As always, Nove Mesto proved itself to be one of the best venues for World Cup racing as we were treated to some incredible moments across a packed schedule of racing. It's great to be back to proper World Cup racing with live broadcasts and here are a few of the things we spotted from the opening round of the XC series.
Tom Pidcock Secures his First XCC Win & Perfect Weekend
Despite seemingly having plenty of success in his off-road ventures it's surprising that Tom Pidcock has never won an XCC race or achieved the rare perfect weekend. Previous years have seen Tom Pidcock's best XCC results come from Nove Mesto but unlike his ability to seemingly always win the XCO here, he has only managed a second place at both 2021 and 22 rounds. A perfect weekend seemed impossible heading into the opening round, but a last-minute XCC call-up meant Tom Pidcock could enter the short track race and an impressive performance saw him go from 40th to 1st. With that Tom Pidcock finally got his XCC win after four unsuccessful attempts. But a win in XCC wasn't enough for Tom Pidcock as he fought hard through the wet and wild conditions for the Elite Men's XCO race to secure his third consecutive Nove Mesto win and his first perfect weekend. Tom Pidcock is now going on a break from XC for a while but he is expected to be back for World Champs in August.
Evie Richards is Back & Looking Fast
After a tough 2022 following her incredible 2021 season where she secured the rainbow stripes, Evie Richards seems to be back on top form in Nove Mesto. The flat-out XCC Short Track race saw the British rider take a great 5th-place finish before she would ride to 4th in the XCO on Sunday. Evie Richards was on track for greater things before a mid-race puncture and slow wheel change took her out of contention. While she may not have taken the top honors at Nove Mesto she will be leaving the Czech Republic with a lot of confidence for the rest of the season as she took her best results since winning at Snowshoe in 2021.
Looking at the lap times produced by Evie Richards you can see that she was very much one of the riders to beat on Sunday. Leading for both lap one and two Evie would suffer a puncture on lap three dropping to seventh position. From here to the end of the race she would fight back to set the fastest times for the closing two laps. The first of these would better the race winner Puck Pieterse by seven seconds and 2nd-placed Pauline Ferrand Prevot by two. The final lap is where things get very interesting as Evie Richard's lap bettered the winner by 14 seconds and was a huge 26-second improvement over Pauline Ferrand Prevot's. Given another lap and it is feasible that she could have ridden her way back into the lead. If she can get a clean race at Lenzerheide we could be in for an amazing performance.
More Road Teams & Brands Getting Involved
The slow creep of road racing teams and brands into XC World Cups is continuing as we saw Alpecin–Deceuninck win the Elite Women's race, a new bike from Willier take the U23 Women's victory and Tom Pidcock pilot this new Pinarello to two wins. Just the battle for the win in the Elite Women's race between Alpecin–Deceuninck (Puck Pieterse) and the Ineos Grenadiers (Pauline Ferrand Prevot) wouldn't be out of place in a Grand Tour.
Along with this the Jumbo–Visma team were in attendance with Milan Vader rocking a special link to replace the rear shock on his new Cervélo ZFS-5 full-suspension race bike. It is very interesting to see these road teams and the engineers of brands that are big in the road world really start to pay attention to XC racing.
Puck Pieterse & Joshua Dubau are Two More Multi-Discipline Talents
Alongside the increased interest of road brands and teams in XC, we are seeing some incredibly talented riders tackling multiple disciplines with great success. Two great examples of riders having great first successes in the elite XC ranks are Puck Pieterse and Joshua Dubau. Puck Pieterse who is just 21 has moved up early to elite racing in 2023 and already has dethroned world champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot in an incredible race performance coming back from a seven-second deficit on the French rider to launch a last-minute attack and win by five seconds. The Dutch rider has already had an incredible career across XC, Road and Cyclocross. In 2023 she has already picked up the title in the European U23 Cyclocross championships and the Elite Dutch Cyclocross championships. Puck Pieterse also came fifth in the Strade Bianche road race.
