Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dirtmasters Festival / iXS GDC #1 - Winterberg

The Dirtmasters Festival in Winterberg is often referred to as the European version of the legendary Crankworx-Festival. And despite the fact that Winterberg is much smaller than good old Whistler, the comparison is fairly accurate actually. The Dirtmasters Festival consists of several competitions, ranging from speed-disciplines such as Fourcross and Downhill to style-oriented disciplines like the Slopestyle event. And just like in Whistler, tons of companies show up to show their latest and greatest products, tons of people show up to watch the bike action and get drunk, tons of riders show up to compete against each other... the list goes on and on!

Welcome to Winterberg!

My brother Joz and I arrived in Winterberg on Wednesday in order to set up our tent and get a few runs in on the Downhill track before the masses would arrive. Our plan was to compete in the first round of the iXS German Downhill cup, which was actually completely sold out within a few hours. In addition to that, we were obviously looking forward to watching all the other competitions, hang out with our friends, walk across the exhibition area and enjoy the weekend.

On Thursday, the iXS Rookie Downhill Cup took place on one of the well-known tracks in Winterberg. Although called Rookie Cup, the level of riding was far from "Rookie" and a lot of the spectators were blown away by the level of riding. In addition to watching the race, we also managed to walk the track for the upcoming downhill race which looked like a ton of fun, despite being fairly short.

The atmosphere was great as usual.

The track started with a good-sized jump followed by a fairly flat, pedalling-section before entering the woods. All the wooded sections were really fast and constantly changed due to a constant stream of riders on track. The entire course was flowing very well. It certainly wasn't the most difficult or longest track ever but this actually meant that racing on the track would be quite challenging. One mistake and your race run was pretty much over since times were extremely close.

Practice on the track was a ton of fun. Waiting in line to get back up the mountain... well, not as much fun as riding. But this is what happens when more than 500 people decide to practice and race on a course that is just a little over 1.5km in length. Except for waiting in line, the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday were great and both Joz and I felt really comfortable on track.

Having fun on the track! / credit:

On his last run before qualifyers, Joz somehow managed to snap the damper unit of his fork in half. Luckily the guys at Sram fixed his fork for free but he had to ride his qualifying run on a borrowed fork that he'd never ridden before, so he had to ride very conservatively. Despite that, he managed to qualify in 24th position with a 2:06. My qualifier went well and I didn't make any major mistakes but for some reason my time wasn't very good. I qualified in 75th position out of around 150 people with a 2:15. I was fairly happy with my position but at the same time, I knew that I was a bit off my own pace so I was looking to improve my time come race day.

On Saturday night, we watched the SKS Slopestyle where some of the best riders in the world threw down some amazing tricks, including double backflips, triple tailwhips, 360 double whips and so on. Personally slopestyle or dirt jumping isn't exactly my cup of tea but I was absolutely blown away by the level of riding. Thousands of spectators were standing along the course and made for a great atmosphere. In the end, Martin Soderstrom took the win in a convincing manner.

The slopestyle was amazing to watch!

Come Sunday, I was well-prepared to give it all that I could in my race run. I felt great right before the start but for some reason messed up one of the first corners, almost sliding out. Apart from that, everything was going very well and I was riding notably quicker than in the qualifiers. With the finish line almost in sight, my bike slid out underneath me and before I knew what was happening, I hit the ground. I managed to get back on my bike but once again my race run was pretty much over. I crossed the finish line with a 2:19 way back in 96th place. Without crashing, I most likely would have gotten a Top 50 result out of 150 riders so I wasn't too devastated.

Joz rode very well in his finals run but made a few little mistakes that cost him some valuable time, especially on a track this short. He wasn't too happy with his race run but finished with a 2:05 which was good enough for 23rd position. He was less than 1.5 seconds off a top 10 finish which once again proves how close and competetive the racing was.

After our race runs, we headed up the mountain again to watch the pros take on the course. Unfortunately the race was delayed for close to an hour due to a fellow racer crashing extremely hard in the fastest and rockiest section of the course. Get well soon! In the end, German downhill legend Marcus Klausmann took the win ahead of Andi Sieber and US ripper Logan Binggeli.

Joz on his way to 23rd place out of 150 riders / credit:

Looking back at it now, the weekend really couldn't have gone any better. The racing was a lot of fun as was watching all the other events, the atmosphere was great with thousands of spectators, a lot of friends showed up to support us and while not exactly as well-known as Crankworx, the Dirtmasters Festival once again proved that it's most definitely worth visiting.

Cheers from Germany,
-Moritz Zimmermann