UCI Mountain Bike World Series: What to expect from ‘hectic’ new downhill season starting in Lenzerheide on Saturday

The UCI Downhill World Cup returns for 2023 with a new format that brings with it greater demands for all the riders taking part.

The addition of a semi-final race will determine which riders make the final, with the top 30 men and top 10 women all progressing.

That all makes for a more intense weekend of action, and Finn Iles (Specialized Gravity) was on hand to tell Eurosport’s Josh Carlson all about what we can expect with the races live on discovery+, starting in Lenzerheide on June 09.

“I would say downhill racing, there’s a set course, you go from the top to the bottom, you have to beat everybody else. There’s lots of preparation that goes into it but that’s the easiest way to describe it,” Iles said.

“It’s pretty hectic, a lot of crashes. It’s dirty, it’s fast, it’s a lot of fun.

“It’s changed things a little bit, it’s more of a mental prep for me. Being prepared to do two full speed runs in a day has been a big change for me, but I like the changes a lot.

“This is going to allow for a lot of different people to come to the top of the standings, a lot of different riders on the podium.

“The finals is everything. It’s still the most points, but I think being consistent through the whole weekend is a lot more important this year, so you’re getting maximum points in qualifying, semi-finals and then the finals. You have to be switched on the entire time.

Loïc Bruni (Specialized Gravity) is wearing the rainbow jersey heading into the 2023 opener, and he is looking to build on a strong finish last year.

“It feels amazing, it’s the best jersey you can wear. We had a difficult season but finished strong. With the new bike, the jersey, everything feels like it’s running smooth. So far so good,” he said.

On the new format, he added: “We had to change preparation a little bit. I feel like I’ve done way more endurance, we are trying to focus on peaking on the last day for two super intense runs.

“It’s going to be super hard, I don’t know how it’s going to go as you don’t have time to chill, but it’s very interesting and I feel like the best guys will still do well. Everyone will go full on because there are so many points. I have to be smart.

“I don’t have a specific goal. I train to win and want to win, but I want to see how it goes and do my best. I don’t want to blow it with the semi-final format being a danger for me, as I’m not protected.”

Bruni needs to be ‘smart’ ahead of start of UCI Downhill World Cup

Meanwhile in the women’s event, Rachel Atherton (Continental Atherton) is back in the fold after becoming a mother last year.

The Briton opened up about juggling motherhood with cycling, with her target the world championships later this year.

“I did this race last year. My daughter is about 10 months old, and this is the track I prefer to do,” she said.

“I’ve not kept the sleep deprivation a secret, how hard it is as a new mum. I wanted to race again, but didn’t know when I’d feel like training. She has started sleeping better so I’ve been back training, three months tops. I want to do the world championships in Fort William, a home world champs, so I need to do a World Cup or two before that. So here we are, hopefully it will go alright.

“I ride a lot at home. My mum is here too, and I’ve tried to make the switch from being a mum to handing her over to my mum and just focusing on the job. It is a job. I’m at work, and it’s good to think of it like that.

“I miss her but I also want to do this. You need to be able to switch your mindset, and that’s part of being a good racer. Things happen in your career, and you’ve got to be able to switch on.”

‘I miss her but I also want to do this’ – Atherton on her return to racing after becoming a mother

Saturday 10 June

Live on Eurosport and discovery+:

  • Women’s elite downhill Semi-final – 09:30-10:15
  • Men’s elite downhill Semi-final – 10:15-11:35
  • Women’s elite downhill final – 11:45-12:50
  • Men’s elite downhill final – 12:50-15:00
The UCI Mountain Bike World Series is live on and discovery+

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