Since the inaugural "Mountain Bike World Championships" in 1990, it has been the coveted event for every mountain bike athlete. Regardless of the specific cycling discipline, the exclusive "Rainbow Jersey" for the champion is a dream and a symbol of honor for the riders. In the early stages, the Mountain Bike World Championships only featured two disciplines: Cross-Country (XC) and Downhill (DH). As the industry and sports diversified, various new disciplines were added over time, including "Dual Slalom (DS)," "Four Cross (4X)," "Cross-Country Relay (XCR)," and "Cross-Country Eliminator (XCE)." However, some of these disciplines gradually faded out of the main stage, either ceasing to be part of the main event or becoming separate competitions, no longer included in the "Mountain Bike World Championships." "Bike Trials" was also one of the disciplines initially, but now it, along with BMX Freestyle, constitutes the "Urban Cycling World Championships."
In 2023, the Mountain Bike World Championships will be hosted by Glasgow, the third-largest city in the UK and the largest in Scotland. Surprisingly, this edition of the World Championships is not limited to mountain biking alone; it includes nearly all cycling disciplines, such as road cycling, bike trials, track cycling, para-cycling, and BMX, totaling thirteen different disciplines. This historic and first-ever mega-scale "Cycling World Championships" will award over 200 Rainbow Jerseys across the various disciplines and categories. The champions donning the Rainbow Jersey in the World Championships will have the privilege of wearing the official UCI Rainbow Jersey in their respective discipline throughout the year. However, if a champion competes in multiple disciplines and wears the Rainbow Jersey in non-corresponding events, the UCI will impose fines. After the championship year, although the Rainbow Jersey might change hands, the previous champions can still retain the prestigious "Five-Color Rainbow" title. According to the UCI regulations concerning cycling jerseys, they can display the rainbow stripes on the collar and cuffs of their jersey by paying the relevant fee, commemorating their time as a "World Champion" in the sport. ("World Champion" is an exclusive title for UCI World Championship winners, different from the overall UCI World Cup points champions.)
In the eyes of cycling enthusiasts, their impression of riders often involves them wearing jerseys covered with sponsor logos and competing in multiple "UCI World Cup" stages throughout the year, striving for the overall season points championship. However, the "UCI World Championships" is an entirely different affair. It only takes place once a year, and during this time, riders return to their respective national teams instead of representing commercial teams. Nevertheless, spectators may still see riders donning their professional team jerseys during practice sessions at the World Championships, but for official competitions like qualification and finals, they must wear their national team jerseys.
Although the competition is organized by "nations," the logistical support is often carried out in the form of "professional teams." Thus, team support tents from professional teams can still be seen during the World Championships, and riders may be seen resting in their national team jerseys inside those tents.
The unique nature of the "one battle for success or failure" at the World Championships results in different preparation for teams and riders compared to the World Cup, where they typically plan and strategize for several months in advance for each stage. The accumulation of experience throughout the World Cup season plays a crucial role in securing victories at the various stages. However, with the World Championships occurring only once a year, riders carry the weight of national pride and honor rather than individual or team points. This seemingly straightforward psychological pressure is, in reality, much heavier.
Equipment selection also becomes more specific, and riders may use "purpose-specific" setups that they typically wouldn't consider during the World Cup. The aim is to apply any advantage that could make a difference in the single event, even if it involves taking a slight risk. For example, in the 2009 Downhill World Championships in Canberra, Australia, French rider Fabien Barel changed his equipment setup to suit the relatively flat slope of the track, even using a "single crown" fork, which is uncommon in downhill races.
In conclusion, the World Championships are a unique competition where riders must seize the hard-earned qualification for their national teams, with the uncertainty of whether they'll be selected next year. With an all-out mentality, they take risks to compete for the title of "World Champion."
Although this year's UCI World Championships is hosted in Glasgow, the downhill race track is located 150 kilometers away in Fort William. This marks the second time for Fort William to host the downhill World Championships since 2007. The track, which appears every year in the World Cup stages, is one of the most familiar tracks for riders. Despite being situated near Loch Ness in the remote northwest corner of Scotland, the passionate fans gather here every year. They endure long journeys to this somewhat desolate place, endure the unpredictable weather of the North Sea region, and cope with swarms of midges, but their enthusiasm leaves a lasting impression on the riders.
