With the first Mercedes-Benz Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup just around the corner, it’s time to introduce some exciting additions to the Red Bull TV pundit and commentary line-up.
Tracey Hannah and Eliot Jackson join the downhill coverage as Red Bull TV injects some fresh expertise and views into the live broadcast for those World Cup races. The insight of riders who have only very recently left the World Cup circuit will add a new dimension to the coverage.
Don't panic, these new faces for the downhill coverage doesn't mean Claudio Caluori is disappearing from the TV screen. He'll still be on the coverage, while Rob Warner, who has been the voice of the mountain bike World Cup for over ten years nows, continues as the ever-reliable lead commentator.
Hannah will join Warner in the commentary booth for the women’s races, whilst Jackson will alternate with long-time expert, Caluori, for the men’s races.
On the cross-country side of things, the dynamic duo of Warner and Bart Brentjens remain as anchors for coverage of the women's and men's short track and main cross-country races.
In welcoming the new additions to the downhill broadcast team, Warner said: “With Eliot and Tracey, I know that they are going to open my eyes and the viewers' eyes. They are as fresh as you can get and they know what’s up. They’ll bring new things to the table and I’m really looking forward to learning from them. I wouldn’t touch Bart with a barge pole – I think he’s irreplaceable. He knows everything.”
Let’s get to know our downhill and cross-country experts a bit better.
Caluori is a seven-time Swiss National Downhill Champion, who, after retiring, went on to run his own downhill team [Gstaad-Scott] and set up Velosolutions, a company that builds pump tracks around the world.
Caluori has been a World Cup commentator alongside Warner for eight years and along the way has hit up many web views for his much-loved course preview POVs from the World Cup venues. He's as excited as ever for the 2021 downhill season!
He said: “Can Aaron Gwin fight his way back to winning? Will Greg Minnaar continue his miraculous story? Can Reece Wilson perform with the Rainbow stripes? Can Matt Walker win a race? It’s set to be one of the most exciting seasons ever!”
Caluori cites singing with Warner, following Greg Minnaar’s 20th World Cup win in Lousã last year, as one of his favourite commentary moments. Caluori believes that the two ex-racers complement each other in commentary and have formed a great working relationship, adding that there is “no need to try to be louder than him!”
Best of Claudio 2017
Hannah is fresh into World Cup race retirement having ended her stellar career at last year’s final World Cup round in Lousã. Hannah's career spanned thirteen years and included eleven Australian National titles, five World Championship medals, a Junior World Championship title and winning the 2019 overall World Cup title.
With that background there is no one better-positioned to predict the outcome of races. And with an intimate knowledge of the tracks and the friendship of many of the riders, Hannah will look to offer up fresh insight, especially on the mental side of racing.
“I am looking forward to a full season. I believe everyone will have worked really hard and be super excited to race and the competition will be fierce," said Hannah. "I also cannot wait to be back in the scene on the sidelines enjoying the racing without the nerves!”
There will be some nerves for Hannah when she steps into the commentary booth for the first time but she is eager to learn about her new trade from Warner. With Warner by her side it will at least never be boring says Hannah! Looking ahead to 2021, who are Hannah's one to watch in the women's category?
“It’s hard to say after a weird 2020 – there will be some surprises for us all but I believe that Valentina Höll will be one to watch. She is an underdog in the sense that she hasn’t shown us what she has in amongst the Elites yet. Also, I think Marine Cabirou is coming into her own more and more and cold be the one to catch.”
Jackson was one of the most likeable downhill riders in the paddock while competing and since retiring from racing full-time the 30-year-old American is still as popular. Known for crunching racing data like no-one else, Jackson describes himself as “nerdy, curious and determined”. Jackson is also proud of starting the Grow Cycling Foundation, which promotes education, access and opportunities that increase diversity and inclusion in cycling.
Jackson has of course been seen on Red Bull TV's World Cup coverage with track-side analysis in the past but we will now hear his voice alongside Warner as they talk us through the racing. What can we expect from him?
“I hope I can bring some interesting insights on why riders make the decisions they make and I hope to educate the fans on why the things riders do are so difficult! I am also looking forward to some banter with Rob. I am looking forward to learning from him, having him make me laugh, and me giving him a hard time live on TV!”
And what does Jackson expect from the men's racing?
“I think it will be interesting to see what has stuck from last year. There were so many shake-ups and the short season meant many riders may have been out of their element. Can Matt Walker and Reece Wilson defend what they earned last year? My riders to watch are probably the same as my underdogs: Charlie Harrison and Luca Shaw in the men's and Veronica Widmann in the women's."
Warner's voice is synonymous with mountain bike World Cup racing and this season he is returning for his twelfth season of commentary, his tenth with Red Bull TV. As ever, Warner will be hosting the downhill and cross-country broadcasting and commentating on the races, asking the questions and eking out the info from the experts as well as keeping us all entertained. So, what does the man himself think he brings to the show?
“I live it. I wouldn’t say it’s as emotional as riding, but it’s not far off sometimes. I put everything in – for the people at home, but perhaps more out of respect for the riders. I normally finish a commentary, go back to my hotel room, collapse face down on the bed and sleep for 45 minutes!”
We all know from Warner that he won a downhill World Cup race, as he has mentioned it several times on comms, but he is actually prouder of his three National Championship titles. His transition from rider to commentator is however his proudest achievement of all.
“To come out of my riding career and be a commentator for Red Bull, that’s my greatest achievement, without a doubt. It was the most difficult and most rewarding thing in my life. I feel very lucky and privileged to have been the soundtrack to so many great racing moments.”
After a tumultuous 2020, Warner – like the rest of us – is very much looking forward to a near-full calendar of racing and a chance for riders to really test themselves across multiple venues. He is most looking forward to the return to Snowshoe for the World Cup finale, where he’s placing early bets on Loris Vergier and Valentina Höll to take the titles in Downhill.
Brentjens has had his finger on the pulse of cross-country mountain bike racing for over 25 years. He raced in the 1990s into the 2000s and has been an Olympic and World Champion. In 2009 he started his own professional team which continues on today.
As a team manager he follows the sport and riders year-round, taking a genuine interest in the development of young riders and how their careers unfold, as well as being in contact with people throughout the mountain bike industry.
The proud Dutchman has been commentating alongside Warner for ten years and has loved it from the very first moment. There is huge amount of respect between them.
For 2021, how does he expect the season to unfold
“I think the riders will be on another level to anything we have seen before; racing will be faster and harder than ever, and with the season we had last year, the riders are really motivated to take everything they can get. Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock racing this year already has been especially exciting, and Loana Lecomte – I think she will make it hard for Pauline Ferrand-Prevot this year.”
Let the Red Bull TV commentary team guide you through all the UCI MTB World Cup action coming up in 2021.