Here are give things we spotted from the sidelines in the Czech Republic.
Before this season, you had to go back to 2016 for a non-European World Cup XC winner in the women’s series and June 2012 for the last time there wasn’t a European in the top three - that was Catharine Pendrel, Georgia Gould and Marie-Helene Premont in Mont Sainte Anne.
Everything has been turned on its head in 2019 and a resurgent field of women are ripping up the form book. Leading the charge is Kate Courtney, who is proving that her World Champs win in Lenzerheide was no fluke, but alongside her, Canada’s Haley Smith and Australia's Rebecca McConnell also had fantastic races. Chloe Woodruff is also showing great form with a short track win on Friday helping her to sit fourth place in the overall after two rounds. Haley Batten also took the U23 women's win.
The US women are currently sitting in second place to Switzerland after the first half of the Olympic qualification period. The top two ranked countries at the end of the qualification period will receive the maximum number of three slots to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo while third through ninth will receive two and the remaining countries one slot.
Mathieu Van Der Poel finally claimed the World Cup XC victory that has been on the cards since he first crossed over in 2016. Van Der Poel and Schurter led as a group of two but Van Der Poel put the hammer down on the final half of the last lap to leave Schurter with no answers.
But unfortunately, we won’t see Van Der Poel on a mountain bike for a while. After a full cyclocross season, some road races and now mountain bike races, he’s going to rest up and recover. He’s made no secret his big goal is an Olympic gold medal and he will now aim to peak for Tokyo in 2020 rather than defend his World Cup overall lead. He’ll only be racing select events this year and next year before aiming for Olympic glory. He’s as clinical off the track as he is on it and you’d be brave to bet against him medalling next summer. We should make the most of watching him race now before he leaves the sport for good.
Annika Langvad is normally the first name we look to when it comes to the early season in the women’s XC. She has won the opening round of the World Cup for the past 3 years but this year has not found that same form.
After disappointing results in both Short Track and Olympic distance in Albstadt, she competed in the Short Track in Nove Mesto but decided not to race on Sunday and will rest up until the next round in July in Andorra. Her fatigue is no doubt due to the monster road race season she just completed with the Boels Dolmans team that saw her podium at the Fleche Wallonne and Strade Bianche. Expect to see her rested and fighting fit in July.