Words & Photos : IXS Downhill Cup / Rick Schubert

What a start into the European Series 2018! Among 400 riders from 33 nations Laurie Greenland and Myriam Nicole took the first title of this year’s EDC on Maribor’s legendary race track.

After three years, Maribor (Slovenia) finally returned to the international stage this weekend with the first race of the iXS European Downhill Cup 2018. It soon became clear that Maribor did not lose an inch of its popularity during these years, even if the track has changed a lot since the EDC’s last visit. The whole section after the renowned Rock Garden has been reorganized, without harming the track’s special characteristics. Even despite the extremely difficult conditions due to heavy snowfall during March, the organizers managed to present a perfect course this weekend.

© Rick Schubert

Despite the early date for the race this year, the overall conditions could not have been better. After all, warm temperatures and dry conditions are not a given in April. More than 400 riders from 33 different countries – and among them the world’s downhill elite – made their way to Slovenia to fight for the first points of the rankings and to prepare for next week’s World Cup in Losinj (Croatia).

Seeding Run

After Friday’s obligatory track walk and first training runs, the seeding run was on after the training session on Saturday afternoon. For the Elite Men category this was the only chance to qualify for the Super Final and to fight for the podium on Sunday. And, of course, it was also a chance for everyone to collect some first points for the overall rankings.

In the Elite Women category Myriam Nicole (FRA – Commencal Vallnord) set the best time of 4.06,275 minutes, followed by Tracey Hannah (AUS – Polygon UR) and European Champion Monika Hrastnik (SLO – Blackthorn) as her strongest competitors.

Tracey Hannah © Rick Schubert

In the meantime, Amaury Pierron (FRA – Commencal Vallnord) went fastest in the Elite Men category with a time of 3.31,629 minutes, finishing only split seconds faster than Troy Brosnan (AUS – Canyon Factory Team).

Troy Brosnan © Rick Schubert

Final Runs

Sunday welcomed the riders and visitors with perfect weather conditions under a bright and shining sun and after a last four-hour training session the race was finally on!

In the Masters category Fabrizio Dragoni (ITA – Alessi Racing Team) finished fastest in both seeding and race, leaving Dominik Dierich (GER – TREK AmperRad) and Billy Caroli (SUI – Fabien bike tramelan) in second and third place.

U17 & U19 Women

After that all eyes were on the youngest riders of the series in the U17 male category. In the end, Simon Chapelet (FRA – Polygon UR Development) dominated the race setting a time of 3.42,845 minutes, followed by Blake Ross (NZL – Revolution Products NZ) and Chris Cumming (ITA – Wideopenmag), while Siel van der Velden (BEL – VDV) succeeded in the U17 female finishing 20 seconds faster than in her seeding.

In the U19 category Valentina Höll (AUT – Sram Rockshox Factory Racing) succeeded with a result that would have landed her in third place in the Elite Women category and once more boosted her self-confidence for her World Cup debut this season. Lisa Gava (ITA – 3stars) and Ottilia Johansson Jones (SWE – Propain Gravity Juniors) completed the podium in second and third.

Elite Women

After that the Elite Women riders provided the crowd with some high-class racing fighting for the Red Bull Hot Seat. When Nina Hoffmann (GER – Santa Cruz Bicycles) first delivered a time close to Saturday‘s best time which not even Petra Bernhard (AUT – Friesis Bikery) managed to beat, suspense kept growing more and more.

Tracey Hannah had good memories of this track, at the WC 2007 she was third © Rick Schubert

Then Monika Hrastnik took over finishing seven seconds faster than in her seeding, before Tracey Hannah finished even faster with a seemingly solid 8-second lead. Who could have known that Myriam Nicole would manage to cross the finish line even faster?! In the end, Nicole set the best time with 3.55,398 minutes, followed by Hannah and Hrastnik.

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Juniors

In the U19 category George Kerr (GBR – Propain Dirt Sixpack) was one of the first riders down the hill after he did not finish his seeding run. With a time of 3.51,172 minutes he came close to Saturday’s best time and had some time to sit back and relax in the Red Bull Hot Seat, before his competitors took over again. In the end, Kye A´hern (AUS – Canyon Factory Racing) finished fastest with 3.31,371 minutes (faster than Saturday’s Elite Men best time, by the way). Henry Kerr (GBR – Propain Dirt Sixpack) finished in second place, followed by Stefano Introzzi (ITA – Scout / Nukeproof) in third.

Kye A´hern is a very talented young rider with a great future © Rick Schubert

Super Final Elite Men

After that it was finally time for the Elite Men Super Final! The first promising result was delivered by Junior World Champion 2015 and Vice World Champion 2016 Laurie Greenland (GBR – MS Mondraker Team) who finished with a time of 3.27,997 minutes.

Laurie Greenland confirmed his early season form © Rick Schubert

By this time, however, two thirds of the category were still waiting for their turn. But when even elite riders like Mark Wallace (CAN – Canyon Factory Team), Brendan Fairclough (GBR – Scott Velosolutions) and Brook MacDonald (NZL – MS Mondraker) did not reach his result all eyes were on Greenland in the Hot Seat, while three more riders were yet to come. Rain may have played a part in the final results as the last few riders dealt with moisture. First both Dakotah Norton (USA – Unior Devinci Factory Team) and Troy Brosnan failed to beat his result and then the clock revealed a +1.7 when Amaury Pierron crossed the finish line – crowning Laurie Greenland the first champion of the EDC 2018. Amaury Pierron and Brook MacDonald completed the podium, while Brendan Fairclough and Mark Wallace followed in fourth and fifth place.

The Bulldog dropped in with fire in his eyes © Rick Schubert

What remains to say is that Maribor delivered a perfect race weekend: the track even increased in its quality and popularity after the makeover, the atmosphere was incredibly good and the weather was even better than in some summer races last year! The next stop of the series once more takes the riders to Slovenia in June for EDC #2 in Kranjska Gora.

Full results here: https://www.ixsdownhillcup.com/media/40095.pdf

Aussie Wrapup

An unfortunate race for Troy Brosnan after his great seeding result, smashing a derailleur and coming in 11th.

Mick Hannah opting to sit out the race after a leg injury: