Highway to Hell: The cathedral backdrop might be stunning, but the ‘downhill’ section of this course wasn’t the answer to our prayers.
Story by Brice Minnigh
Captions by The Commissariat
Photos by Marius Maasewerd
News flash to the Union Cycliste Internationale, our sport’s so-called ‘governing body’: Mountain biking takes place in the dirt. Preferably in mountains—or at least through some hills or rolling terrain. But, without question, we ride in the dirt.
We only ride mountain bikes on pavement when we are trying to get to and from the trailhead—or perhaps occasionally when we must resort to a paved road in order to link up various segments of singletrack. But we do not put fat tires with knobby treads on our bikes because we are going out to shred a bunch of asphalt.
For this reason alone, we at Bike magazine have been horrified to see that the courses for the new World Cup XC Eliminator—the UCI’s new short-course cross-country format—have been so, ummm, ridiculous. Not only have two of the series’ three races taken place almost exclusively on pavement, they have been fundamentally unchallenging from a technical point of view. When watching the last two XC Eliminators, our mouths have simply been agape.
Some of the most astonishing examples of the lameness are:
Laughable little concrete stair obstacles? C’mon, our sweet grandmothers would roll their cruisers down those without a second thought. Napoleon Dynamite could send it straight off them, land to flat and then legitimately say he got, like, three feet of air.
Four-inch log drops? WTF? Mark Weir’s kid is already hucking off bigger stuff than that—and he’s only a couple of years old. Honestly, those tiny log-overs would only make for cool features if they were on a climb—a climb in the dirt.
Wood chips? We would only find ourselves in a pile of wood chips if we were poaching the local kids’ park after a late-night bender….
I mean, we all love quaint European villages, and would love to ride our street bikes through them—with a tall can in one hand and our ladies by our sides, on our way to the local pub. Then again, this has absolutely nothing to do with mountain biking.
But don’t take our word for it. Take the word of Brian Lopes, who has won more World Cup mountain bike events than any male mountain biker in history—and who, by the way, podiumed in two of the XC Eliminator series’ three races.
“I prefer to race in the dirt. Isn’t that mountain biking?” Lopes told Bike shortly after taking third place in today’s XC Eliminator, the last one of the season. “The course in the Czech Republic I thought was horrible. There was one corner that you actually had to set up for and have a little skill to go around. Other than that, there wasn’t a corner on the course that you couldn’t pedal around. And the one bit of dirt lasted about five seconds and was far from technical.
“I think the UCI still has work to do if they want this discipline to take off and be taken seriously—starting with having some sort of fair, proper start gate.”
Like Lopes, we at Bike had high hopes for the World Cup XC Eliminator series. We had hoped it would help put mountain biking back in the limelight with a spectator-friendly short-course race. But instead it has misrepresented our sport as some sort of road-based sideshow.
This is not exactly our idea of a rock garden. It belongs more in a Japanese Zen garden than on a mountain-bike racecourse.
After the finals, they might as well have had the kids’ Strider race on this section.
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck were Brian Lopes?
Cornering 101 for roadies.
Bridge to more pavement—unfortunately, it does not lead to any sweet singletrack in the forest beyond….
Easy boys—don’t want to get those shiny bikes dirty!
Seriously, this was the only patch of dirt on today’s course—there goes the damage deposit!
Brian should be ‘Flyin’—not simply riding down a little flight of stairs.
The XC Eliminator could have so much potential—if beyond the start gate was a rippin’ section of technical singletrack….