It feels like it was a long wait for the opening round of the 2023 XC World Cup, but with the racing finally back for another season there is no better place to see the riders shake off their winter trainer cobwebs than at the legendary venue of Nove Mesto. 2023 is not just any normal year of XC racing as riders will be revved up more than ever as everyone is competing to get a place in next year's Paris Olympics.
Before the racing kicks off with the Elite XCC Short Track we have given our best shot at predicting who we think could be the ones to watch this weekend.
Who Has Proven Form?
Let's start things off with riders who have already proven strong form in 2023. As always, the top XC racers have been pretty busy in the wait for the World Cup season to begin with plenty of stacked national races seeing the world's best test out each other's training.
First up the latest French Cup in Guéret
saw Pauline Ferrand Prevot take the win with her new team for 2023, Ineos Grenadiers. We now have it confirmed that she will be riding the new Pinarello Dogma XC
race bike this weekend and this could be a chance for its first World Cup win. This round of the French Cup XC series also saw Sam Gaze upset a packed French top four as he pulled ahead of Joshua Dubau by three seconds.
Earlier in the season we saw a mass pilgrimage for many of the top racers to the Shimano Supercup Massi Banyoles
with the top results going to Haley Batten and Alan Hatherly. While Alan was only able to win his race by around six seconds, Haley Batten secured a big margin of over a minute on a top five that could easily happen at a World Cup.
It's not just the Europeans who have been holding pre-season racing as the US Pro Cup took place at Fayetteville in April where Christopher Blevins and Savilia Blunk took the top honors. The women's race saw an incredibly close finish with Gwendalyn Gibson and Kate Courtney all crossing the line with the same time. We think we could be seeing some strong performances from these three this year. Following this Kate Courtney also secured the American Continental Championships title in Brazil. Jose Gerardo Ulloa Arevalo took the men's title.
Finally as a last-minute test of strength before the racing this weekend many World Cup riders attended the ÖKK Bike Revolution in Chur, Switzerland. In the women's racing, we saw a huge return to form for British rider Evie Richards. She bested Pauline Ferrand Prevot by around a minute and a half to take the win and we hope will be taking this confidence into this weekend. For the men it was a win for Tom Pidcock against the two top Swiss riders Mathis Flückiger and Nino Schurter.
While not XC racing, it is worth adding that Tom Pidcock has also picked up some big wins on the road this year winning the Strade Bianche, coming seconds at the Liège–Bastogne–Liège and going third in the Amstel Gold Race.
Who Could Win the Women's Racing?
The current World Champion in four disciplines is impossible to write off at this weekend's opening round of the 2023 season. Pauline has already taken some strong results this season and is a proven performer at Nove Mesto, with a new team and bike for 2023 she will be wanting to start the year in a big way.
Evie Richards had a tough 2022 season but from early season races she looks to be on amazing form and her victory against Pauline Ferrand Prevot should help fire her up for the XCC and XC races this weekend. Evie has taken some great results at the venue before securing back-to-back XCC wins in 2020 and multiple top 10 XC finishes. It's so good to see the 2021 XC World Champion back on top form and Evie is one of our picks to watch for the win on Sunday.
Our final pick for the women's racing is Loana Lecomte. Since her first win at Nove Mesto in 2020 she has become a mainstay at the top of the sport and has not dropped outside of the top four in races she has finished since she started racing Elites in that same year. With incredible consistency and seemingly always strong at the start of the season we may see another win from the young French rider.
Who Could Win the Men's Racing?
Just like his new teammate, Tom Pidcock is the clear favourite coming into Nove Mesto, and after his road success in 2023 and his win last weekend in Chur we don't disagree. If Tom can complete the race this weekend we expect him to take the win. With two back-to-back wins in Nove Mesto as his only two times racing there, the data certainly agrees with this.
Still hunting for the elusive 34th and record-breaking win Nino Schurter will be wanting to achieve this at one of his favorite venues. Amazingly, Nino Schurter has won six of the twelve times the World Cup has visited Nove Mesto so this is clearly a venue that suits him well. 2022's race didn't exactly go to plan for the Swiss riders after a big puncture set him back by over a minute at the midpoint of the race. A big effort saw Nino push through and somehow take 3rd by the finish line so if he can avoid any issue he will be one of Pidcock's main threats on Sunday.
If there's one rider with something to prove this weekend it is Mathias Flückiger. The Swiss rider was forced to sit out the second half of the 2022 season because of a provisional ban
that was later lifted following a Zeranol test result not being considered a positive doping sample. Mathias will be pushing even hard this weekend at his first World Cup since Lenzerheide.
While we have made our main predictions for potential winners above there were other riders who we should mention as potential top performers this weekend.
Jolanda Neff ended the 2022 season on great form after struggling to find the pace after winning the Olympics in Tokyo but after a busy off-season and even getting between the tape at some DH/Enduro races we expect to see a strong first round for the Swiss racer.
Since his first win at Stellenbosch in 2018 Sam Gaze has not been able to repeat this success, although he has come close on a number of occasions. With some top results and a few wins under his belt already in 2023 we could see the New Zealand rider and 2022 Commonwealth Games winner take a strong result come the big race on Sunday.
While her season may have tapered out in the second half no one can disagree that Rebecca Henderson dominated the first rounds of the 2022 season. After taking her first World Cup win in Petropolis, Rebecca backed this up with two more back-to-back wins. The first win was a long time coming but now it's here and she totals three career victories; we can see more coming soon.
Who do you think can win this weekend?
The "ball" of the foot,or the start of the bone from the biggest toe is the point of the foot where you can generate more power,and it always has been adviced to align it with the pedal axle,by positioning the cleat directly under that spot. People who tend to climb out of the saddle may use the cleats a bit forward,others a bit back.
It's not the most confortable,or the safest, it's the most powerful.
Gravity riders who use a more rearward position is generally more about how stable/balanced riders feel in that position (as opposed to power production)
It does result in more potential stress on the foot, with the long lever that creates.... but this is also why stiff carbon soled shoes are so important/beneficial for XCO
Maybe the bike fitters you know are just shit? Look up Steve Hogg, one of the most influential and well respected bike fitters and see what he has to say about cleat placement. Placing cleats under the ball of the foot is a myth that should have died years ago. And if you really want to have your cleats forward and gain all of the adverse effects that come with that then just move them up or buy the shoes that are currently being produced. For those who know better it would be nice to have the option of getting correct cleat placement.
I should of put in a clause on my first comment.
Nino clearly knows what he is doing and his fitters know what's best for him.
But I believe starting with your cleat at the back and moving forward is a positive for power and ergonomics.
In his first win, he was dropped by Nino and Fluckiger and would have never won if it wasnt for fluckiger crashing into Nino.
In his second win, Vlad was clearly stronger that day, but he had a mechanical
Vlad had a drivetrain mechanical and thats a place where there is really no options to get more burly components, so in my opinion no risk where taken
Apologies if you did not mean that as conspiratorially as it sounded.
Is it a new editorial line?
I've been following the site for many years precisely because there was almost zero talk of pedaling disciplines, and almost only of freeride, dh, dirt, and gravity in general.. I hope it doesn't become a mtb magazine like the others, the absence of xc made it unique..
I don't know what to say, maybe once xc articles were less frequent or over the years I have become less tolerant of things I don't like
If i'm not mistaken, there is a filter on the site that allows you to block certain artictles, maybe xc is one of them