Since its first event in 1999, Maribor has always been a rider favourite. Its mix of fast, open sections and punishing technical parts, combined with a constant gradient and roaring crowd, make it a welcome stop during any World Cup season. Of course, we have to mention Maribor's iconic rock garden – 100-ish metres of precision gambling as riders attempt to hit inch-perfect lines and avoid clipping a pedal, sinking a front wheel or flatting a tyre.
Gee Atherton GoPro course preview – Maribor
In its 20-plus year history, Maribor has produced some of the sport’s greatest stories. Here are five of those unforgettable moments from its downhill World Cup races.
1. Loïc Bruni makes it a first win for the mullet, 2019
Loïc Bruni's winning DH run – Maribor
Downhill mountain biking has something of an obsession with wheel sizes. Each increase in wheel diameter is supposed to herald a new wave of possibilities and it's fair to say that average speeds have definitely increased with every jump – from 26in to 27.5in and then 27.5in to 29in. At the start of the 2019 season, though, the UCI introduced a new rule stating that the two wheels on a downhill racing bike don't have to be the same size, paving the way for the mullet setup where bikes have a 29in wheel on the front and 27.5in wheel on the back.
The logic of the mullet is that you have a front wheel that can track over any obstacles and a more agile back wheel. It didn't take long for it to have an impact, either. Wearing the rainbow stripes of a world champion, Frenchman Loïc Bruni looked instantly comfortable racing on his new mixed-wheel setup, beating another mullet convert, Britain's Danny Hart, to the top spot by 0.44 seconds.
2. A sign of things to come from Rachel Atherton, 2007
With so many elements to get right – or wrong – along the track, rarely does anyone pull out a perfect run. But when they do, the margin of victory can be massive.
In 2007, an up-and-coming Rachel Atherton laid down a run of the sort that would soon become her trademark. With just one World Cup to her name, Atherton truly tore it apart this time around, securing a huge win of more than eight seconds from second-placed Tracy Moseley.
3. Rachel Atherton returns to smash the field, 2010
On the face of it, everything pointed to a French winner in the 2010 women's race. The top four qualifying spots were all occupied by French riders – Myriam Nicole, Floriane Pugin, Celine Gros and Sabrina Jonnier. Another thing stacked in the favour of the French was that Rachel Atherton, who had six World Cup wins to her name to this point, was making her first appearance at a World Cup since 2008, after missing the whole of the 2009 season due to injury.
Despite riding with a broken finger, Atherton absolutely killed her run on a sodden Maribor track to win with a time that was nine seconds ahead of Jonnier. Outstanding. Her brother Gee narrowly missed out on the top spot in the men's race, losing out to South Africa's Greg Minnaar by just two-tenths of a second.
4. Loris Vergier does the double, 2020
Loris Vergier's winning run – Maribor race 1
He may have crashed out spectacularly in 2019, but Loris Vergier wasn't deterred. Perhaps he was even more motivated to get his own back. Either way, he did more than just keep it upright in 2020. The Frenchman had a determined air about him as downhill World Cup racing took to its first-ever double-header event (with two rounds of the series in the same week), and his focus proved fruitful, as he took not just one but two wins in as many races. In the space of a week, Vergier tripled his World Cup wins count.
5. Nina Hoffmann steps it up, 2020
Nina Hoffmann's winning run – Maribor Race 2
Nina Hoffmann burst onto the women's scene in 2018, with a rapid rise to the top ranks of elite racing. Still, while the German rider's full-commitment riding took her to the podium in just her sixth World Cup race, it would take a series of highs, lows and rollercoaster rides (who can forget her shoeless finish in Vallnord 2019?) to go one better. It all came together in 2020's Round 2 and Hoffmann completed a clean, full-throttle run to take a well-earned first World Cup win.
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