Despite its reputation as a World Cup series, the majority of races in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cups take place in Europe. But for the final few races of the downhill mountain biking season, the series is in the United States at Snowshoe, West Virginia. The final race of the series was held here in 2019, too, and it was a nailbiter to see who would take the overall series title, and that's setting up to be true again this year.
Since the Fort William round was canceled earlier this year, Snowshoe was turned into a doubleheader race for the downhillers so they'll have two races in one week. The first race was on Wednesday, and a dramatic couple of hours has now given us a clearer picture of what might happen on Saturday.
Racers will be gunning for wins and podiums of course, but there's also the series overall title to consider. Here is a look at the riders who will make Saturday's race a must-watch.
Let's start with yesterday's winner. Höll has got a lot of hype this season, and for good reason. However, the fast Austrian has perhaps struggled with the pressure of her first year in the elite field. She's been super close to the big win, and Wednesday was finally her day. She's also just over 100 points back from the series leader, and as we see nearly every race, anything can happen on race day.
If one woman was looking on pace to disrupt Höll's win on Wednesday, it was World Champion Myriam Nicole. Donning the rainbow stripes, all of her split times were green, but a crash in one of the nasty rock gardens on the course took her out of contention. If the French woman doesn't let the crash get to her head, Nicole could be looking at a solid result to clinch the series overall.
Second to Höll in the first race was Camille Balanche, who finished four seconds behind. The 2020 World Champion is also sitting in second place in the overall standings. The Swiss woman has been consistent all year and has shown that she can tackle a diverse set of terrain and conditions. Will she be able to successfully tackle Snowshoe's bike-eating rocks one last time?
Cabirou has been struggling with injury during the second half of this season, but she looks to be back on form. In the first race at Snowshoe she took third, which will definitely be a confidence boost heading into the final race.
Rounding out the top five was Tahnee Seagrave. Despite dealing with a neck injury for a good portion of the season, she's still riding strongly and could sneak up into the top three overall depending on what happens.
The winner of Wednesday's men's race, Reece Wilson, had until this point never won a World Cup race. He is of course the 2020 World Champion but had never bagged a standard World Cup. At the penultimate split, Wilson's time was in the red, but the flying Scotsman found a way to claw back time in the high-speed, pedal-fest of a bottom section. Let's see what he can do in a few days.
We also have to mention the overall series leader Thibaut Daprela. The Frenchman was flying through the woods before he crashed in one of the main rock gardens. He actually completely snapped his front wheel in half - it wasn't clear if that caused the crash or was a result of it. He looked pretty shaken up but overall okay. He still leads the series overall but has much less of a buffer now.
Hot on Daprela's heels in the overall standings is Loris Vergier, who is within 50 points of the lead. He looked good on the Snowshoe track and took third place. So much of the excitement of the final round will be what happens with both Vergier and Daprela.
Multi-time World Cup winner and former World Champion Danny Hart could be a major threat for Saturday's race. He won here in 2019 so knows how to put in a good run on a track that is largely similar this year. He got a flat tire on Wednesday so should be fired up to go all in.
Another man who should be fired up to go for it is young Canadian ride Finn Iles. He was fastest in qualifying only to come in fourth. That's still a standout result for the Specialized rider and he was only about 1.3 seconds off the win. It seems he's found his form and should have some good confidence that should see him fair impressively well.