Posted by Editoress on 04/26/08
Offenburg World Cup Offenberg, Germany
The Mountain Bike World Cup has moved to Offenburg, Germany for round two of the cross-country series. Today, the weather is beautiful, almost perfect conditions, however, it was the same last year the day before the race, and then on the day-of the skies opened to turn it into the muddiest mess of the year. So, no one is counting on the good weather to stay at this point.
The circuit is nearly identical to last year - a technical 5.1 kilometre course with lots of singletrack, rooty sections and tricky desents. In the mud this led to lots of crashes, but both Roel Paulissen (Cannondale-Vredestein) and Bart Brentjens (Dolphin) commented that even if it remains dry (their preference), the race will still be technical and demanding.
"If it is dry, then it will still be hard to pass," said Paulissen. "The speed will be much higher, and every little mistake will matter, and cause gaps."
Defending champion and World Cup leader Julien Absalon says "I like all the conditions, I like to ride in the mud but muddy conditions like last year is not so good for the spectators; it's good for me but not for the spectators. Either way is fine for me, I like this beautiful track, it is real mountain biking. But if it is dry it will be more difficult to do a big difference [gap]"
Absalon is betting on the Swiss. "I think like last week it will be the Swiss riders. They are in good shape now and fighting for their Olympic qualification. Also maybe Hermida ... he was not so good shape last week, but I think he will be stronger this week."
The men are expected to do 8 laps and the women 6 laps (each plus a 1.1 kilometre start loop). However, this could change depending on the weather.
The fields for both the men and the women are still huge - over 200 for the men and 100-plus for the women. For the women, we can expect to see the same usual suspects at the front, no matter what the weather - World Cup leader Chengyuan Ren (China), world champion Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon), Canada's Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain), Marga Fullana (Massi), Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) continuing her comeback and American Georgia Gould (Luna). Premont was in very good position at the front of the race until she flatted, who knows how it could have gone...
It will also be interesting to see whether Canadian Luna rider Catharine Pendrel will be able to stay closer to the front until the finish - last week she was riding as high as third before fading in the last lap to finish 13th, just ahead of Kiara Bisaro (Opus), who is steadily working her way back to the top ranks. Other Canadian women in the race are Sandra Walter (X.O.-Felt), Wendy Simms (Kona), Amanda Sin, Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain) - who missed last week with a tooth infection - and a newcomer to European World Cups - Emily Batty.
On the men's side, it will be the same Canadians as in Houffalize - Geoff Kabush (Maxxis), Seamus McGrath (Fuji), Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain), Derek Zandstra, Ricky Federau, Mat Toulouse (Maxxis) and Kris Sneddon (Kona). Plaxton will be hoping to avoid the mechanical problems that took him out of the race on the start loop, while both Kabush and McGrath will be looking to improve their standings (12th and 23rd).
Our live coverage will be back, starting at 10:30 am local (4:30 am EDT) for the women and 2:00 pm local (8:00 am EDT) for the men.
- Geoff Kabush has a start number of 239, probably the highest he has ever had in his career! However, he will still start in 12th place; the problem was the he was registered late by his team and therefore didn't get his proper number.
- Lots of new 'tech' showing up in time for Beijing. Some of what we saw can be seen in the Photos:
* Julien Absalon will be starting with a brand new 'black box' shock and integrated disc brake from Rock Shox. He says it is about the same weight as previous models but considerably stiffer since the stanchions are larger diameter.
* The Cannondale-Vredestein guys are going to be riding prototype tubulars - the full glue-on stuff, NOT tubeless. They will be matched with a new Mavic rim. The riders are raving about the ride quality, feel and control. One mechanical moaned "more work and more wheels for the tech zones..." Vredestein is also working on a tire formulated specifically for Beijing.
* After the new Merida 96 full suspension bikes were stolen last week the team had to race on hardtails. This week they have just received replacements - sub-9 kilo jewels.
* Staying with lightweight, Geoff Kabush will race the only prototypes available of a 280 gram Maxxis tire. They are a semi-slick model which he also rode at Fontana. If it does rain he will switch to other tires. Some other pros dropped by the Maxxis tent to see if they could score some, and were firmly told 'No'. Kabush also has a prototype all-carbon shell and rails Fi'zi:k saddle.
- In other news ... Houffalize is said to be preparing to make a bid for the Worlds in the next few years - "They have found a hill big enough for the downhill" says one local.
- Also, the reduction of the podium from 5 to 3 riders is not finding favour with a lot of riders.
"It is tradition," says Kashi Leuchs (Cannondale-Vredestein). "It is my goal to make the podium, and now they have changed the races completely, and make it so much harder."
A spokesperson for the UCI says that a large part of the reason for the change is for television - they are more likely to get live coverage if the podium takes less time. Also, that the aesthetics are much better...
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