2019 UCI World Cup Preview | Manchester Indoor
2019 UCI World Cup Preview | Manchester Indoor
The 2019 UCI World Cup opener in Manchester is fast approaching and the worlds best have been flocking to the indoor facility to get a feel for the new design. The previous incarnation of the track, while regularly getting praise for how fun it was to just ride on, did not always appeal to the speed demons out there. So, what’s it like now? What will it be like to race on come the April World Cup? We got the low down from some of the fastest people on the planet … France’s Sylvain Andre, Denmark’s Simone Christensen and the never too shy to give his opinion, David Graf from Switzerland.
Photos by UEC
15: So, you’ve all been at the Manchester indoor dialling in the track for the upcoming World Cup round … generally, are you happier with the track since it’s been changed or did you prefer the previous incarnation of it?
David: It is a better race track now, at least in my eyes. The problem is, they made it so easy that you cannot really make a difference on the track anymore. It‘s a 27+ second lap time with no difficulty in it. It will all come down to the first straight and first turn now, I guess.
Sylvain: To race on, the new one. To practice, the old one.
Simone: In general, yes, I think it’s better! I did like the challenges the old track gave, being so technical, especially ‘cause I don’t think it was ‘scary’ for us girls (even though I never was a fan of the 2nd jump on the first straight), but now, even though it’s an easy track, it just has such a nice flow and different lines, which I think is nice, both for the riders, but also for the fans watching!
15: We’ve seen all sorts of people ride it recently that previously wouldn’t have gone near it, from 8-year old kids to much older men … do you see SX tracks going down this design route in the future? Does it help or hinder the sport at the highest level?
Simone: Hard question to answer. I definitely think at some point the track basically just got too big and scary, to be able to make it a good race track. But, I’m also a rider that appreciates a track that needs good technical skills to get through the track, and I think some of the upcoming riders are more skilled than ‘we’ were, because they’ve had these difficult tracks growing up, so I hope they won’t make the tracks too easy out there, as I think it’ll lower the skills of the even younger riders.
David: Sure, there is more people riding the track now than before. But I don’t see a reason, why we have to build things that small and easy, so the 12-year-old can ride the whole track in their first session with the same lines as the elites. We have already gone down this way for a while now … and I think it’s wrong. I want safer tracks but that does not mean small flat obstacles. I think it would be possible to build tracks where you can make a difference with skill or entry speed, without making it dangerous.
Sylvain: It’s called progression. You just need a few skills and a pair of balls to jump a 1st jump on a supercross track. I wish I had the chance to go up there when I was a little kid.
15: Sylvain, you’ve been vocal in the past about the ‘skill’ level in BMX being dumbed down because of non-technical tracks, if memory serves, we think it went something like ‘RIP to having balls / skills on the World Cup circuit’ in relation to Manchester in particular. Having ridden the track now, are you still concerned about balls, or the lack there of?
Sylvain: I’m just sad sometimes that SX tracks are so easy that getting the holeshot gives you 80% chance of winning the race … same as a 2-meter hill track with rollers like Phoenix. It’s sad for us, and mostly bad for the fans. Some SX tracks are single file from turn one to the line.
15: Previously people have told us the track was one of the best at 80% but terrible at 100% speed … how about now?
Sylvain: It’s definitely better for racing. You can go wide open and have less chance of dying. It is much safer. But going 2_2_2_2_2_2_2 in the third straight isn’t exciting for the riders or the spectators.
David: Now it’s just an average track, very good to have a couple of sessions in the indoor but boring after one week. Better to race yes, although in my eyes they should have built big jumps in front of the turns to slow us down. Now it’s quite hard to get around turns by yourself, it will be fun with a full gate of 8.
Simone: I think again the women didn’t have the same issue as the men with this, but yes, I think it’ll be great for racing! The first corner might get a little tight, since you now are coming into it with a lot more speed than before I believe, and with the first straight being so simple, it’s definitely gonna be some close racing we are gonna see!
15: Sylvain, you’ve also expressed your concern at the lack of options/lines on the new 4th straight and how you could potentially make up ground if you got it right. Is that still your opinion after riding it?
Sylvain: I think I was talking about the 3rd.I like when a technical line, or a particular jump can make the difference if you get it good.
15: David, you seem concerned, well not only you, that there is now nothing to slow you down going into the corners … should we expect to see people disappearing over the berms in April, akin to Liam Phillips?
David: Like I mentioned, I think they did a bad job in building the track regarding corner entry speed. It would have been nice to have a big jump with a flat landing to lose speed and open up opportunities in the turns. It will be carnage, hopefully I can stay out of it and have some clean laps.
15: Who’s the track going to suit, anyone in particular or any particular type of rider?
