The first round of the World Cup XC in Albstadt provided some exciting racing in less than ideal conditions. Here are five things we noticed from the sidelines:1. Even with the track alterations, Albstadt was far from easy in the wet
In the lead up to the race in Albstadt, there was plenty of chatter about the new changes to the course. Following last year's washout race with plenty of serious crashes due to the dangerous conditions caused by the heavy rainfall, the organisers decided to weatherproof the course in case of further bad weather. Their answer was covering some of the more technical sections of track in wood and chicken wire that proved to be a minefield in the wet.
Kate Courtney and Anne Tauber both had big crashes on one particular wood section where the front wheel washed out going off a small drop. In the men's race, Lars Forster was the most high profile victim and he posted a worrying video of himself staggering around in a daze after his second crash on the singletrack section, before succumbing to a third crash that took him out of the race.
Although making a track rideable in all weather conditions is important for rider safety, next year the World Champs will be held in Albstadt and this course feels like it still needs a few more alterations before the big event.
2. The battle to qualify for the Swiss & French Olympic teams will be fierce
Albstadt saw a dominant field of Swiss and French riders in the top 20, with riders from either nation taking 12 of the top 20 spots in the men's race. The two nations have always dominated here but this year it was more pronounced than ever, with over half the riders inside the top 20 either Swiss or French.
With their podium finishes in Albstadt, Dutch riders Mathieu Van Der Poel and Anne Tauber said after the race that they have now officially secured their spots to represent the Netherlands at the Olympic games, but for French and Swiss riders, nothing is certain yet. Looking at the current UCI rankings for XC, Switzerland will only be allowed to take three men and France two, meaning a lot of those top riders will not have a shot at gold in Tokyo. If riders want to get their ticket to Japan, they'll have to make every race count from here until the end of the season.
3. 83% of medals were won on hardtail bikes
Hardtail or full suss is one of the biggest questions in XC racing - a discipline where pedalling efficiency is key and every gram is carefully considered, but tracks are becoming more and more tech. In Albstadt, with its long climbs and relatively straightforward descents, hardtails seemed to be the clear bike of choice for those that did well. Of the top three in both races, only Absolute Absalon's Jordan Sarrou elected to run a full suspension bike.This isn't a trend we expect to see throughout the season, starting this weekend in Nove Mesto, but it could be something for riders to bear in mind as they look towards the World Champs here next year.
We also saw two-thirds of the top riders on dropper posts. Will we see even more in Nove Mesto or will riders not want to add weight when they choose their full suspension bikes on the more technical course? Answer our poll
and let us know what you think!
4. Langvad breaks her season opener streak.
Last year's runner up in the World Cup overall, Annika Langvad, didn't have the best start to her season. The Specialized team rider has been the winner of the opening World Cup XC round for the last three years with an average lead of 26 seconds. But last weekend she would break her winning streak after pulling out from the race on lap two.
It wasn't just in the main race where Langvad struggled, her 5th place finish in Short Track, a discipline where she normally dominates, was also unusual. Last Friday would be the first time she placed outside of the top two in Short Track and is only the second time she has not won. She revealed on social media
that she hadn't been feeling herself all week and deciding to pull out of the race was a hard decision for her to make. We hope she can rediscover her speed for this weekend's second round in Nove Mesto where she has won three times before.
5. XCC is more important than ever
Apart from 20th place finisher Martin Fanger, all of the top 20 men and women in the XCO race took part in Friday's Short Track. The event is even more important this year than it was last year since the top 24 positions in the Short Track will now fill the first three rows, instead of just the top 16. Don't make it into the top 24, and you'll be relegated to the fourth row, with more traffic on course and a higher risk of a crash out of the gate.
• Course Preview: Smooth Sailing
• Video: Course Preview with Henrique Avancini
• Results: XCC Short Track
• XCC Photo Epic: Off to a Roaring Start
• XC Final Results
• Photo Epic: When it Rains it Pours
• 5 Bikes and a Few Tech Randoms
• Poll: To Drop or Not to Drop?