s retirement-from-retirement speech. Minnaar had been hinting at hanging up his wheels after this season, but he’s committed to a 2024 season now

more below…

  • Talking of wheels, how many exploded during the week? Definitely dozens, maybe hundreds (alright, that’s an exaggeration)
  • Why so many failures? Engineer, bike designer, team supporter and all-round bike geek Dan Roberts says that riders might be running much lower spoke tensions than wheel manufacturers recommend as they follow the theory that less rigid = more grip. That might be true, but only if the wheel’s in one piece
  • No matter what equipment and setup riders were using, it’d be hard to make a bike and components tough enough to survive slamming full speed into knee-high rocks
  • Having said all that, Richie Rude’s mechanic Shaun Hughes notes to Josh Carlson here that MSA is gentle on bikes compared to an enduro race (well, that’s kind of what he said)
  • Roberts also mentioned to us that course speeds in MSA barely change between a dry and wet race, so suspension settings don’t necessarily change much either. Some were prioritising setup for the main rock section at the expense of the rest of the track – it’s a tricky balancing act as the rocks are perhaps the trickiest section with the biggest risk in the rain, but they’re only a short section of a very long track
  • Kade Edwards, the ultimate shape-maker, says he’s quitting full-time racing after missing MSA’s race (despite being there)
  • It was a good weekend for two-wheeled sports. The Motocross des Nations in France had a huge crowd and home-nation win reminiscent of Les Gets World Cup. Highlights here – it’s a good year to be a small fluorescent pole manufacturer
  • There was also the gravel World Champs in Italy. Every gravel World Champs venue up to 2028 is already listed here
  • As we go into sponsor silly season, with various teams and riders changing brands and the bike industry in crisis, it sounds like professional downhill racing could go through a major facelift for 2024
  • While there are many rumours and truths of brands downsizing or dropping out of racing entirely, it’s clear that downhill is in a golden age, with huge spectator attendance, dramatic racing and exciting technological innovation. We hope riders get the deals they deserve
  • Will a lucky lad and a fresh champ be moving to a new-but-old factory team?
  • Vital just put out their latest podcast speaking to a bunch of industry folk to evaluate the 2023 racing season with the new organisers, schedules and broadcast. Some great insight to get your ears around here
  • Will MSA be on the calendar for 2024? The series organisers say they’ll be releasing a confirmed list of dates and venues before the end of October – we can’t wait to see what’s in store
  • Talking of old tech, did a top rider revert to a previous model of bike for MSA to prove (unsuccessfully) it was faster than the new one?
  • A couple of weeks ago we ran a newsletter competition to win a one-off Spent wall print. Thank you to everyone who replied, especially anyone who sent us some useful feedback or a joke!
  • The competition winner is… Stephanie S, who told us about her recent inspiration from badass female freeriders, the ensuing backflip attempts and resulting pains. Fair play and congratulations, Stephanie
  • Thank you for tuning in this year – we’ve thoroughly enjoyed putting together these newsletters. (We’ll be back with more through the off-season)
  • And a big thanks to BorisSven and Seb and everyone else who contributes to these newsletters – they are out there grafting week in, week out, capturing mountain bike history in the images and reports that we’ll all look back on in years to come. We’re all lucky they’re out there doing their thing, living out of bags, working out of bushes, documenting the action that makes this such a brilliant sport
  • If you like what we do, please tell your friends, rate ustip us, or buy something from our store. Cheers!
Notes newsletters are compiled with the help of many contributors. Thank you to everyone who chips in – we love doing this stuff and you make it possible.
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