Words by Mike Rose
Photos by Nathan Hughes

At one minute, twenty-four seconds, I was literally jumping out of my seat, shouting at the TV screen as INTENSE Factory Racing’s Dakotah Norton went ‘green’ at split number two at the Lenzerheide Downhill World Cup. Around 30 seconds later I was shouting (actually, maybe I was screaming) at the TV for a different reason altogether. With over a one second lead Dak slid out on a dusty left and went down on some Swiss woodwork.

Every racer has individual goals… qualify, a top 20 finish, a top 10, maybe a podium. In reality those top five spots are only ever taken by a select few, but this time around it looked to be on.

Having stormed qualifying with second place, Dak obviously had the pace, the new M279 HP1 bike was working well, and conditions were prime. But downhill racing is a sport of super-fine margins. Through all the hustle and bustle, the rocks and the roots, there is a fine line to tread. Sure you can get away with stuff, glance a tree, go off-line, but sometimes that small error will kick you in the balls. And so it was for Dak.

Looking all set for a second place finish (or who knows, maybe even the win), Dak went down. It was game over, and it was agonizing. Crossing the line – having got back on his bike and ridden down the rest of the track (throwing in a toboggan off the last drop) – it was clear that he didn’t yet know just how good his run had been up to the crash. As the news got through to him you could see his attitude changed a little, the realization of what could have been.

“I’m so proud to be going for it. It’s sick to be racing at the front with the fastest dudes in the world… that’s cool. To be able to say that for a few splits I was debatably one of the fastest, if not the fastest, dudes... that’s like insane to me. Pretty cool.” Dak (Wyn TV)

With all the focus on Dak and his quali and finals run it is easy to forget about the rest of the team, especially Aaron Gwin and his super-solid performance for eleventh place.

“A great day of racing and another p11 for me. About a second off the podium and tightening the gap to where I want to be. Hard to be patient, but I’m happy with the improvements each weekend and enjoying the challenge. So bummed for my boy (Dak) and what could have been, but proud of him and our whole team. Loving these weekends, and can’t wait to do it all again in Andorra next week!” Aaron Gwin

Coming off the back of some amazing results at the Enduro World Series Seth Sherlock just missed the cut for finals by 0.7 second.

“I didn't push as hard as I should have. I’m upset with myself for trying to play it safe and not riding like I should have, but lesson learned. I won't make the same mistake again in Andorra.” Seth Sherlock

The highs and lows of racing are kind of why we love it. Downhill racing is a high stakes game where anything can happen. There’s no let-up, it’s onwards and upwards… round 5 at the all-new Vallnord track in Andorra is this coming weekend (July 16th).