Most of the world’s best downhill riders got their first look at what the Cairns jungle has in store for them this afternoon. We don’t think riders were expecting something quite so savage – this track had a lot of faces looking pretty concerned, with amazing slick mud, roots and rocks interspersed with sections that require serious guts. We joined the riders for the official track walk, now join us to see what they’re up against.
There’s no chairlift or gondola here at Smithfield, just V8 Troopies doing the uplift duties on the steepest shuttle road you can imagine.
Decision point number one. After 11 bermed corners right out of the start gate, do you go high up the bank, or hug the tree?
Riders swarm all over the rock garden… mossy rocks and chunks of quartz, getting progressively more covered in red clay. It’s a nightmarish piece of work.
Mick and Tracey Hannah have spent more time on this track than any of the other big hitters. “We got five runs in before South Africa,” says Mick, “but we haven’t ridden it since.” Nonetheless, Mick already has the lines down that others are still trying to visualise. “Mick has been jumping off the point of the rock here into the rock garden” says Tracey. “I wanted to try it, but that was before it got wet.”
“Watch out for drop bears” – Troy’s only advise to his Euro rivals.
Gee spent a long, long time staring down this rock garden, assessing line after line.
“You must flow, like water.” Rachel Atherton chucks her water bottle down the rocks to find the best line.
After Gee, Sam was the rider who spent longest looking at the rock garden. It’s an interesting track – will the flatter sections nullify the advantage of pinning the technical sections?
Marcello Gutierrez: “There’s nowhere like this on the World Cup circuit. Maybe Columbia… but nowhere has this humidity.”
Jungle baby. No matter what happens with the weather, it ain’t drying out in there!
Holy. Shit. Get set for explosions…
No explanation needed.
Eric Carter is the new team manager for Specialized, here he offers his two cents to Gwin and Brosnan. We asked him about Gwin’s opinions that the whoops section should be taken out for saftey’s sake. “Man, it just takes one rider to be able to ride them fast, and then there’s no way they’re getting removed. If one rider can do it fast, and then you complain, the UCI are just gonna tell you to ride them slower. That’s racing! I remember back racing at Big Bear again Dave Cullinan – there’d be some huge gap that we’d want taken out and then Dave would just send it. You’d just have to accept then that you were racing for second place! This is just the same.”
Tracey Hannah eyes up the exit of the cork screw. The only fast line involves riding the bank on the right hand side and launching to the down ramp, otherwise you have to pick your way down the chute and take the long way around. She hasn’t hit the line yet, but she’s confident she will.
Pick a huck, any huck.
The final gap to wall ride thingo from a rider’s perspective. Landing is on the left apparently.
The final Ronning’s Ramp triple jump has needed a lot of love in the wet. This is the third time the patient trail crew have rebuilt the bottom of the kicker.
Pedal! The finish only 100 metres away.
Got your transitions lenses handy? Bursting out of the jungle into the finish.