Allez, Allez, Le World Cup XC Team Relay / by Conor Cunningham

Team Relay Start Line

The Racing Begins

Racing has finally begun for the elite professionals taking part in the downhill and cross country racing this week in Hafjell. Today saw the largest ever field for the World Championships Team Relay. Current champions Italy had fierce competition along side them and the racing was fierce from the get go.

Italy's Luca Bradiot

Italy lead the field just before the first service pit, as illustrated by Italy's Luca Bradiot above. (On a side note, I was fishing with his brother and fellow professional racer, Daniele a few nights previous, but he, like me caught nothing but algae).

Denmark, Sweden and South Africa hot on Italy's heels.

Just behind Italy were Denmark, Sweden and South Africa and were gaining ground. I don't know what happened to Luca Bradiot on his lap, but he finished his lap well behind the field. My guess is that he suffered a mechanical as he didn't look as if he had crashed when he rode past.

Australia's Daniel McConnel seen here with number plate 12A

Daniel McConnel was Australia's first rider in the relay and he kept pace with the leaders for the duration of his lap, coming only a few places down before handing over to a team-mate.

Flags are meant for waving!

There was a good crowd out for a mid-week race. Some, quite stern like the Swiss above, and some others a little more boisterous and care-free

Josh Bryceland (L) and Steve Peat (R). Both World Cup Downhill winners and Steve, a World Champion.

The cross-country course is a mixture of technial, bike park, fierce climbing and some tricky descents. Below is Daniel McConnel navigating the start of a set of technical descents.

The fun stuff begins.

Not long after this section, things start to get very tricky.

Heia Sverige!

Sweden lead the race for the first lap, but soon someone else would take the lead. If only they could have kept it!

It's a lot steeper than it looks. Notice the angle at which the men are standing to the right.

The Australian above was the second of the four riders and at this point, he, and hence his team were leading the race. By the finish they were not to be so fortunate.

Come the end of the race, the French had taken the lead and one of their riders, pictured above rode the tricky descents with some panache.

About 12 minutes after this picture, they crossed the line victorious.

Félicitations France!