Double Downhill: My rider pool is killing it.


It was a big day for mountain bike fans around the world, with two Downhill races to follow along with, wrapping the action of Week 1 of the CLIF Crankworx Summer Series.

First up, the Maxxis SilverStar DH saw the Summer Series’ mix of 25 downhillers, enduro riders, all-rounders, and even one of the world’s best slopestyle riders line up at the start gate. The race is the first Downhill race to hit the airwaves since Crankworx Rotorua in March.

“In the morning I woke up and was like ‘Oh, it’s Downhill day, this is sort of your thing. Time to go fast,’” said Finn Iles, who lived up to expectations and clocked the fastest time among the Elite Men, charging through the finish arch in 2:12.262. “It’s been so long. It’s 10 months now since I was racing this bike. Couldn’t ask for better results to start back. The track was really fast. It was really rough, but the bike held and I held and just rode smooth and fast and stayed within all my limits. That was the goal today, to not crash. I have a bit of a streak of crashing in Downhill races. I took it like 85%...and here we are.”

The fastest of the Elite Women rolled into the day with a different set of challenges. Vaea Verbeeck has been riding with an injured forearm since a crash in Dual Slalom practice (an event she ended up winning) on Wednesday.

“First thing this morning it felt horrible,” said Verbeeck, who cited painkillers as a key ingredient in helping her to keep performing at the level required. “The DH bike definitely made the bumps a bit mellower. I’m very pleased with winning tonight for sure. I kind of had no expectations again. As soon as that arm thing happened I was just focused on that and not on results. I’m just happy to be riding and happy to be in it. The win is just a huge cherry on top again.”

Verbeeck’s winning time was 2:35.885.

Just over three seconds behind her was Andréane Lanthier Nadeau (ALN) who clocked a 2:39.175. This was the Enduro racer’s first podium of the week.

“This is definitely a return to racing for me during Crankworx,” said ALN. “I’m slowly ramping up. It was also a new bike for me, and I’ve barely raced DH ever, so it’s cool. I think sometimes we do have some stages in Enduro that approach a Downhill race, but I think that was a cool course and I had fun.”

Of the track, SilverStar Bike Park’s “Dag’s Downhill,” ALN had this to say:

“The course was super chunky at the top. Quite big rock gardens and some steep lines with drops. So I was thinking about maybe racing my trail bike, but I definitely am happy I stuck with the DH bike because it was much more aggressive and able to hit the lines better. And then, you’d be in the open with big swooping turns and then into the woods, tight turns as well, and some roots and inside lines that you can hit. It was really a fun course. Definitely short. You don’t have time to think.”

The final podium spot went to the racer who’s carved out a reputation for consistency across disciplines over the course of the week. Miranda Miller took her third third in three days in the Maxxis DH, half a second behind ALN.

“I actually feel really good which makes me a tiny bit nervous,” said Miller of having to be on the gas every day. “It’s a good reminder to keep everything in check and still be wary. Even though you feel really good, things can change so quickly. We saw that yesterday with a few people,” she added, referring to Verbeeck’s crash, and one that took Jake Jewett out of the series. “It’s important to get off your feet when you can, eat as much as you can, drink lots of water. It’s going to be hard to keep that up for three weeks.”

On the men’s side, the two steps down from Iles were a mix of what’s truly unique about the Summer Series.

On the second step, young Enduro rider Kasper Woolley trailed Iles by less than a second. He spent most of the race in the hot seat after finishing in 2:13.163 on his Enduro bike.

Behind Woolley, a name that piqued major interest at the launch of the series. With his 2:14.690, just 2.428 seconds off Iles’ winning time, Brett Rheeder proved he’s no slouch at going fast, even though he’s known as one of the best Slopestyle riders in the world.

“Well...I did a Downhill race,” he laughed from the finish corral when asked for his thoughts on the day. “It went well. I had a little section where my foot unclipped from the pedal. I’m still new to these clips and I spent so long trying to clip back in. I just got down and I was expecting to be at the back of the pack. Surprisingly I stayed pretty quick. Pretty stoked.”

With the DH wrapped Thursday, Friday’s race came hot on it’s heels, with the pros taking flight on SilverStar Bike Park’s jump track for the Air DH at 10 a.m.

Wrapping up a big week of competition, Verbeeck and partner Bas van Steenbergen earned their second shared win of the week (and accompanying 11 a.m. champagne toast).

Behind Verbeeck, Casey Brown nabbed another podium, and Miller-time kept it consistent, taking the full sweep of thirds for the week. Next to van Steenbergen, Iles earned more points toward the overall, taking second (unfortunately crossing the finish line with a mechanical) and Woolley continued to prove his all-round skills on his Enduro bike, taking third.

With the overall points tallied heading out of Week 1, here’s how the Elite Men’s and Women’s standings sit for the CLIF Crankworx Summer Series Overall:

Elite Men:

  1. ILES: 370


  3. WOOLLEY: 276

  4. GAUVIN: 204

  5. VEZINA: 188

  6. CRUZ: 186

  7. MCDOWALL: 183

  8. VERNER:175

  9. MELAMED: 174

  10. SHERLOCK: 165

  11. FITZGERALD: 152

  12. WALLACE: 144

  13. JAMIESON: 122

  14. COUSINIÉ: 122

  15. BURKE: 105

  16. RHEEDER: 70

  17. JEWETT: 56

Elite Women:

  1. VERBEECK: 385

  2. BROWN: 330

  3. MILLER: 280


  5. ASTLE: 205

  6. PICTON: 195

  7. SCHICK: 160

  8. IJURCO: 70