Round Two, Two Months Later
Two months after the season opener in Stellenbosch, XC's elites reconvene
The XC World Cup season opener in Stellenbosch, South Africa was almost two months ago already. After a perfect 2017 season, Nino Schurter was unable to continue his winning streak, when a slip of a pedal in the final sprint ensured Sam Gaze's victory. But the question is, would Gaze have taken the top step whether or not Nino slipped up? We've been waiting for two months to see another battle between the two competitors.
In the women's race in Stellenbosch, Annika Langvad took the season opener for the second year in a row. She beat France's Pauline Ferrand Prevot after a battle that lasted into the last lap of the race, when a mechanical cost Pauline the win. Full results from Stellenbosch can be found here
, and a photo report from the race can be found here
Albstadt will be the 208th Cross Country World Cup in the official history of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, which started in 1991. The race in Albstadt this year is the 21st round on German soil and the sixth consecutive season at the heart of the Black Forest just outside Albstadt. This is one of the toughest tracks of the year at the historic German venue. Who has gained fitness since the season opener and will end up on the podium on Albstadt's technical course? We know the Julien Absalon won't be in contention after announcing his retirement
earlier this week. Podium contender Mathieu van der Poel had a crash last week and fractured his wrist. A quick surgery and a screw later and he's back at, but this one might hurt.
New for this round, racers will take part in the XCC on Friday, before racing the XCO on Sunday. The top 16 in the XCC results will be seeded in the first two rows of the cross-country race on Sunday.
The CourseXC Course:
The physically demanding 4km course with 190 meters of elevation doesn't have any major changes from last year, but it is currently coated in peanut butter mud, as you can see in Matt Delorme's Course Preview
. One small improvement is that, after the double climb in the Bullentäle, the technical Mitas Abyss drop has got a new and longer B-Line in order to prevent conflicts with riders that crash on the A-Line.
With an eye on the 2020 World Championships in Albstadt, the bridge at the edge of the grass field has been replaced by a new one, built by Schwörer Haus. Riders cross the bridge twice, in both directions. It's also the entrance for spectators, and with more space under the bridge, spectators can get around more easily.
The rest of the course stays the same. After passing the Feed and Tech Zone, riders go right at the bottom of the Bullentäle, then climb up, coming down by the “Lefty line” into the valley. They climb the Double Climb, drop into Mitas Abyss and then follow the Mercedes-Benz North Shore section to Devil's Corner. The spectacular downhill is followed by right turn and a descent via the GoPro Crossing into the Albstadt Drop, surfing on the waves until the Mercedes-Benz Jump, right before the bridge. On the second part of the course, riders climb the Gonso Uphill and go down the Bundeswehr Slalom, where Mathias Flückiger crashed spectacularly in 2017. From there, the Deep Hole leads to the grass field and then to the finish where riders will get ready to enter the next lap, after recovering a little on the asphalt straightaway. Short Track Course:
The spectator-friendly Short Track (XCC) is now a part of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. The XCC features a 20-minute race on a 1.2km long circuit. After the start-finish straight, there's a loop on the grass, then riders enter the woods and come back to the grass via Deep Hole. That’s it, short and sweet. Or rather, fast and furious.
What Happened Last Year?
The 2017 Albstadt XC World Cup was one of the most exciting of the season. A dry, dusty course and extreme heat made it a difficult race, with many racers pulling out with heat exhaustion and injuries. 2017 UCI Mountain Bike XC World Cup Albstadt:
1. Yana Belomoina, 2. Maja Wloszczowska, 3. Jolanda Neff
1. Nino Schurter, 2. Mathieu van der Poel, 3. Anton Cooper2016 UCI Mountain Bike XC World Cup Albstadt:
1. Annika Langvad, 2. Jenny Rissveds, 3. Catharine Pendrel
1. Nino Schurter, 2. Julien Absalon, 3. Maxime Marotte2015 UCI Mountain Bike XC World Cup Albstadt:
1. Jolanda Neff 2. Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa 3. Catharine Pendrel
1. Julien Absalon 2. Nino Schurter 3. Jaroslav Kulhavy
In the Elite Men's race, Van der Poel drove the pace early, but both Schurter and Flückiger were able to keep up with his efforts. For a while, Schurter, Flückiger and Van Der Poel couldn't be separated, despite Schurter putting in massive efforts to break away. Then, on lap four, Van Der Poel crashed. Now, Schurter and Flückiger led the race, but then Flückiger also had a massive crash on the descent after the Gonso climb. The crash took him entirely out of the race. With Schurter and Van der Poel in the lead, David Valero Serrano, Maxime Marotte, Anton Cooper and Luca Braidot were in a group battle for third. On the final lap, Schurter was able to keep away from Van der Poel, who finished second, while the battle for third then went to Anton Copper.
