Cami Balanche Wins World Cup DH Season Opener
For the first time since 2017, the World Cup Downhill series returned to legendary Lourdes, France as the first stop of the 2022 season. Offering a home soil advantage for many the French riders including the reigning French National Champion Benoît Coulanges, despite early weather forecast predictions of rain and potential snow, the conditions help off and allowed for some unbelievable racing that ended with a win plus three additional podium finishes for the TLD bike crew.
Camille Balanche was the big winner of the day and had an impressive ride to her third consecutive season opening victory. Coming off of a fourth place qualifying result with a time of 3:24.162, Cami learned from her quali run, made some adjustments and dropped her time down by over four seconds to 3:19.983 in her final run to take the Elite Women's win. The Swiss National Champion's victory also lead her team to the overall honors for the day and will give Cami the leaders jersey and number one place for round two.
The defending overall series champion, Vali Höll was in top form for the opening round and looked more comfortable than ever to start her second year on the RockShox Trek Race Team. Starting the weekend off perfect, Vali clocked the fastest time in qualifying to secure the last Elite Women's race run of the final. With the leader jersey and number one plate, Vali had a smooth ride in the final to secure a fourth place podium spot. "Happy about the weekend, my riding felt good, I trusted myself again, I got to experience to start last and did a race run which put me 4th in the world. Better than crashing, a lot to learn from that weekend and I can tell you I‘m hungry for more." - Vali Höll
The results give Camille Balanche 225 series points and the overall series lead and Vali Höll now sits in third with 175 points.
In the Elite Men's class, Benoît Coulanges was impressive as always. As the fifth fastest qualifier, by the time it was his turn the track was rough and physical. Attacking the track in front of his home crowd, the big man on the Commencal was going flat out for the win. Despite a bobble in the rock section, Benoît still somehow managed to finish the day on the podium with a fourth place finish. It's clear that Coulanges' speed will be a winning threat all season.
In one of the big moves of the off season, we finally got to see Luca Shaw make his debut on the Canyon Factory Team in Lourdes. It was easy to see that Luca has found his new home and things are going well for the top American rider. Shaw, like always, made his race run look effortless on the physically demanding track. Crossing the line up a second to the nearest competitor with a time of 2:50.142, Luca got some hot seat time and wasn't dethroned until Benoît Coulanges through down a fast run. Luca would go on to earn a fifth place podium finish and claim top USA honors as the only American on the podium and in the top ten.
After round one, men's overall standings have Benoît Coulanges in fourth with 147 series points and Luca Shaw in fifth with 125 points.