Posted by Editoress on 04/25/09
Two weeks after visiting South Africa for the first time, the Cross-country World Cup returns to Europe for the second round in Offenburg, Germany tomorrow. Set amidst the vineyards of this Black Forest town close to both the Swiss and French borders, 2009 will be the third year for the World Cup to return to Offenburg.
The 5.8 kilometre course is very similar to last year. After a start loop of 1.2 kilometres, the riders head out on a fast paved climb before entering the first section of dirt single track. The dry conditions mean that riders won't be slowing much even when they hit the dirt.
The first of four major drop-offs is the next obstacle the riders will meet. The Dual Speed drop offers the riders a choice of two stepped descents - do you go fast and dangerous, or slightly safer, but slower? Then it is a long climb up to the highest point of the course before tackling the switchbacked North Shore descent, followed by the Worldclass Drop and Wolfs Drop.
The riders are only halfway through a lap at this point, and the circuit switches from technical to high speed dirt track for a second loop before heading back to the start-finish area and one final climb.
Distances have not yet been confirmed, but it is likely that the women will do six laps (plus a start loop), and the men one more lap. The weather is pretty much perfect - sunny and mid-20s. This means that, unlike previous20years, even the deepest sections have dried up, and the steep, rooty descents are no longer as slippery and treacherous.
The fields will be even stronger than Pietermaritzburg, with both Ralph Näf (Multivan Merida) and Marco Fontana (Cannondale Factory Racing) back in the men's race after illness kept them away from South Africa. Näf is certainly riding well after winning a German national series race last weekend. Of course, the favourites will still include World Cup leader Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), Olympic champion Julien Absalon (Orbea) and the Team Specialized duo of world champion Christoph Sauser and U23 World Cup leader Burry Stander.
However, Hermida is sick with a cold, and predicts that his team mate Näf will be the one to watch, although Näf has to start well back on the seventh row.
Canadian men in the race are led by Geoff Kabush (third row). The large contingent also includes Raphael Gagne (Team Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), Derek Zandstra (Scott), Kris Sneddon (Kona) and Adam Morka (Canadian National). The field is a huge 222 riders.
The women's field has had a huge increase in depth. Last year's number one and two ranked World Cup riders - Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) - both skipped Pietermaritzburg, but they will be on the start line in Offenburg, as will American star Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) and China's Ren Chengyuan. Both Gould and Pendrel are coming off strong r aces at Sea Otter last weekend, while for Premont it will be her first race of the year.
However, they will have a hard battle against World Cup leader Elisabeth Osl (Central Ghost Pro Team), her team mate Sabine Spitz (the Olympic champion), world champion Marga Fullana (Massi), Olympic bronze medalist Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) and Lene Byberg (Team Specialized). Spitz is racing before a home crowd, and is fit after a mysterious illness in South Africa, so she could be one to watch.
The women's field is also stacked with Canadians, including Emily Batty (Toronto Trek Store), Mical Dyck (Canadian National), Amanda Sin (3 Rox), Sandra Walter (Canadian National), Jean-Ann McKirdy (Canadian National) and Marie-Claude Surprenant (Canadian National). 93 riders are registered for the women's race.
- Canadian Cyclist will be providing our usual lap by lap coverage tomorrow, starting with the women's race at 10:45 am local (4:45 am EDT / 1:45 am PDT). It will be followed by the men's race at 2:30 pm local (8:30 am EDT / 5:30 am PDT).
- American Todd Wells (Specialized) will ride the new Specialized 29er, the first time the newly-introduced bike will be used in World Cup competition. Wells was the top North American in South Africa, in 23rd place, but says he is looking for a top-10 result in Offenburg. Wells joins Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Gary Fisher) in riding a 29er.
- Lene Byberg had a very close call earlier in the week, when she was hit by a car that abruptly turned right into her. Byberg is fine other than some bruising on her ribs and leg, but her bike frame was cracked when the car hit it. The driver has been charged.
- The big Team Canada conti ngent is led by new national coach Dan Proulx, who says that the initiative is designed to help younger riders without pro support get introduced to racing at the top ranks, in the build up to next year's Worlds in Mont Ste Anne and beyond to 2012.
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