In the Elite Women’s race, it was round one winner Annika Langvad, Linda Indergand and Maja Włoszczowska who took an early lead. Then, Langvad crashed, and Włoszczowska and Indergand left her in the dust. Jolanda Neff and Yana Belomoina began to move up through the field, passing Annika, and shooting for the podium. Belomoina’s climbing didn’t fade as the race progressed and she passed Włoszczowska to take her first ever World Cup race. The 24-year-old also made history as the first Ukrainian to ever win a World Cup race. Maja Wloszczowska finished second and Jolanda Neff came in third.
You can see the full results from last year here
and the photo recap from last year's race here
You can purchase tickets to the race by clicking here
Tickets are 8.00 € for Saturday and 15.00 € for Sunday if you purchase them in advance. On Friday the entrance is free.
There are no visitor parking spaces available directly at the site so the organizers ask that you use the designated Park & Ride pitches and the shuttle buses.
The Weather Forecast
The Current Overall Standings
1st. GAZE Samuel (NZL)
2nd. SCHURTER Nino (SUI)
3rd. MAROTTE Maxime (FRA)
4th.VAN DER POEL Mathieu (NED)
5th. CAROD Titouan (FRA)
1st. LANGVAD Annika (DEN)
2nd. FERRAND PREVOT Pauline (FRA)
3rd. TAUBER Anne (NED)
4th. GROBERT Helen (GER)
5th. WLOSZCZOWSKA Maja (POL)
The points available this weekend are twofold. In the XCO 1st = 250, 2nd = 200, 3rd = 160, 4th = 150, 5th = 140, and so on. In the XCC, the points are half of those offered for the XCO. For full details see page 43 in the UCI Cycling regulations
Pinkbike's PredictionsWith racing in both the men's and women's fields phenomenally tight, this is going to be a difficult one to predict.Only five male riders on the start list of the second round of the XC World Cup in Albstadt have ever won a World Cup race. These riders are Nino Schurter (26 victories), Jaroslav Kulhavy (9 victories), Florian Vogel (2), Sam Gaze (1) and Daniel McConnell (1). Maybe it's nostalgic or sentimental for, but we're going to go with Nino Schurter as the winner on this course. With two months of training, he could reclaim that number one position from Sam Gaze after defeat two months ago, with Anton Cooper rounding out the podium. We'd put Mathieu van der Poel on the podium after his sensational race last year, but with his injury it seems unlikely.
In the elite women’s category, there are 12 riders, currently still active, who have won a World Cup in their career so it's even harder to predict. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (29 wins), Catharine Pendrel (12 wins), Jolanda Neff (9), Irina Kalentieva (with 8 wins), Annika Langvad (5), Yana Belomoina (3), Elisabeth Osl (3), Maja Wloszczowska (3), Eva Lechner (3), Pauline Ferrand Prevot (3), Tanja Zakelj (2), Sabine Spitz (2), and Annie Last (1). With Pauline's exceptional form at round one, we think she'll be looking for redemption here in Albstadt. And then, partner with some technical, consistent riders to round out the podium.
1. Pauline Ferrand Prevot
2. Maja Wloszczowska
3. Jolanda Neff
1. Nino Schurter
2. Sam Gaze
3. Anton Cooper
How to Watch
Pinkbike will be providing you with coverage from our hardworking team of photographers in Albstadt this weekend.
Watch Round Two of the UCI Mountain Bike XC World Cup 2018 live on www.redbull.tv
on Sunday May 20, beginning at 2am PST.