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Lourdes World Cup: 2017 Track Preview 15

A top to bottom look at the 2017 version one of the best tracks of the season - a firm favorite with riders and fans alike.

Lourdes World Cup: 2017 Track Preview

That's it boys and girls, welcome to the 2017 UCI MTB DH World Cup! For the third straight year, the season kicks off with a bang in Lourdes, France - a track that was an instant hit with the riders when we first came here to race in 2015, and with good reason. Mixing steep, tech, big jumps and high speeds, Lourdes delivers world class racing - which is not lost on the huge, noisy crowds that typically line the track come race day. To further spice it up this year, the organizers have made a few rad tweaks to the track, incorporating more natural sections which will favor bold line choices. Dive into this exclusive, hot off the press preview feature to see what awaits!

The Top Section

If you're sitting in this start gate, you're one of the best bike handlers in the world. That's good news, because you'll need all your skill to tame this beast of a track!

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The weather is currently pretty nasty, but it's set to improve throughout the week. There is a chance of more rain come race day though, which would certainly make things unpredictable. Most of this track deals with water quite well, but there's no doubt a little H2O adds to the challenge here.

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20 seconds after leaving the start gate, things get serious already. Go high right for the quickest line, or left if you prefer to play it "safe" here. This track has teeth, and it wastes no time baring them for all to see!

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The organizers tape the track wide where it matters, and they also use the tape to make sure the trickier lines come with the biggest rewards. This nasty little rock huck is a great example, the tape making the go-around a lot slower here. Huck at your peril though, because it's not exactly a smooth landing!

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Looking back up that section, rowdy is the word that comes to mind:

Be thankful you're not a wheel.

Once through that first test, catch a little air and maybe your breath with a fast and flowy rhythm section. They've added a bit of lip to this bridge jump as well by the looks of it:

Send it!

The Wall

A mythical part of the track here in Lourdes, The Wall will keep you on your toes. Steep and nasty, it will catch you out if you show even the slightest bit of hesitation. And that's when it's dry!

Don't even think about taking the long way around if you have any kind of result in mind here.

Pandemonium!

The Woods

Congratulations, you made it down The Wall. Push through a few berms, and carry as much speed as you can pumping your way through the small hips and rollers in the woods.

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We now arrive at the first major change for 2017. Instead of going straight into a big berm, the track builders have cut a whole new section through these two big turns (you can see the old track continuing to the right in this shot):

Fresh loam - and a challenging inside line for the next turn.

Hopefully you held it high to the right in that new loam section - because you now have the option of a brand new inside line. It features a tricky, off-camber step to get into it, and you'll need to be on your game to stick the exit, but we think this line will reward the brave with a good chunk of time off the clock. Tasty!

The new line is tight to the right (old line seen on the left).

Did someone say off-camber?

If you carried enough speed out of that tricky new section, there's a wheel-eating huck to rockbed that looks like it's on too:

Send it if you dare...
...the landing is not exactly smooth!

The Bike Park

After pinning across a grassy, off-camber field, we come to the next bit of news. The crew continued to look for ways to incorporate more natural sections of track, and they found another option here in the old "bike park" section. We found Aurelien Heraud, the person responsible for the track, putting the final touches to his masterpiece, here's what he had to say (audio provided for those who want to practice their French too):

"We tried to add a few more natural sections to the track. We've removed a few berms and some of the bike park type jumps and replaced them with more technical sections, incorporating more roots and rocks as well as making the track steeper in parts."

Aurelien Heraud and his crew hard at work, getting the track ready for the big show. We can't wait to see what the riders make of the changes!

The fastest line through this new section is straight - but there's a solid huck and some rowdy roots and rocks waiting for those who send it. There's a gap to gap to lily pad to gap thing hiding here that we can't wait to watch in real life...

To the right, the huck awaits...
...take off from where the crew is standing, landing out there to the left somewhere...

Slippery when wet!

Back on the old track again, and there's airtime on the menu! A few fresh berms will let you hold it wide open, and you'll need all that speed to tackle the two big road gaps looming up ahead.

We give this berm one hour of practice to live before it gets blown to bits...

Get your whips ready, we're going right!
On race day, this place will be buzzing with fans, out to watch the world's best get sideways.

After you land road gap number one, hold it wide open to make sure you have enough to get over number two.

Brrrraaaa...
...aaaaaap!

Not for the faint of heart, road gap number two is a proper sender. Look closely, and you'll see they've added a bit of slope to the landing this year...but that also means you'll pay a bigger price for casing it!

Road Gap number two, complete with Canadian Mist (tm).
Don't be short, whatever you do, don't be short...

Darkness

The woods after the road gaps are dark and foreboding, full of slippery, off-camber roots and rocks. Fight gravity as you try to work your way back to your left, this whole next part is all about your off-camber skills - and let's not forget the infamous Rock Huck ready to humiliate you if you mess it up even the slightest.

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Every time we see this rock huck...
...we're thankful we're not the ones having to send it!

With the Rock Huck in your rearview mirror, get ready for the next challenge! A nasty rock and root chute sets you up for the gully...

Point it straight down and hold on.

The direct line is over the tricky little rock on the right.

The Gully

Another classic section, the gully is a test of nerve and skill. There's a scary huck on the rider's left, but even without that option, the gully is no pushover at race speed. Come race day, thousands of fans will flock to this area, ready to push the riders to give it their all. Chainsaws and cowbells rule this spot!

The Gully in all its Glory.

The Gully huck on your left. The take off is tiny, and so is the landing. Big risk, but a big reward too.

Almost there! Just a few impossible off-cambers and the odd little drop line to negotiate. This safety net saw a lot of action last year, and with good reason - it's a lot more off camber than it looks here:

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The Finish

Keep your speed up through another rhythm section, and hold your line on a narrow goat path. You're 20 seconds from the finish line, but things can still go wrong here...just ask Loic Bruni!

Pump and pop, and make sure you go fast enough to clear the step-up that lies in ambush just ahead.

Tighter than it looks - keep it on the straight and narrow here, or you'll end up in the bushes.

Keep 'er lit...
..and send it! Your bike will hate you but rolling this is not an option.

And there you have it! The 2017 edition of the Lourdes World Cup track looks SICK, and we can't wait to see some action. Stay tuned!

Who will be left standing victorious in this awesome arena come Sunday? Only time will tell!

Photos and words by Johan Hjord

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