If you have a device which supports the Red Bull TV streaming app, you can watch the full/mostly full runs for the Downhill Worldcup events. *OH, they also have a functional website, now.
There are 7 or 8 courses in the full circuit. While an individual win at each stop is highly prized—you also accumulate points for an overall win, at the end. Then they also have a single world championship event, in which many other teams who don’t do the world cup circuit, enter additional riders. And its sort of a one-off event, with a much larger pool to potentially beat you. And its a separate win/trophy, from the world cup overall.
Anyhow, the camerawork is decent enough that you get a pretty good view of the action and I find it to be pretty enjoyable to watch. They show complete runs of the top 6 or so qualifiers, at each course, which is pretty amazing. and partial runs of several others, before the top 6 go. They still have some work to do on production, as they have several errors in syncing camera changes. But its really quite enjoyable. Also, they don’t show you in the on screen graphics, which team/bike brand each rider is racing for. So even as someone who knows about biking, half the time I’m not sure which brand they are on. (some of the time the commentators will say. Some of the time they have a jersey one which is obvious. Some of the time, I can recognize the bikes themselves. But its getting tougher, as a lot of brands are doing similar shapes now. More so than in the past).
As with some other sports, the competitiveness and skill level of the Women is on a sharp rise and its a really interesting time to watch. There is a family of riders, the Athertons. Two brothers and their sister, Rachel Atherton (sidenote: they have a pretty cool show called “The Atherton Project”, which summarizes their biking exploits in 10 minute bites. For about 10 years now).
Spoiler, Rachel Atherton won every single world cup event in 2016. She rides more like a man, than any of the other women. but that is starting to change, as her dominance has lit a fire. If you want to go back and watch the 2017 season, I won’t spoil that.
However, Red Bull’s app and site are absolutely terrible for navigation. On the app, search “UCI” and you should be able to bring up a UCI Mercedes Bens mountain bike master menu, which gives you branching access to previous seasons, and the current season, of Downhill (they also have XC and cross riding). From there, you can watch the individual stops, separate into Women’s and Men’s episodes.
The Red Bull site does not have a master menu, so you kinda just have to sift through “related” videos and such. its a pain.
Here is the 2018 schedule and I have taken the liberty to link stuff.
June 2-3: Fort William, Scotland (this course is pretty fantastic for entertainment value. Its longer, so you uave more time to wtap your brain around a run. and also a bit less technical. More flowy and has lots of jumps at the end. would be a good one to start with, although you will likely spoil the winners at Croatia.)
July 7-8: Val di Sole, Italy
July 14-15: Vallnord, Andorra
August 11-12: Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada
August 25-26: La Bresse, France
September 4-9: WChamps Lenzerheide, Switzerland
P.S. I do recommend watching a complete episode, to get a feel for the events and the format. But, I tend to skip ahead. For the Women, skipping about 9.5 minutes ahead, usually skips you past the qualifier stuff and on to the final runs. Which is the important part. For the men, its about 15 minutes to skip in each episode. Unfortunately, the bit where they show you a gopro view of each course, is kinda randomnly inserted. So I usually end up skipping over it.
If you wish to watch the 2017 season, here is the schedule. Should make it a bit easier to find it if you know what to search for (try something like "UCI DH + name of location).
29-30 April - France Lourdes
3-4 June - United Kingdom Fort William
10-11 June - Austria Leogang
1-2 July - Andorra Vallnord
8-9 July - Switzerland Lenzerheide
5-6 August - Canada Mont-Sainte-Anne
26-27 August - Italy Val di Sole
*notes about what to watch for: The commentators are pretty decent. But, you’ll get a visual feel for how fast riders are moving. and just keep mental note of the last riders, vs the one you are currently watching. Camera angles are mostly the same, so you can sort of mentally catalog how fast a rider moves across each camera and compare riders that way. Also note how stable a riders bike is through rough stuff and/or or how smoothly or stiffly their suspension is tuned. Their body english. If they seem smooth when landing jumps. if they are leaning back or forward down drops or particularly steep/rough sections. If they are standing while doing pedaling sprints or sitting. All are visual indications of how well/not well a rider is doing. For the Women in particular, how far forward they land after a jump, is often a great indicator of their speed. Suspension tune and overall tune/suitability of a bike can make a huge different on the course. And then of course, you have time comparisons to look at, with several check points on each course to give indications of progress or regress.
**I can be more specific about some of that stuff, if someone asks about it.
***There are now 3 styles of bike to listen for. 26 inch wheels. 27.5 inch wheels (also known as “650b”) and 29 inch wheels. Basically, larger wheels have more rotating mass, so the bike can potentially roll faster. Also, the wheel is physically larger in comparison to the same bumps with a 26 inch wheel. So, theoretically less affected by bumps. And 29ers have more rubber in contact with the ground. So, traction can be better. However, a 29er in particular, means a bigger bike. This can sometimes mean the bike is less nimble, especially on technical courses. and since they have more rotating mass, can be more work to pedal. The commentators don’t often mention when a rider is using 27.5. But they almost always mention 29ers. So, listen for it. And finally, some tall guys like 29ers as a rule, because the bikes fit them better. However, it all comes down to rider skill, bike tune, and the harmony between them. a 29er on a long fast course, does not automatically mean faster times compared to a 26er. and a 26er on a tight and technical course, does not necessarily mean better times.
29ers have only been used in pro downhill, for maybe 3 years. So, its a new thing. You don’t need to remember all of those details. But do understand that its new and the bikes are bigger, so its a different style of riding.