iXS Swiss Downhill Cup - The Beginnings
In 2003 iXS entered into its long-lasting relationship with the downhill discipline as the main sponsor of the Swiss Downhill series and it has been quite a ride since then. It almost felt like a revival of the discipline back then with a total of seven E2 races. As the series became known for its high standards and high-quality races that were officially recognized by the UCI as well, it soon developed into a magnet for athletes from all over Switzerland and the surrounding countries. Some of the most successful athletes that should be mentioned here were René Wildhaber (champion of seasons 2003 and 2004) and four-time Swiss Champion Claudio Caluori.
After that, Nick Beer was the only Swiss rider that actually managed to take the title twice, while his brother Marcel Beer and after him many others including Ludovic May, Fabian Bieli, Alexandre Lohner, Noel Niederberger, Martin Frei and Basil Weber were one-time champions of the iXS Swiss Downhill Cup only. Among the female riders Miriam Ruchti, Carina Cappellari and Alba Wunderlin each took the title twice, and Emilie Siegenthaler, Martina Brühlmann and Lea Rutz once.
Over the years some of the SDC’s venues became fixed parts of the series. Morgins, for example, has been one of the hosts right from the start and Wiriehorn already hosted 14 SDC races. Bellwald entered the stage 2009 and has become the annual venue for the season finals. Unfortunately, Bellwald is now the only venue that still hosts an international race in Switzerland.
iXS German Downhill Cup - The Next Step
After three successful seasons in Switzerland the series under the iXS brand name was exported to Germany. Following the tradition of the German national league by the BDR until 2004 and the Mountain Bike Rider series in 2005, the iXS German Downhill Cup was hosted for the first time in 2006. In this first season the series took the riders to high-class downhill venues like Bad Wildbad, Rittershausen, Todtnau and Ilmenau, crowning Frank Schneider and Antje Kramer as the first ever iXS German Downhill Cup Champions.
While the Hardtail category disappeared over the course of time, lots of other contests popped up everywhere and stories were not only written on the race track. There were side events from the Dirt Jump Contest to the Absolute Auffahrt or even dual slalom courses were staked out faster than the format would have been explained today.
In 2007, the Germans had to give way to Nick Beer from Switzerland in the Elite Men category, while Harriet Rücknagel held up the German pride among the female riders. In the next season, however, Frank Schneider took back his title and also Antje Kramer led the female categories for a few years in a row until she had to give way to the new female protagonists of the series, including two-time champion Sandra Rübesam, also two-time champion Nicole Beege. In the following years Franziska Meyer and Maria Franke were the queens of the iXS German Downhill Cup. In 2016, Nina Hoffmann suddenly appeared and took first place in the series ranking, which she repeated the very next year. In 2018 it was Kim Schwemmer who took the overall victory, after she had always finished second three years earlier.
Among the male protagonists of the series during the last years, you definitely have to mention Marcus Klausmann: after all, 15 times German Champion, World Cup winner and vice champion in the World Cup rankings make for a quite impressive downhill vita! Although he has now retired from active racing, he has now sent his offspring into racing. But in the overall ranking of the German Cup, there were a few names that could immortalize themselves as winners in the statistics. Riders like Andreas Sieber, Benny Strasser, Jasper Jauch, Rick Balbierer und Christian Textor took the overall title over the years.
iXS Dirt Masters - Europe's Largest Gravity Festival
Another event that officially belongs to the iXS family is the Dirt Masters Festival in Winterberg. Since 2006 riders and spectators from all over Germany and even from other countries make their way to the Hochsauerland every year and it gets bigger and more popular every time! Traditionally, the festival also hosts one of the races of the iXS Downhill Cup and over the years it lured some riders of the absolute downhill Elite to the bike park Winterberg with Gee Atherthon (GBR), Mick Hannah (AUS) or Aaron Gwin (USA Most recently, the New Zealander Edward Masters (2016), Greg Williamson from Great Britain (2017), David Trummer from Austria (2018) and the South African Theo Erlangsen (2019) dominated the race in Winterberg, which underlines the international character of the series.
iXS European Downhill Cup - On The Way Up
In 2007 iXS made their first move towards a European series with the iXS Middle European Cup, consisting of three races in Scoul (SUI), Leogang (AUT) und Bad Wildbad (GER). This series was the foundation and stepping stone that finally brought a series between the national series and the World Cup. In Leogang, big names like Matti Lehikoinen (FIN), Brendan Fairclough (GBR) and Nico Vink (BEL) were on the podium.
The Swiss dominated this test run with Dominik Gspan and Miriam Ruchti as winners of the overall ranking of the three races. As a result, the iXS European Downhill Cup came into life in 2008 and invited riders from all over Europe to five races in five different countries: Scoul (SUI), Canazai (ITA), Chatel (FRA), Ilmenau (GER) und Leogang (AUT). The main protagonists of the new EDC were Nick Beer and Miriam Ruchti who won each the cup three and four times.
From 2012 onwards, the overall lead changed fast, crowning for example Markus Pekoll (AUT), Robin Wallner (SWE), Miran Vauh (SLO), David Trummer (AUT), Johannes Fischbach (GER), Slawomir Lukasik (POL), Jure Zabjek (SLO), Joshua Barth (GER) and just recently Constantin Ruetsch (SUI) in the male categories. In the Elite Women categories won the overall ranking Emmeline Ragot (FRA), Zarja Cernilogar (SLO) who died too soon, Eleonora Farina (ITA) and Monika Hrastnik (SLO) twice. Veronika Widmann (ITA) was at the top last year.
