Just two weeks after the start of the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, the XC team went to the second race of the UCI MTB World Cup on Monday. Cairns / Australia hosts the second World Cup of the year and also hosts the first triple World Cup 2014 with the disciplines XCO, XCE and Downhill. The last UCI race in Cairns was 18 years ago and so the Australian drivers in particular are highly motivated to win here. But the otherwise so summery Australian Down Under is currently showing itself from a completely different, wetter side. There has been heavy rainfall since the beginning of the week, which means that the track is becoming increasingly soft and the first practice session on Wednesday turned out to be a veritable mud battle.
In these conditions it is difficult to predict who will come out on top in Sunday's race. However, looking at the starter list initially seems quite meager. Only 54 riders have registered for the World Cup in Australia, the trip seems too expensive and time-consuming for the many European riders. First and foremost Nino Schurter. The Swiss, who suffered a puncture while in the lead in Pietermaritzburg, misses the World Cup – he is contesting his first road race. Julien Absalon, who benefited from Schurter's defection and won in South Africa, will meet Jaroslav Kulhavy for the first time this season. The fast Czech had to cancel the first World Cup because of flu and is starting the season a little late. Manuel Fumic, strong second in Pietermaritzburg, will also start in Cairns. He will want to build on his good result and consolidate his position in the overall standings. Four other German men traveled to Australia with him: Moritz Milatz, Markus Schulte-Lünzum, Simon Gegenheimer and Steffen Thum.
In addition to Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa, who did not travel to Australia because of her son, the women are also missing two-time marathon world champion Annika Langvad and Blaza Klemencic.
However, this does not mean that Jolanda Neff is heading towards a secure start-to-finish victory. The winner from South Africa will have to deal with Alexandra Engen, Tanja Zakelj and Sabine Spitz. But the starting field for the women is also very manageable with 35 riders.
As usual, the live stream from the race on Sunday is available www.redbull.tv