The Fort William track is approximately three kilometers long, with an elevation drop of about 550 meters. Although it may not have the jaw-dropping slopes of European tracks, its length and weather conditions make it challenging for the riders. The historic track begins with a typical Scottish Highland terrain, where riders must speed through winding routes amidst endless glacial hills. The most significant risk in this section comes from the North Sea winds and the unpredictable weather. Despite the relatively mild slope, the resistance from the northern winds and the numerous large and small rocks on the track make it difficult for riders to fully unleash their speed. Moreover, it's possible to encounter heavy rain in the grassy sections while experiencing good weather in the finish area, which adds to the challenge of tire and suspension setup.
The two woodland sections in the middle, although not as rugged as European tracks, still present a significant challenge for riders in terms of choosing the best line to navigate through this long stretch at high speed, demanding immense physical endurance. The final segment of the track, known as the "highway," has a flatter surface and is designed with a series of dirt mounds. At this point, riders must maintain enough energy to seize any opportunities to accelerate between the mounds and time their jumps well for a final push.
This track has been part of the World Cup for twenty years, making it a regular stage that riders participate in annually. Some experienced riders may have competed here a dozen times and may be familiar with every detail of the track, knowing which stones to avoid and which tree roots to jump. As such, any minor detail on this track may have a significant impact on the final results. While experienced riders may know the track inside out, their physical condition and reaction time may not be as sharp as those of newcomers. Moreover, they may lack the "fresh" perspective to discover hidden lines. On the other hand, newcomers might have physical advantages and the enthusiasm of youth, but facing such an old track, "experience" might be the weapon they lack. Among the current riders, Greg Minnaar represents the seasoned generation, having secured seven stage victories in Fort William. Despite being the oldest rider on the circuit, he remains a formidable contender for the world championship title each year. The mid-generation riders make up the largest group in the professional circuit, with French riders like Amaury Pierron, Loic Bruni, and Loris Vergier being the leading figures and the most likely candidates for the championship title. However, this year's performances from the new generation of riders have been truly remarkable, particularly from Jackson Goldstone and Jordan Williams, who have just entered the elite category this year and have already secured World Cup stage victories, posing a real threat to the veterans.
Among the TRP riders, many have been selected to represent their national teams and will be competing in the downhill World Championships this week.
Thibault Daprela, who rides for the Commencal factory team representing France, has shown consistent performance this season. He has achieved top-ten finishes in the first three World Cup stages, even securing a third-place finish in the third stage. It seems that he has gradually improved the stability he lacked when transitioning from the junior category to the elite category. Daprela often surprises everyone with his unique lines and aggressive riding style, and now he seems to have found a balance. As a long-time member of the French national team who excels at the World Championships, his performance is highly anticipated.
Myriam Nicole and Hugo Marini, also from the Commencal team, have been selected for the French national team. However, Nicole is still suffering from the aftereffects of a concussion from a previous crash, so she has to give up this year's event. Marini, who has just entered his second year with the professional team, will compete in the junior category. Although his current abilities require further observation, being selected for the French national team indicates that he has the strength to compete. On the other hand, Amaury Pierron, the senior rider of the Commencal team, is unable to make it to the French national team due to a spine injury and is currently recovering. With his skill level, being selected for the French team is a given, and he is also a potential candidate for the rainbow jersey. These are well-known facts, and Pierron himself knows it too. Consequently, due to the frustration of not being able to showcase his abilities because of the injury, Pierron announced that he will temporarily distance himself from social media this week to avoid any triggers. We hope both Myriam and Pierron will recover smoothly and return to the battlefield soon.
This year, Angel Suarez Alonso, who joined the UNNO team, seems to be going through an adjustment period with his new team. His results in the World Cup this year have not yet reached the level he is capable of. As the Spanish national champion, Alonso is the most qualified candidate in recent years to bring the highest honor to Spain. The question now is whether he will have enough time to adjust his form and be at his best before the World Championships.
Intense factory team rider Dakotah Norton is a key figure in the recent downhill scene in the United States. He has followed in the footsteps of "Captain America" Aaron Gwin and joined Intense, becoming a prominent member of the American-based team. Norton, who is gradually entering the mid-generation mix, has shown steady improvement over the years. However, with Gwin currently unable to compete due to injury, Norton has seemingly taken on the role of the top rider for the Intense team. He will be the most closely watched American rider in the upcoming World Championships. The question now is whether he can handle the pressure and expectations from American fans and deliver an impressive performance.
The aforementioned top riders will all be using TRP's DH-R EVO four-piston hydraulic disc brakes in the battle for victory at the downhill World Championships. We are looking forward to their excellent performances.