It's a cool spring here in Albstadt, Germany. The land of the Black Forest, and villages that look like they may have dropped out of Grimm's Fairy Tales is home to round two of the XC World Cup. The vegetation is lush and bright green, but it's the total opposite end of the conditions spectrum compared to Cairns just a few short weeks ago; the track is a much different beast from the first stop. Where Cairns had tech in spades and was loose and dusty, Albstadt is a classic climber's track. Long, steep, punchy climbs offer little in the way of recovery for racers as they plunge into the greasy descents. Albstadt is a slippery snake indeed. The crushed limestone base makes an extra fine mud that's heavy, won't clear from tires, and has its own unique brand of slip.
The woods let little in for light on a good day and intermittent rain this week has kept conditions in various states of sloppy. Tire choice will be crucial, vision will likely be impaired if one is closely following a wheel. Expect to see the field using their hardtails rather than dual suspension rigs to save weight. This should, by all means be a battle between Schurter and Absalon, but there are a few who could upset. Dan McConnell won here four years ago in very wet conditions, and will be hungry after double flatting in Cairns. Maxime Marotte, Mathias Fluckiger, and Florian Vogel could all be danger men. This is the first time we will see the full pro women's field, as Jolanda Neff and Pauline Ferrand Prevot were missing from the first round.