Posted by Editoress on 07/31/15
The Mountain Bike World Cup celebrates 25 years of competition at the highest level this year, and there has been one constant for that entire period: Mont Ste Anne, Canada. In 1991 Mont Ste Anne (MSA) was part of the opening season of the World Cup, and it is the only venue in the world to have welcomed mountain bikers every year since, with this the 23rd year of World Cup competition, plus two years for the World Championships in 1998 and 2010. MSA is considered one of the Classics of the World Cup, with every rider hoping to add a win here to their palmares.
After a long period of hot weather, rain rolled in Thursday night, and is expected to continue sporadically through the weekend. It has brought the temperature down to the mid-20 Celcius, but the mud, rocks and roots that MSA is notorious for will make already technical courses that much harder.
The competition begins on Friday with qualifying for the Downhill, Round 5 for 2015. The 2.9 kilometre run combines both long, high speed sections and technical rocky, rooty segments, where a rider can easily crash out of contention. The course is similar to last year, however, some of the jumps are bigger.
Rachel Atherton (GT Factory) has a strong lead in the women's series after three consecutive victories, with 910 points to Emmeline Ragot's (MS Mondraker) 745. Australia's Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) is a distant third at 550 points, just 26 ahead of world champion Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen). Canada has seven women entered, led by Casey Brown (Bergamont Hayes), who is currently ninth in the overall standings. Also racing will be newly minted national champion Miranda Miller.
The men's standings are much closer, with World Cup leader Aaron Gwin (Specialized) at 745 points, Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic) 645 and Round 4 winner Greg Minnaar at 633. There are 13 Canadian entries, with Mark Wallace (Devinci Global Racing) the highest ranked on the World Cup at 24th, followed by 2013 MSA winner Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing) at 30th. New national champion Matt Beer (Intense) will be the 73rd rider off.
The Cross-country, where MSA is Round 4, is a classic course of hard, long climbs, and rocks, roots and slippery mud on the descents and, for 2015, the organization has tightened the circuit to 3.9 kilometres for more spectator viewing. The course contains hard switchback climbing and the crowd-favourite 'Beatrice' rock garden descent. The hardest section of the course is likely to be the middle portion, with a very steep singletrack climb immediately followed by Beatrice and then the Zig Zag climb from previous years. This will like be a critical portion of the circuit. The current plan is a start loop plus six laps for the women with an extra lap for the men, however, the women's race may be shortened a lap depending on the weather conditions.
There is a tie at the top of the women's rankings, with Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli Pro) and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) both at 650 points. Neff won the first two rounds, but faltered in Round 3, when Dahle Flesjaa took a record-setting 29th World Cup victory. World champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna), racing on home soil, sits third at 470 points, with Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) seventh in the standings. Batty is the Pan Am Games gold medalist.
The men's series also has a tie at the top of the standings, with 2012 Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) both at 600 points. Schurter, with three consecutive second places, will be looking for his first World Cup win of the season. Just 90 points back in third place is world champion Julien Absalon (BMC), who began his international career at Mont Ste Anne, with his first world title as a Junior in 1998. The new Canadian national champion and Pan Am Games gold medalist, Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain), is riding extremely well right now, and will be looking for his first ever XC World Cup podium on what is essentially his home course.
This year being the 25th anniversary, MSA has put together a retrospective and brought in some of the legends of the sport who raced here. We have been coming here since 1991 (a 1991 gallery of the racing), when our Editor was in attendance, as well as producing the official website for the 1998 Worlds on behalf of Gestev. It was the first time lap-by-lap coverage was provided for a Worlds (on dial-up modem, no less...). Photos were shot on film, rushed to a one hour finishing service then scanned on a flatbed scanner and posted the same day. Here are a couple of links to the site, which is still archived on our server:
Entry Page - we published live coverage in both English and French, click on the News icon
News Coverage and Results - English
News Coverage and Results - French
It turns out that some of the competitors from 1998 will be here this weekend (competing, teams, broadcast):
Julien Absalon - Junior XC
Ralph Naef - Junior XC
Sandra Walter - Junior XC
Greg Minnaar - Junior DH
Rob Warner - Elite DH (now broadcast)
Steve Peat - Elite DH
Claudio Calouri - Elite DH (now broadcast)
Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa - Elite XC
Sabine Spitz - Elite XC
Thomas Frischknecht - Elite XC (now team owner)
Bart Brentjens - Elite XC (now team owner)
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