There’s a saying that goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover” that would probably best describe the opening round of the season here in Croatia. We’re not talking about the village of Losinj that is visually beautiful in every way, and as good on the outside as it is within. What we are talking about is the downhill track that winds it’s way down a rocky hill just above town. Ever since this round was announced last summer, there have been countless naysayers attempting to talk it down a few pegs, and no number of helmet cameras, track previews, or first-hand testimonials could change that narrative. To say there has been an air of negativity surrounding this event by members of the online community would be putting it nicely. Today, however, was the day that the truth could finally be told, and we’re not sure there’s much room left for argument.
Yes, it’s true. The track in Losinj certainly is proving to be a challenge to the best riders in the world, and more so than we have seen in a long long time. It’s short, it’s technical, fast in spots, slow in others, and awkward in between. It’s a lot of things but easy is not one of them. And if you were to add up all the rocks on every DH track on the World Cup Circuit, they still would not total the number getting pounded by racers’ tires in Croatia. The jumps are longer than expected, the drops a bit taller, and the rocks a lot rockier than anyone anticipated. Once racers dove in, preconceived notions were out, and it all became a totally different story.
While some riders have been looking phenomenal on track right from the start, others have not been so lucky. Right out of the get-go, Loic Bruni went down no more than 20 seconds into his first run and landed himself in the hospital. Mick Hannah also had a massive one, as did his sister Tracey, and of course everyone is aware now of what happened to Claudio during his preview run. Even if the bodies were making it down safely, the bikes, and in particular the tires are a different story. While it isn’t a big deal just to roll through, there are lots of lines and gaps that take commitment to squeeze precious time out of and often it’s just a matter of inches (or less) that can spell disaster. Hitting any line to the left or right of ideal here often results in a crash or a puncture, and very few made it down without any. In fact, most people collected multiples of one or both throughout the day.
Often we say to ignore the timed training results as they rarely factor into giving a true read of who’s up to speed for race day, but on this track that might not be the case. The select few that were able to attack run after run and put down fast times without crashes or mechanicals are in pretty exclusive company right now. Sure, a few people held their cards close to their chest, but a lot still have a long ways to go if they want to match the pace we saw today from the likes of Brook Macdonald and Rachel Atherton.