Things are happening in quick succession in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. Just last weekend, the third World Cup of the year took place with Nove Mesto and the field of riders is already off to Albstadt in Baden-Württemberg – the home race of the German XC elite. What awaits us is here in the big preview:
Who are the big favourites?
He was able to celebrate his eleventh World Cup victory last weekend and is the man to beat: Nino Schurter. The fast Swiss builds on his very successful year and dominates the elite field like no other, but he also knows that he was lucky in Nove Mesto. Julien Absalon fell early in the race, losing time and rhythm as a result. And Kulhavy was also eliminated on lap one due to a defect.
Nevertheless, Julien Absalon is certainly on an equal footing with Schurter in Albstadt. He was already on his way to victory in 2013 before an irreparable defect put him in checkmate. He started this World Cup season with two victories and he explicitly made Albstadt his spring highlight. “The track suits me the most. I like Albstadt and the atmosphere there”, says the Frenchman who has won at least one World Cup race every year since 2003.
With Jaroslav Kulhavy it is currently still somewhat difficult to assess what he can achieve. A fracture of the kneecap in February and then an infection in April severely disrupted the preparation. However, if you take the first lap of Nove Mesto, when the usual slow-starting ex-world champion was just ten seconds behind Schurter and his compatriot Martin Fanger, then the form can't be bad at all.
There is a high probability that these three drivers will fight for victory among themselves. Nevertheless, names such as José Hermida, Maxime Marotte, Matthias Flückiger, Ondrej Cink and Stephane Tempier should be mentioned among the favourites. Daniel McConnell, who only appears at the very front in the closing stages and clears the field from behind is another candidate for the podium. Last year he won in Albstadt.
But now the most important question: Where are the German boys?
Moritz Milatz with third place in Nove Mesto emphatically got himself talked about, especially where the terrain in Bullenäle suits him very well. “My goal this spring was to be in top form at the two World Cups and the following European Championships. The fact that things went so well in Nove Mesto is a huge motivation for Albstadt. It always felt like a home race for me. I see the support from the audience here as an advantage.", explained Milatz at the press conference.
Manuel Fumic was already second at the start of the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, but was not in good shape in the past few races. If the machine works just as well again, then he is also: a podium contender. With the audience behind them, maybe both of them can surpass themselves.
For women, the field is more confusing when it comes to winning candidates. Three races, three different winners. Seven different drivers in the top 3. There was a real mix. With her impressive, declassifying victory in Nove Mesto, the 22-year-old Frenchwoman Pauline Ferrand Prevot has made herself the Albstadt favorite. Four weeks after the Fleche Wallone Road World Cup, she became the first woman to win a World Cup both on MTB and on asphalt. If it delivers such a performance again, the competition could bite its teeth again.
The competition is called, for example: Catharine Pendrel. Broke his collarbone on April 1st, finished second in Nove Mesto on May 25th. The Canadian's next race could be even stronger.
Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa not only has 28 World Cup victories to her credit and is thus in the lead together with Julie Furtado, who has long since retired, but has also collected 47 top three rankings. Because she has also chosen Albstadt as her form highlight, it could happen that the Multivan Merida driver increases both statistical records.
Jolanda Neff, the current leader in the overall standings and since her victory in Pietermaritzburg in April, the youngest World Cup winner of all time. So another statistics record holder. She could come close to 100 percent again after an infection. Annika Langvad, even a candidate for victory, especially on the route in Bullenäle.
Last year's winner Eva Lechner, who landed her number three World Cup victory in Cairns, Irina Kalentieva, who hasn't been far from the top in recent races, Emily Batty, second from Cairns and also starting to be ripe for her first World Cup win.
And the German women? Sure, Sabine Spitz. Training focused on Albstadt. And yet competitive at the first two stations. In Cairns, a defect prevented a possible second place, so it was "only" fourth. Perhaps not a candidate for victory, but with potential for a five-man podium: Adelheid Morath, a gifted climber who suits the Bullentaele terrain. She has also gained more confidence going downhill.
The course was overhauled last year for the first World Cup and will ensure exciting battles this year with the same route. Guido Tschugg made some significant changes to the route in spring 2013 and insisted on testing them together with Manuel Fumic.
09:30 XCE – Qualification
17:00 p.m. XCE – Finals
13:15 p.m. XCO – Junior Women
15:00 p.m. XCO – Juniors
17:00 p.m. XCO – Women U23
09:30 XCO – Men U23
11:30 a.m. XCO – Women’s Elite
14:00 p.m. XCO – Men’s Elite
The live stream for the individual races is available at www.redbull.tv