With only 7 weeks left to go, here’s my event preview for the upcoming Mountainboard World Championships 2017 (#mwc17), and why I think it’s going to be one for the books (this is a long one so maybe get a cup of tea);
The team are pulling out all the stops
The team behind the World Championships this year have been working incredibly hard. Almost every weekend (and even some weeknights) I’m seeing pictures of the work they’ve been carrying out at the venue – whether it’s track changes, maintenance or even building a new mini-ramp, the team are pulling out all the stops and working very hard to make everything perfect come competition time.
From the pictures the team have been posting, you can see that key parts of the track are covered when they aren’t being ridden (like you see at top bike spots). That’s an excellent level of dedication – it keeps the sections from being weather, prevents grass and weeds growing and keeps the whole width of the track equal. It takes time to put the covers on and take them off – especially at the end of a long day of digging and riding as the last thing you want to do is drag a heavy cover over awkwardly shaped dirt and weigh it down! Notable areas that are being covered are:
– First two features on BoarderX, helping to ensure all four gates have an even start
– Second berm on BoarderX
– Features on 3rd straight
– Knuckles and top section of landing on the first and second jumps – helping to provide more speed through the run and a consistent landing surface if you drift off the central line
It’s not just changes to the track though. They’ve put in a new mini-ramp, they are organising additional sporting activities such as slack lining and there’s rumours of fireworks lined up to mark the end of the competition. Back on solid facts, the competition is going to be cheap, with your entry fees including a breakfast and dinner meal on competition days, and loads of help with airport shuttles and tents for riders who are flying into the event.
As always with international mountainboard competitions, the team are pulling out all the stops to make the event as inclusive, enjoyable and memorable as possible.
Why the BoarderX will rock
Here’s a few of the reasons why I’m really looking forward to competing in and watching the BoarderX competition.
A track of 3 tales
The track in Compiegne is kind of a 3 part story. You have the fast, table and double laden first straight. Then there is the long and tiring road – a reportedly 21 feature straight, anticipated to be around medium speed. Then there’s the final section – a fairly slow patch with deep features. The corners are all pretty tight but there are overtaking lines possible – especially since the crew reshaped and doubled the size of the first corner by simultaneously digging down and building the corner up. There’s a good range of skills required to be fast over the whole track so you’ll need to be quite a complete racer to place high in the rankings – not afraid of doubling/jumping at speed, able to turn hard and adjust your line mid corner, good pumping rhythm and good pumping power.
The mixture of skills required on each section of track is sure to differentiate riders at each stage of the track so it’ll be interesting to see how the races unfold over the whole course – someone may get a lead on the first straight but have poor pumping rhythm and be caught up and battled on the second and third straights for example.
First feature spine
You read that right – the first feature out of the gates is essentially a spine! It’s a steep takeoff with a very short table into a fairly long, mellow landing. Having ridden the track a bunch on a trip out to Compiegne last Summer, all of us were excited by this feature. It takes time to master and just as you thought you had it figured out, you’d make a mistake again. To ride this feature well you need to be able to pump the up-face while absorbing it very quickly and at the right time to ensure you land at the top of the landing – every foot of extra distance has a noticeable impact on your exit speed.
The faster you ride the feature, the harder it is to get right and it’s too tall for riders to pop over the up-face like they do on sketchy rollers or tables so you have to hit it. It’s going to be incredibly interesting to see the varied techniques used, and whether coming out of the gate at full speed is actually the fastest way to the first corner (perhaps coming out of the gate a little slower so you hit the spine a little slower but ride it more consistently and generate more exit speed is the fastest option?). Throw into the mix that as the Knockouts progress, the pressure mounts and the riders become more fatigued – two big ingredients in the unforced errors recipe. Who and how many riders will be caught out by the spine and be made to pay the price?
The long and tiring road
Excuse the forced effort at something that slightly resembles song lyrics. I’m talking about the second straight here – reportedly containing 21(!) rollers/features. Knowing the Compiegne crew, there will be some small step-up and step-down rollers thrown into the mix on the straight to keep riders on their toes.
The straight is still bedding in so we don’t have a clear idea of the speed and flow of the straight yet, but my source thinks that the top riders at top speed may struggle to keep their rhythm – something that I think is a good thing. It’s great to ride a track where you can hit everything nice and easy at full speed, but we want something that rewards skill and technique at the biggest race event in the calendar and it sounds like this straight may do just that.
