In addition to being the 30th anniversary of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, 2022 is also the first year since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that the competition has returned to its normal schedule. Last year's World Cup, with its rare scale of events in the past decade, provided a challenging stage for top athletes to challenge themselves, including eight downhill races in DH, nine Olympic cross-country races in XCO, and nine cross-country short races in XCC. I wonder if you, as a mountain bike enthusiast, have been paying attention to every race? In this 26-race season, do you remember any classic moments?
In 2022, due to the impact of the pandemic on global production and transportation, the riders had to face the first race in Lourdes, packed with crazy French fans, with a shortage of spare parts and pre-season warm-up races. The local French rider, Amaury Pierron, turned pressure into an advantage and won the first race.
In the women's group, for the first time in ten years, the top three finishers had a gap of less than one second, and Swiss rider Camille Balanche took the championship. In terms of the race schedule, the second station in Scotland, Fort William, had the longest track and the road conditions were even more challenging last year, leading to many top riders failing to advance to the finals and being eliminated.
In the men's group, Amaury Pierron won the second race with the momentum of his first victory. Nina Hoffmann became the first German rider to win a stage at this event in the women's group.
The third stop of the season, Leogang, Austria, has always been criticized by riders for being too artificial.
The newly opened forest section and unpredictable weather made it a tough challenge for everyone. In recent years, French riders have dominated the field, but in this race, only two riders made it into the top ten. Instead, it was the British riders who prevailed in the difficult weather conditions, with Matt Walker taking the first place. Camille Balanche also claimed her third consecutive victory in Leogang, joining Aaron Gwin as the record holder.
The fourth stop of the season, Lenzerheide, Switzerland, is located in the heart of the majestic Alps.
The race saw the return of British rider Rachel Atherton, who, despite getting married and having a child, proved that she still has what it takes and finished sixth. Myriam Nicole, a French rider, claimed victory in the women's race, intensifying the battle for the overall points standings between her and the host country's Camille Balanche. Amaury Pierron secured his third victory of the season, further extending his lead over the second-placed rider in the overall points standings.
Located on the border between Spain and France, the dry and loose soil of the fifth stop in Andorra Vallnord forces riders to strike a delicate balance between pushing to the limit and playing it safe.
After hovering on the edge of the podium in the previous races, French rider Loris Vergier finally claimed victory. Valentina Holl from Austria also turned her fortunes around, taking the top spot in the women's category.
Notably, Canadian rider Jackoson Goldstone and British rider Jordan Williams, who took first and second place in the youth category (17-18 years old), actually posted times that were faster than the elite riders, attracting attention as they move up to the elite category in 2023.
The sixth stop saw a significant decrease in the number of participants in all categories for the Snowshoe race on the East Coast of the United States due to the impact of the pandemic on intercontinental transportation. However, the muddy and slippery track during the competition did not affect the current points leaders, Camille and Amaury, who respectively took first place in the men's and women's categories with an absolute points advantage, making it possible for them to clinch the title early in the next race.
No one can underestimate the "adult" track at the seventh station in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada. The current points leaders, Camille and Amaury, both fell off their horses during the race, with Camille even breaking her collarbone and withdrawing from the competition. However, Amaury still managed to win this station and clinch the overall points championship for the year. Finn Iles, who has shown increasingly mature performances in recent years, finally achieved his first personal victory here. This station victory on his home turf marked the second time a Canadian athlete has accomplished this feat since Steve Smith thirteen years ago.
This historically significant win has inspired other Canadian athletes and even the entire world of downhill skiing, symbolizing the inheritance of the torch for the downhill skiing sport. In the women's group, Myriam also fell and retired from the race due to injury, losing the opportunity to accumulate points for Camille. Instead, Valentina, who won the competition, rekindled her hope of competing for second place in the overall points standings.
The final stop, Val di Sole, Italy, was waiting to attack the riders at any time. After crashing and retiring in the previous race, Loris regrouped and won the final race by over three seconds. This victory also allowed him to surpass Finn, who was unable to compete due to a concussion, and take second place in the overall standings. Although Myriam performed well throughout the year and won this race, she failed to seize the opportunity in the previous race and ultimately became the runner-up in the overall standings, trailing by a small margin of 60 points.
French rider Loïc Bruni, who suffered from injuries in 2022 and had an average performance in the World Cup, always manages to win in a decisive World Championship race. Last year, he took his fifth "World Champion" title in front of his home crowd in Les Gets, causing a frenzy among the fans. He was only three titles behind legendary Frenchman Nicolas Vouilloz (elite category), whose brilliant record could possibly be broken.
Valentina, who moved up to the elite category in less than two years and excelled in home soil, managed to take down French rider Myriam, a powerhouse in downhill racing, and Germany's Nina, who closely followed her in the World Cup, to claim the hot seat and ultimately win the championship at the World Championships downhill race.
The 2022 season struggled to get back on track amidst the impact of the pandemic, but it was precisely because of these uncontrollable variables that the entire season became full of ups and downs, testing not only the skills of the riders, but also their inner resilience. The 2023 new season will definitely be closer to normal than 2022, but with it comes the challenges of a new era.