Downhill is back as the UCI World Cup kicks off in Lenzerheide this weekend

Loic Bruni winning in Les Gets
Bruni will be back in the rainbow jersey for the opening weekend of DH world cup racing (Image credit: UCI)

Finally, the wait is over, as this weekend the best downhill mountain bike racers on the planet are in Lenzerheide, Switzerland for the opening round of the UCI Downhill World Cup. It's a massive weekend of racing at the iconic Swiss venue, as the downhill mountain bike teams come together with the rest of the mountain bike family with the second round of the UCI Cross-country Olympic and Short Track World Cup also taking place.

With the opening round of the UCI Downhill World Cup starting its season with a new look, the downhill event is set to take center stage. For the first time, the downhill will have a semi-final race that will determine the top 30 men and top 10 women who progress to the final. This is sure to add more excitement and a massive boost to fans who get to see more of their favorite riders at race pace, trying to lay down a time for a sought-after finals slot.

Sam Hill riding downhill MTB

Sam Hill is back for Lenzerheide (Image credit: Getty)

In addition to the new format, numerous subplots and stories are bubbling away to fuel the excitement. In the men's event, Australian multiple World Downhill Champion, Sam Hill, returns as he gears up for a tilt at another world championship title in Fort William in August. Sam has been racing in the best enduro mountain bike events over the last few years, which has seen him claim the overall Enduro World Series title three times. Fans are thrilled to see Hill return to downhill racing as he aims to write another page in the history of mountain biking.

Also, in the men's lineup is Amaury Pierron and he will undoubtedly start the season as the man to beat. Pierron broke his collarbone in November but is back healed and ready to battle it out with current Men's World Champion – fellow Frenchman Loïc Bruni. Pierron took the overall win last season, and also finished first in Lenzerheide, but with Bruni wearing the rainbow jersey both riders are sure to be fired up for the season as all eyes turn to Fort William less than two months away. The French have a full hand of classy riders to challenge the big two with Loris Vergier and Thibaut Dapréla also looking to grab the podium spots.

Downhill mountain bikers on the podium at Fort William

The French have a plethora of top riders (Image credit: Paul Brett)

There are plenty of other riders looking to lay down a marker in a stacked field for the opening round, with the GOAT, Santa Cruz Syndicate's Greg Minnaar, in what could be his last season, looking to go out in style. The South African's teammates, teenage sensation and Red Bull Hardline winner, Jackson Goldstone, along with British rider, Laurie Greenland, give the Syndicate team an impressive lineup. Finn Iles, a podium specialist from 2022, and Andreas Kolb from Continental Atherton will also be looking to get on the top step, with other notable British riders including Pivot Factory Racing's Bernard Kerr and Matt Walker, and Madison Saracen's Greg Williamson.

Laurie Greenland riding in Syndicate colors at Fort William downhill

Brit Laurie Greenland rides in the Santa Cruz Syndicate team (Image credit: Paul Brett)

The excitement doesn't stop there as the women's downhill event has the return of six times DH World Champion Rachel Atherton who, having hinted at a possible return in an exclusive Bike Perfect interview earlier this year, has thrown her hat in for Lenzerheide. Tahnée Seagrave is also back, having been out for most of the last few years with an injury and serious concussion. Fox Factory has released a special TS57 MTB clothing range to celebrate her return to the tape. 

Rachel Atherton celebrating world championship win

Will Rachel Atherton return in a blaze of glory? (Image credit: Getty Images)

However, again like the men's field, the women’s competition is stacked with top riders including reigning overall title holder, Valentina Höll, looking to get her 2023 campaign off to the best possible start with a win. Home rider, Switzerland’s Camille Balanche will no doubt be buoyed by the partisan crowds. Nina Hoffman, another racer from the impressive roster from Santa Cruz Syndicate will be hoping she can take the win, as the downhill legend Steve Peat's Syndicate team look for a men's and women's weekend double. Former World Champion, Myriam Nicole, is sadly a notable absence while she recovers from a concussion.

Myriam Nicole in the rainbow jersey at Fort William

Myriam Nicole will be a notable miss this weekend (Image credit: Paul Brett)

You can watch all the action from Lenzerheide all weekend with the semi-finals live on UCI Mountain Bike World Series YouTube channel on Saturday morning and the finals live on Eurosport and Discovery+, and GCN+ in the afternoon on the same day. Check out all the details at UCImtbworldseries.com.

Paul Brett
Staff writer

Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.

Current rides: Marin Alpine Trail 2, Ribble 725, Cube Stereo 160

Height: 175cm