Man, it seems like Connor Fearon and the Kona Gravity Team cannot catch a break this year when it comes to the weather. The Rotorua round of the EWS was an absolute mess, with riders crossing the finish line totally demoralized. The second EWS round in Tasmania wasn’t much better. After a sunny, dry and almost dusty practice in Lourdes, France for round 1 of the UCI DH World Cup it looked like the team was going to finally catch a break. But this is World Cup racing and dry race runs have recently been about as scarce as hen’s teeth, so it was no surprise that the weather God(s) threw riders a curve ball over the weekend.
If you watched the race unfold on RedBull.tv you’ll know what happened, as the riders dropping in neared the pointy end of the qualifiers a storm rolled in from out of nowhere, bringing with it high winds and intense pelting rain. The dry track which had been thrashed all weekend turned into an ice rink. Riders were getting bucked and thrown to the ground as no one had tested wet weather lines during the practice leading up to finals day. Connor would never have predicted that his disappointing qualifying time would, in fact, be his saving grace. As Connor sat in the start hut, the high head-on winds arrived. He dropped in just minutes before the rain showed up and proceeded to put on a masterclass of riding, the consistent and calculating rider we saw last season was gone and in its place a risk taking Connor who bested the adverse conditions and crossed the line in 5th place. The remaining riders left at the top of the hill has a different battle as the rain got heavier and changed the course irrevocably.
“I really am stoked today. I qualified pretty far back yesterday with no excuses so I felt a bit nervous coming into the finals. I had full confidence in myself but when the weather came in I was a bit worried. Luckily I left right before the rain really set in and gave it my best crack. I felt awesome in my run, the crowd was the most insane crowd of a World Cup I’ve ever been to! It’s a shame the rest of the riders had to battle conditions worse than me but that’s how it goes sometimes. I’m really happy with a podium and it makes me keen for fort William.” – Connor Fearon
Josh Button with his early seeding, had the luck of riding a track that matched practice and qualifying conditions. Not happy with his 63rd qualifying position Josh bested his earlier finish and crossed the line in 31st, motivated more than ever to crush it at Fort William.
“It was a pretty good day for me, 31st in the end. I felt off the pace all weekend and struggled to find my confidence. Times were really tight so a few little mistakes cost me a lot of positions. Keen to go home and get ready for Fort Bill.” – Josh Button
Pumped on his qualification run, Canadian junior, Anthony Poulson didn’t finish his day quite how he’d planned. After a solid practice run early in the morning, he was riding fast in his race run and feeling excited for a top ten finish. A crash in the final straight, though, took out any hopes he had of a solid finish. Like Josh, he’s looking at Fort William for redemption.
“I’d say I’m stoked and not at the same time. Really happy to be riding where I always wanted to but so bummed to have a big crash on the last straight in my race run and being DSQ. I was on a good run so it would have been interesting. Anyway, that’s racing, stoked for Fort William in a month or so.” – Anthony Poulson