The world Cup season comes to an end and with it sealed a brand new top 3! Not spared by injury – like each season – the women’s field found its new champions. Spectacular races, unexpected moves that sealed victories, incredible performances, drama, consistency, and progression; all the words that describe such a tight season (30 points difference between 1st and 2nd overall).
We’ve asked to the top 3 of this year to speak about their season and their approach to racing: Tracey Hannah, Marine Cabirou and Veronika Widmann.
Describe your season in one word?
Tracey Hannah: Intense
Marine Cabirou: Awesome
Veronika Widmann: Rollercoaster
How do your achievements this year match your goals from the start of the year?
Tracey: My goal was to be competitive at the World Championships and race for wins at world cups; I would say my results exceeded expectations.
Marine: My goals for this year were to be always in the top 5, and as much as possible in the top 3 and have at least one victory. I think this season I've made progress and I arrived at all of my goals!
Veronika: That’s so crazy. I had one top 5 last year and my goal was to repeat that. I would have never dreamed of ending the season like this. I know there were a lot of riders out because of injuries this season but the times were close, especially this last race in Snowshoe was showing that I’m able to do it and I should set my goals higher.
Is there one thing you can’t survive without for racing?
Tracey: My mechanic Jamie.
Marine: My Bluegrass helmet of course because we do extreme sport and it's a sport with a lot of risks, we can't control it every time. That is the most important thing that can save our life!
Veronika: The music I’m listening to before my race run.
What was your biggest difficulty to overcome this season and what was your greatest strength?
Tracey: The mental challenge that comes with leading the world cup all year and I’d say in the end that became my biggest strength.
Marine: My biggest difficulty was probably the pressure for the World Championship because I won the last two World Cups just before and everybody was talking about me and everything... My greatest strength was probably my good mood because I think I'm just so lucky to be here and to live like this. I enjoyed every moment this season!
Veronika: The biggest difficulty for me this season was to keep believing and have confidence in myself. I had some good results but also so many crashes in races witch made me doubt so much as well. As a top 5 elite woman I was in A practice for most of the season which sometimes was great but sometimes I felt in the wrong place as well and couldn’t practice confidently. I think the greatest strength was to keep going, getting over things, getting up after crashes and trying again. In the end for the last race it worked out and I’m so happy about it.
What was your favourite and least favourite track this season and why?
Tracey: I loved Snowshoe even though it was extremely hard, it was my favourite track for sure. Val di sole is my least favourite it’s the furthest from what I am good at and used to.
Marine: Val di Sole was of course my favorite because it's a really downhill track like I love steep, technical and just awesome! Especially because I had my first win on this amazing track! My least favourite was maybe Leogang because the track was very easy and looks like a typical bike park track.
Veronika: My favourite track I have to say Val di Sole, physically and technically that’s what I like the most! I think every track was good this year, each one was different and had its own characteristics. For me Les Gets was the hardest one because I felt least confident.
There was a lot of creativity with lines this year, what helps you to decide during the track walk?
Tracey: I think having an open mind, experience and a good imagination for how fast you will be riding the track during practice.
Marine: The line choice isn't easy every time but during the track walk I'm talking a lot with my teammates and they're helping me to decide which is the best line.
Veronika: Doing so many races helps a lot to be able to pick good lines straight away. It just comes naturally. For me it’s important to do the track walk with my team so we can discuss our opinions about stuff. Especially Harry, he has a very good eye for good lines and knowing already on track walk day where you have to go is so important.
Do you change your bike set-up a lot from first practice to race-day?
Tracey: Yes, every weekend I change my bike heaps, tire pressures, suspension etc. Every track is so different and we were racing for .000 of seconds this year.
Marine: Yes, especially my suspension setting with Jordy from Fox Suspension in every race and maybe also every day from practice until the race day. Also I change my position on my bike with my mechanic, from the first day of training depending on the track.
Veronika: For this weekend I dropped a few psi in my fork because the first day was wet and so slippery. But then I kept it like that and it worked out fine. Usually we only do little adjustments on race weekends.
How do you learn your limits when racing, particularly when it comes to crashing?
Tracey: I think that you learn as you go, crashing and injuries unfortunately teach you the most about where your limits are.
Marine: It isn't easy to find the limits because in our sport just a little mistake with lines, braking too late, or something like that, can push you to make a mistake! For example I had a crash during my race run in Leogang, I came into a technical section with more speed than usual and I couldn’t take my own line, I was a little bit too much inside in the corner and my two wheels slipped! I learn every time about my limits, race after race.
Veronika: I kind of had to work that out this season. There were quite a few races where I made stupid mistakes and crashed. Sometimes it just happens but I figured out a lot of the time it happened because I just didn’t practice well enough, and then I went a lot faster in the race and I was just not used to that speed, and made mistakes. For sure its something I need to work on.
What does your off-season look like and what is your training plan?
Tracey: I am currently on holiday so its looking good right now. I think I will go into the off-season extremely motivated and excited to work in a similar direction I did this offseason. Train hard, dream big, ride fast…
Marine: During the off-season I enjoy time with my family and friends, travel a little bit... I also do many different sports like motorbiking, climbing, squash... and of course I do lots of testing with my team and sponsors! About my training plan, I talk a lot with my coach Nicolas Filippi and we decide together what is best for me and what I want to do!
Veronika: Now for sure I will have a little break, relax before I think about next year but I’m already so motivated for next season because I know there are still so many things I need to work on. Last year my winter preparation wasn’t that great and I definitely want to change that and work on it.