Losing your rhythm on such a long, feature laden straight can have dire consequences – riders behind you will VERY quickly catch you up if they maintain their flow. Not only may you have to find a good rhythm to power balance, but think how tired you are going to get in each race having to pump 21 features on a single straight! If you have to dial the power back a little to keep a good rhythm, that’s good news for the lungs and riders aiming to win the title are going to need to race the long and tiring road 4 or 5 times (depending on whether 32 or 64 riders make the Pro category). That’s quite a lot of pumping and you won’t be getting much of a break between each run.
The battle of rhythm vs power will be in full swing on the second straight and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some overtakes and an upset or two on the long and tiring road.
Fitness and intelligence
Rider fitness and intelligence is something else that’s going to be tested in Compiegne and rightly so. The smart rider will conserve energy where possible in the early rounds, although that does leave the door open for the ambitious to capitalise on an unsuspecting top flight rider who may have backed off just a little bit too much.
The main area of energy saving will of course be the long and tiring road – don’t be surprised to see riders slowing down towards the end of the straight if they are in the lead with a decent gap behind them. Riders who go 100% over the whole track every practice run and race will soon run out of juice and find themselves struggling for energy.
It’s not only the track that’s going to wear you down though, you’ll also be battling the weather and the walk. 3 of the 4 World BoarderX Championships so far have featured a decent walk to get back to the top and Compiegne is no different as there isn’t any space for an uplift. It’s not a particularly long walk though, and the end of the track puts you at the bottom of the short route to the top, which is a well thought out part of the design, but you will need to take the walk into consideration.
Another seemingly stalwart figure of the World BoarderX Championships has been the heat and Compiegne is likely to bring this component into the mix as well. I may be remembering Germany wrongly, but I’m sure every Championships so far has been over 25C (even when it rained in Serbia – race day was boiling and humid). Compiegne is very hot in the Summer so expect it to be hot come rain or shine! We did most of our riding in the evening last year to try to beat the heat…
A track for all abilities
One of the biggest things that will make the BoarderX a great watch and competition is that the track is rideable by everyone. The vast majority of riders will be able to get down the track and can be confident to ride it at full speed. This increases the average speed of the pack as a whole and promises a greater challenge for the top riders, with closer races in every round – there were a lot of fast riders in Germany and Serbia but a lot were afraid to ride the tracks at full pace at all times which created a greater spread in the field of riders.
On a track where the majority of riders will be able to go 100% all of the time, the spread will decrease and create finer margins for success – it moves the bell curve further towards the top end of the field; it reduces the advantage the very top riders had in being the only ones confident enough to go 100% all of the time. Where, in previous years, the top 8 or so riders had an ‘easy’ first and possibly second round race, this year I would expect the races to be much closer from the get go. Throw into the mix that the track gets tougher the faster you go and it could really bring a lot of riders into the mix for the semis and finals.
It’s also nice to see riders getting down a track clean and fast instead of falling off and getting injured – I think this track could show the level of mountainboarding in a better light than previous tracks where bails and injuries have been, unfortunately, quite common.
What home advantage?
Lastly, there is often a home advantage for locals who live near the tracks. However, due to the volume and frequency of the work that’s been going on in Compiegne there really isn’t going to be much home or historic advantage. Though the track is on the same route as it’s always been, the first corner has been changed, the second straight has been completely re-done and the third corner has been re-shaped and the final straight changed.
That’s a lot of work that’s gone in and not everything has fully bedded in yet (although the recent rain would have gone a long way to helping) so no one actually knows how the track will feel at full speed. Changing just one or two features can affect how the whole track runs and feels so changing almost half of the track would have made a huge difference, meaning that those who have ridden the track previously may be surprised by how different it feels and runs after the first corner. Not to mention that the works will have opened up the full width of the track so all four lines should be equal after the first corner, instead of the classic one or two ridden in central lines being far faster than the largely unridden outside lines.
Why does this make it interesting? It helps to level the playing field so that everyone is coming in at around the same point and that the best lines and overtaking spots are yet to be found – the traditional routes may no longer be the best and the more creative and alternate lines will have been opened up by the works which could pay dividends for the daring and outside the box thinking riders.