The Cup completely fulfils its position as the link between national race series and the World Cup, which already becomes clear if you have a look at the number of riders who register for the single races and of course by the high-class riders themselves. The races in Maribor and Pila even provide the EDC riders with real World Cup tracks. In 2012 legendary Greg Minnaar (RSA), Steve Smith (CAN) and Gee Atherton (GBR) entered the stage of the EDC: a record World Cup champion, World Cup champion 2013 and double world champion – what a line up!
One of the highest-class spectacles ever hosted as part of the iXS European Downhill Cup was Schladming 2015. In the Elite Men category 2011 and 2016 world champion Danny Hart (GBR) succeeded only split seconds apart from George Brannigan (NZL). Last year’s world champion Loic Bruni completed the podium. In the Elite Women category double world champion Emmeline Ragot (FRA) took yet another title, followed by Tahnée Seagrave (GBR) and Tracey Hannah (AUS). Recently, it is now the season opener in Maribor, where the world elite will have the honour of taking part. Laurie Greenland (GBR) Amaury Pierron (FRA) and Brook MacDonald (NZL) were the top three of 2018, while in the women's race Myriam Nicole (FRA), Tracey Hannah (AUS) and Monika Hrastnik (SLO) finished on the podium. Last year it was Matt Walker (GBR), Danny Hart (GBR) and Charlie Harrison (USA) in the men's race and Tracey Hannah (AUS), Nina Hoffmann (GER) and Monika Hrastnik (SLO) in the women's race who showed with these results what would follow in the season. With a field of starters like this it is no surprise that the Cup grows more and more popular and still keeps spreading.
Rookies Cup - The Next Generation Of Riders
In addition to the series for the pro and elite riders, iXS also started to provide young riders, amateurs and downhill rookies with their very own series when they introduced the iXS Rookies Cup. From the age of 11 years onwards young racers can participate in their first races to prepare them for what is to come once they start their professional downhill career. Since it was introduced in 2008 the RDC has already shown some results serving as the starting point of some great careers.
For example, the later Junior European Champion Max Hartenstern (GER) started out winning his first two races in the RDC in 2013 and his star has been continuing to rise ever since! His young career already includes two victories in the U17 overalls of the iXS German Downhill Cup and later he also won the Junior overalls of the iXS European Downhill Cup. We are curious when he will finally succeed in the World Cup. And also Ari Montanier (SUI) started out in the iXS Rookies Cup in 2011 and was later a two-time Swiss champion. The probably most successful protagonist of the Rookies Cup is certainly Vali Höll (AUT), who was able to work her way up bit by bit and is now one of the biggest female talents in the Downhill World Cup. This is exactly what we had in mind when we started this series: the best possible preparation for a successful and promising downhill career. Incidentally, the series has been known as the Specialized Rookies Cup since 2017 and will be called the Specialized RockShox Rookies Cup from 2020.
iXS International Rookies Championships - Setting the Stage for Tomorrow's Champions
For six years in a row the Austrian Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis has been hosting championships for all those who are not allowed to participate in the UCI World Championshps. In categories ranging from U13 to U17 the youngest riders fight for the international title in a race that is broadcasted live on Pinkbike – all eyes on the youngest ones! If you succeed here, you will probably belong to the elite some day!
iXS Downhill Cup in South America - From Here to the Rest of the World
For the first time in iXS history the organizers were offered a chance to make their way to another continent for an iXS race in 2016. With one race each in Argentina and Chile a kind of franchise was tested for two years, which is now being continued with an organizer in Bulgaria since 2019.
Changes in the iXS Downhill Cup
In 2018 an important change was made, probably the most significant since the introduction of the individual series. The iXS German Downhill Cup merged with the iXS Swiss Downhill Cup to form the iXS Downhill Cup. The iXS Downhill Cup still retained some of its more national character, but was no longer limited to German and Swiss territory. In the past seasons, the German Cup already included some races outside of Germany, and some of these races proved to be extremely popular. Following this change, riders will be able to choose their races from a wider range and contribute a set number to the overall standings.
Thank You All for Your Work and Support!
All it needed was a vision, lots and lots of patience and commitment and this was exactly what iXS and the organizers were prepared to offer. During the past 18 years the organizers put lots of energy into the development and implementation of their ideas and the single series and they will continue to do so in the future, because their biggest passion is downhill! But of course, it all could never work without the different hosts and venues. There are so many volunteers, sport clubs and professional agencies which provide us with a variety of venues for out races and without them we wouldn’t be where we are right now.
And of course, it also would not have been possible without the help of our various sponsors funding our projects over the years. iXS has already been mentioned over and over again, because they do not only fund projects with their money, but support the downhill discipline in many other areas as well. But also all the other sponsors are a huge part of the series. Maxxis has been supporting the series for years, Red Bull is the official sponsor of the Hot Seat, BMO has now also been on board for three years and Spank completes the portfolio of our sponsors. In the field of the Rookies Cup, Specialized has established itself as a title sponsor since 2017 and now RockShox joins them this year.