2021 UCI DH World ChampionshipsVal Di Sole, Italy
VAL DI SOLE - BRUTAL AF
Val di Sole has always been a rider’s favorite track. It has been the location for some of the wildest ever World Cup events and the scene for some big upsets. But for Connor Fearon it has always been a little monkey on his back, (not a big monkey mind you, something like a pygmy marmoset). Out of the seven times Connor has dropped in from the start gate here, he’s only cracked the top 20 twice, 20th in 2016 and then 19th in 2018. This week he wanted to add a third to that list and rack up another top 20 result.
The last time the World Cup hit Val di Sole was 2019 and there had been significant changes made to the track for this week’s World Champs. New, more technical root-filled sections made for a more challenging track with no margin for error. If a rider went down, the chances of getting up weren’t high. The already-challenging track morphed throughout the week thanks to relentless sun and dry conditions. The holes got bigger, the roots got dustier, and the track turned into a monster that we won’t soon forget.
The long World Champs week meant plenty of time on course for Connor and Kona Junior Noah Hoffmann, with two days of practice spaced between qualifying and finals. Both Kona riders were feeling solid all week with Noah placing 5th in qualifying and Connor 33rd.
Finals day wouldn’t go to plan for Noah, with the rough course taking him down for a little dirt nap and relegating him to 43rd place. With no room for error, the long three and half minute track demanded absolutely everything from Connor. He’d eventually finish the day just outside the top 20 in 23rd place.
Noah Hoffman was looking fast in Sunday’s practice.
The athlete experience
It was awesome to get a chance to race Val Di Sole World Champs this year. Wearing the Aussie jersey is always a highlight for me during the race season. The track this year had a few changes, but it still remains the gnarliest track of the year. Dry conditions all week made the track even more blown out and rougher than usual. The schedule for the World Champs is a bit different from a normal World Cup race. We had an extra day of practice after the timed run on Friday. This means that we have more chances to ride the track and dial it in for a final run.
The other cool thing about World Champs is that the sponsors make custom kit/bike so the first day feels like Christmas. I qualified 33rd with a pretty smooth run but was just lacking a bit of intensity to be further up the result sheet. I had a goal to finish top 20 in the race so on Saturday I focused on finding more time on the track and I found a few key sections where I could improve and shave some seconds off. On race day, I felt nervous but confident. I put together a really clean run without any mistakes which I’m pretty happy with, it’s such a gnarly track so it’s really hard to make a clean run. In the end, I finished 23rd just a bit short of my goal but I was still happy.
Connor Fearon wrangling one of Val Di Soles many Black Snakes (roots).
The athlete experience
My goal was to go all-in for a medal but unfortunately, I had a big crash at the top (everything’s ok). I had a pretty solid qualifying run, where I ended up in fifth place. But when it came to race day, I struggled to find my flow and get a clear mind. I hope this will change soon with more race experience since this is pretty much my first race season. I felt really good on the bike throughout the week and I know the speed is there too, so I’ll just trust the process.
That schralp felt pretty good though haha.
Team sponsorsAs always, thank you to our team sponsors for their support.
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