Wiggins couldn’t stay with the final attack of the day, finishing 18th and beaten by Sky team-mate Luke Rowe who claimed eighth behind the winner John Degenkolb.
Almost straight away it was off to the other end of France for the first round of the Downhill World Cup at Lourdes. The women’s race was more competitive than ever, with Tracey Hannah qualifying first but crashing on her run to not challenge winner Ragot and second place Rachel Atehrton. Manon Carpenter was noticeably absent from the podium, perhaps feeling the pressure of being World Cup and World Champion.
Qualifying crashes would set the tone for the men’s race, as Gee Atherton broke his wrist and finished the race well down in the 40s. Aaron Gwin’s crash meant he had to rely on his protected-rider status to race the final and he put in a blistering run very early on in the day. This remained the time to beat all day and solid runs from the top names couldn’t touch him, although it was encouraging to see Josh Bryceland back from his ankle destruction and racing on pace, even if not managing to hit the podium. Second place went to Loic Bruni the local favourite, but possibly feeling the expectation from the top and his run never really recovering from an over-cooked first corner. Surprise of the weekend goes to British Chain Reaction Cycles Rider Michael Jones who came down his first elite race to finish third and bring all eyes on him.
If you’re worried about British performance, don’t. Behind the two top placed finishers were six British riders in a row, even with some of the best known riders missing this week.
Talking of top level riding there had been little news form the Olympic course at Hadleigh Castle so I headed out to Essex to see what was going on there, and also enjoy the sunshine. I can report that things look very close to being open. The trails are in place and look pretty fun, with the Olympic lines a definite challenge I’m itching to get on. I didn’t take a bike this time, but people were riding there, and the infrastructure is in place, with carpark pay-machines ready to open and the café open, if not yet taking cards. I guess things aren’t 100% ready and there is little control on access, so a number of dog walkers roaming over the trails, which will definitely get dangerous when trails are being thrashed. I’m planning on when to get back to try them out as soon as I can but in the meantime here are some pictures to give you a flavour.
These black-graded “Olympic” lines look like a real technical challenge that I can’t wait to get on.
Here's the map of the area.
And the trails.