Why the Freestyle will be a spectacle
The level is high
I’ve already written a blog post about the contenders for the World Champs (you can read it here) but I’ll reiterate – the level of Freestyle in mountainboarding is high and there’s a lot of riders at the top.
This promises two things – big tricks and fierce competition. The big tricks is also dependent on the jumps – there needs to be one big enough for the tricks themselves with consistent speed, a good takeoff and clean landing – however the fierce competition is basically guaranteed as the top riders will pull out all the stops to best each other and lift the trophy at the end of the night.
However the freestyle setup turns out, the top riders will extract everything they can from it and it’ll be a hell of a show. There will be slams but the boundaries of what is considered possible on those jumps will be pushed. Riders aren’t going to sit back and see what happens lest they be left behind, they are going to push themselves hard in the search for a crucial few extra points and glory.
It’s been 5 years!
The sub-title says it all – it’s been 5 years since the last World Freestyle Championships! The discipline has moved on a long way since then – the level has increased, some old faces have faded away and some new faces have emerged. 5 years is a long time and the Freestyle riders of the sport having been itching for the headline Freestyle competition to return.
This one is pretty self explanatory so ‘nuf said??
Night-time, floodlit Finals
This one is all about the atmosphere of the competition and very little does more in to boost the atmosphere than to hold a competition under the lights at night. Atmosphere, of course, goes a very long way to raise the level of riding in the competition and help it to go down in legendary status.
Riding under the floodlights does more than add atmosphere though – the actual riding is very different. The biggest difference is in your peripheral vision – instead of everything being very light and bright, it’s dark. Sure, the run is lit up (and typically well lit at that) but outside of the Freestyle run it’s all as dark as night. This makes a big difference when spinning or flipping, well anything that isn’t a straight air. You have to ‘feel’ out the tricks more and rely less on vision, relying on your ‘inner gyroscope’ instead of visual cues. This makes it more difficult to perform under the lights but that only adds to the impressiveness of the tricks the riders are performing.
There’s an extra consideration that comes in as well – what if there’s grass? If yes, will there be dew? Hot days can be followed by damp grass in the evenings and overnight which could cause a bit of havoc if riders don’t land perfectly straight or have to make any adjustments or turns!
Challenges of the course
This might not sound like much of a positive, but actually I think it is. Overcoming challenges adds to the impressiveness of the performance and, I think, will push riders towards style over technicality.
What are the challenges? One is that it’s at night, as mentioned above. The other big challenge will be speed management – I think it’ll be pretty tricky to get good, consistent air on all three jumps due to the layout of the course.
To overcome possible speed issues, riders are going to have to ride with some intelligence and really consider what tricks link together and how well they link together. This is where the style will come in and trump technicality – being smooth and flowy (you know, two of the key factors in style) will carry much more speed the throwing big spins with loads of tweaks which increase the risk of sketchy landings.
You’ll certainly see big, technical tricks. I think that the overall feel of the majority of runs will be smooth and stylish though as it’s better to get three solid hits than one big hit and two knuckles. Plus, forcing riders to use the heads a bit more will mean less ‘winging it’ as they hit jumps which should lead to more tricks being landed and being performed with solid grabs and tweaks, instead of improvised hucks.
The weekend before
Some of the riders will be coming into the competition off the back of recent practice thanks to the weekend before – a great line-up of riders will be attending MadNes festival in the Netherlands which will be a freestyle demo where riders will be landing on a landing shaped airbag.
There’s no doubt that the crew of riders attending the festival will spur each other on and see some good progression over the weekend, but throw a much more forgiving landing into the mix and the riders could really start to throw some new moves.
The demos the weekend before will enable a group of the top riders to come into the event with more confidence and possibly a few more tricks. There’s also talk of stopping off at Wanyi for a couple of days between the festival and #mwc17 which will see all the riders well practiced and the cobwebs well and truly blown off ahead of the biggest Freestyle competition in the last 5 years!
No time like the present
There’s no time like the present, get the details about the event and register! #mwc17 promises to be an unmissable event.
Be sure to register online ahead of time to help the organisers out and bag yourself discounted entry to the competition! Check out the website for details and registration here.