Your 2021 4X World Champs Photo Report from Val di Sole, Italy

The stadium lights were illuminated and the start-gate charged for a small field of brave 4X racers at the 2021 Val di Sole World Champs.
Women’s finalists watching the gate.

Several beers after the World Championship e-bike race on Friday afternoon, the stadium lights were illuminated and the start-gate charged for a small field of brave 4X racers. For folks who aren’t familiar with the discipline, it’s essentially BMX racing on a serpentine downhill track with motocross-size jumps and drops. The fields are largely dominated by Olympic-level BMX athletes, though a few enduro pros like Raphaella Richter and Elliot Heap did well in their respective races.

The e-bike race earlier in the day took place on a short course with wall-climbs and technical segments down the 4X track, and the riders chose from a wide spectrum of bikes that span between hardtails and the long-travel sleds we typically see at the EWS-E races. The 4X event was no different, as nearly no one makes a bike specific to the discipline today. There were a few frames from the early 2000s in Friday’s race, designed when gravity BMX was more popular, and also several athletes on their enduro race bikes with reduced travel and increased pressure.

The World Champs 4X event has been held in Val di Sole multiple times, and the gaps on this track are still daunting despite any fancy frame and components innovations. Consequences for not making it to the landing can be dire and the smallest mistake will knock a rider out of the following heat.

They look small from here, but the transitions between these first drops are a few meters apart, so riders need to launch from the gate with a massive sprint to pump through them.
The dusty gravel made corners just as sketchy as the gaps.

Women’s final results

Men’s top ten final results

With two Czech world champions, will we see a bike company from their country making 4X and dual-slalom frames in the future?

Elliot Heap at full tilt.
Here’s some perspective on those first few drops. The fastest riders hit the transition precisely and pump through to the next.
Smashing in pedal strokes wherever possible.
Most of the athletes mounted downhill tires for the event.
This Yeti DJ was one of the oldest in the bunch.
Why not just sprint right over the top of it?
This was somehow saved.
This is the safe way to do it, but often the riders arrive at the lip of a jump all together and have to share air space with their wide handlebars.

Once the gravity party was dusted the silly-human festival continued with some table surfing backflips and dancing. Stay tuned for photo reports from the elite XC and DH races coming up this weekend.