Posted by Editoress on 07/3/15
The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano returns this weekend in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, for the first double round of the season, bringing together the Downhill and Cross-country athletes. Lenzerheide, in the east of Switzerland, near the famous ski resorts of St Moritz and Davos, is a first-time host to the World Cup, and will hold events for the next three years, followed by the World Championships in 2018.
The competition begins with the Downhill, with qualifying held on Friday, followed by the final on Saturday. The course is short, steep and very fast. There are multiple rock gardens, rooty sections and jumps. The weather has been hot and dry, with more of the same expected for the race weekend. This has made many sections loose, so traction will be an issue.
For the women, the competition has come down to two riders for this fourth round - World Cup leader Rachel Atherton (GT Factory) and Round 1 winner Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker). Atherton holds an 85 point lead over Ragot after wins in the last two rounds, with Ragot the only other rider to win on the World Cup circuit this season. Tahnee Seagrave (FMD Racing) is a distant third, 224 points behind Atherton.
In the men's standings, Aaron Gwin (Specialized) holds a commanding 189 point lead over Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic) after his amazing win in Round 3 at Leogang, Austria, when he rode the entire course without a chain after it broke on his first pedal stroke. South African Greg Minnaar, winner of Round 2, is in third, but 211 points back.
The racing will conclude on Sunday with the Cross-country. The figure-8 circuit is short at 4.4 kilometre, but technically and physically demanding. Full of roots, rocks and some jumps, the riders get no time to rest or recover; either climbing up one of the many short power climbs or having to pay attention on the difficult descents.
Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli), racing on home soil, is undefeated in the first two rounds of the women's World Cup, but without the long climbs she excels at, the door is open for another rider to possibly win. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) has two second places and is 100 points back of Neff, while world champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna), with a third and fourth in the World Cup this season at a 190 points deficit, could also do well on this power course.
Catharine Pendrel commented: "Lenzerheide is stunning and the weather has been sunny and clear. Heat may be a factor on Sunday although the course offers a lot of shade."
"The course is a lot of fun, but quite different from most tracks. The lap is a figure-8 and quite short in distance. Men are looking at lap times around 10 minutes I've heard!"
"We start on a paved climb for a couple hundred metres for the start lap before entering the single track. Most of the course is racing through forest over roots with short punchy climbs and little recovery. There are 3 jump features."
"I think the course, without extended climbs, will be kind to powerful riders with strong technical skills. A good start and the ability to hold a high pace with little recovery will also be key."
The men's competition couldn't get much closer, with world champion and World Cup leader Julien Absalon (BMC), who won Round 2, tied at 410 points with Round 1 winner and Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized). Just behind them, at 400 points, is Swiss rider Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo), who won on this course in a BMC series event last year. This could be the closest race of the weekend.
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