Simone: Since the track now is quite simple from a technical point of view, you can’t afford to make any mistakes. This means you’ll have to do everything super smooth, and with the new layout, and the fact that it’s indoor, the track is really fast, so the riders that are good at carrying speed around these kinda tracks will be stoked! With the first straight being so short, the riders with a big pull down the hill will probably also have a benefit.
David: Guys with a good snap and first straight that are capable to hold tight turns. Or the guys who tend to find the holes in the pack in turn one.
Sylvain: 3, 5 or 8 meters, steep or flat, at the end of the day the same riders will be out front.
15: Are Team GB still going to be the ones to beat in Manchester or does the redesigned track reduce the advantage?
Sylvain: It does reduce it. Unless Liam is ready for a comeback, from what I saw, he’s not! Everyone has a chance to become the new Prince of Manchester.
David: It reduced the hometown advantage to the ramp/start. Everyone will have the track dialled come race day. And no one is scared of the track anymore.
Simone: They are always gonna have the home track advantage, and I still believe they’ll be the ones to beat, but I think it’s reduced a little, with the track being a bit easier technically.
15: Are you excited/happy that Manchester is back on the Calendar? How’s the atmosphere in the arena during big events?
Simone: I sure am!! The atmosphere in GB is generally really good, I always love riding over here, and in the indoor it’s even better! The stands are right up against the track, and with the fans and riders being so close, it makes it so much more exciting to both watch and race!
Sylvain: It’s an indoor, its tight, less passes, but overall it’s great to have Manchester, as the weather conditions are always the same. The atmosphere is always great there … but as a French rider … it doesn’t get any better than Paris 😉
David: I like it because it’s predictable with the conditions, but I prefer the big tracks that are less hectic and wide open. The British fans are always good and it’s a great ambiance, but the stands are very limited unfortunately.
15: Simone, yourself and your training partner Sae Hatakeyama made the second straight pro set look easy, but how scary was it in reality … did it take you long to build up to it?
Simone: I’m not gonna lie, it was scary! One of my first sessions at the track I jumped the first jump, which I didn’t think was very scary, but I knew the next one was gonna be. The day we did it I only did that track session cause I wanted to jump the whole straight, and after 3 runs on the first jump I thought I had enough speed to do the second one. I was really nervous, but landed the first jump good and then I just sent it and landed perfect on it. But damn, I felt like I jumped so high!
15: David, you said on Instagram that ‘it’s time to build tracks with just one option’ after Simone and Sae posted videos of them cruising through the pro section … is that what you’d like to see in the future of the Elite racing, one size fits all?
David: It would make track building much easier if we have corners with one straight coming in and out. Alignment of the straights would be better, wider and more passing opportunities would appear. Build jumps that are faster if you jump them and a little slower for the girls who can’t jump them but not stopping them completely. Seeing the girls jump the pro set in Manchester shows, they are ready if the weather is good enough 😉
I don’t think the sport would lose much by getting rid of the pro sets to be honest. Everyone is tired of seeing us jump 3 doubles on the second straight anyways.
15: Simone, what do you think of David’s suggesting that maybe all tracks should have only one option in the future? In Manchester for example, would the pro set have to be much smaller for that to be a realistic option for the women to race it?
Simone: I think it’s really cool for the 3rd straight now being the same for men and women, since I’ve always thought the rhythm straights can be the same without lowering the men’s level, and being too high for the women. If you think back on Baku’s 3rd straight, us women could’ve easily rode that. But for 2nd straight I’m not sure I agree with that, since I’m sure the men find the 2nd straight in Manchester pretty small. And I think it would have to be a bit smaller for the women to race on it. With the extra speed the guys carry out of the first corner, I think it makes sense that they still have a pro section. Then us women can just practise our skills on it in training 😉
15: How would you feel if the UCI turned around and said all women must race the pro side of the second straight? Would it significantly reduce the numbers on the women’s side?
Simone: Well, since I jumped it, I guess I would be okay with it haha, and what a race it would be! I’d say one thing is to do it on your own, but I’m not sure I would wanna do that with 8 women next to each other… I don’t think I trust mine or the others women’s skills enough to do that, I would be too worried that somebody would slam the breaks in front of me haha … or if I’m the one slamming the breaks! And it definitely would reduce the numbers on the women’s side…
15: And finally, obviously we can’t let you go Sylvain, without offering our congratulations on the imminent addition to your family. Will you be talking anytime off over the summer to adjust to the new girl in your life?
Sylvain: Thank you. I’m excited, and I hope I’ll make her proud when she will be ‘old’ enough to understand what’s going on. I don’t really know yet. I’ll race the big races no matter what. I will just adapt the other races and try to reduce the trips a little so I can take care of her and mom.