Puck wasn't the only rider to upset the Ineos Grenadiers as Joshua Dubau made the racing in Nove Mesto a lot harder for Tom Pidcock than he may have thought it would be. The Rockrider Ford Racing Team rider took on the big guns sticking to Tom Pidcock's back wheel and rode a flawless race while the Olympic champion continued to make errors on the wet course. In a David versus Goliath esque battle of Rockrider against Pinarello it was impressive to see Joshua Dubau seemingly come from nowhere in the XC ranks to take on a rider who is quite possibly one of the big talents across the whole of cycling. We can't wait to see how both Puck Pieterse and Joshua Dubau continue with this great form through the rest of the season. Similar to Puck Pieterse, Joshua Dubau has also seen some great successes when taking on the world of Cyclocross.
Warner Bros. Discovery Delivered on the Promise of More Race Coverage
To give credit where it is due there was a lot of worry about what the new World Cup series and its coverage would look like under Warner Bros. Discovery and the ESO, but they have nailed it for the first round. It's fair to say that the EWS and now the Enduro World Cup has always struggled with finding a format for its coverage and pairing this with a live timing system that often breaks, confidence among many was low heading into 2023. But the coverage from Nove Mesto was great with a full weekend of racing content to dig into from the free U23 racing and the paid-for Elite action. The biggest positive change we saw is what feels like an almost complete camera coverage of the course. When a rider would leave the frame you would then follow them into a new shot, whether that was with static cameras or even some amazingly piloted drones tracking riders through the trees. While XC has historically had better track coverage than DH this gives us plenty of hope that seeing an almost full top to bottom run could actually be realised.
- Rolling results, and some footage outside the top 5 would be good.
- I miss the enthusiasm and knowledge Rob brought, and also - for us non-native english speakers, it was actually easier to understand him than the new & somewhat thicker accent. All new, so yes, will probably improve.
- More tech insight: ask about actual tire selection, suspension settings etc directly to the riders.
One thing I thought was better was the drone footage - particularly through the Rock N Roll section was really good and other than the times when Garcia or Bart couldn't understand Norn Iron Ric, the commentary was impressive.
One area though where there needs to be some serious improvements was the interviews - the only one I wasn't cringing at was Josh's chat with Nino after short track. The others were brutal - like trying to get an inside scoop instead of asking the winners normal questions ... The women (who's names escape me sorry) seemed so devoid of any feeling or insight.
It seemed like the commentary was a bit rough, with commentators talking over and interrupting each other frequently. Hopefully this improves as they get to know each others’ rhythms a bit better.
Big agree on better coverage and info on riders outside the top 5. However in hindsight I think some of the shots of non-leaders we were used to from Redbull was covering up the more limited course coverage they had. When leaders went into a section without cameras they had to jump to riders lower down in the rankings. Hopefully GCN+ finds a balance, or at least starts showing current top 40 times at key time checks.
Felt like Bart & the new Irish commentator were talking over each other quite a lot. Also, felt like they were forcing in commentary from the track (Cedric). Which is not bad, but seemed a bit random.
I'm positive they will get better, but moral - I miss Rob.
Ric and Bart did a decent job but Ric lacked much insight and spent the last two laps repeating what Bart said which wore pretty thin.
Highlights show was pretty decent also if you didnt have time to watch the whole mens race.
Also, men’s short track replay opened with the women’s short track podiums. Thanks for the spoiler.
Nonetheless I think I'm probably not alone in that I would like to see what Pidcock could do on a DH run.
Worth checking if your TV can get it.
Another option might be mirroring from your android phone (if you have one).
But everything else was a real disappointment. The commentating team were definitely not gelling - although they may improve with time/practice. Bart and Ric kept talking over one another or simply repeating what the other had just said. And Ric M sounds like someone doing a (bad) impression of a sports commentator - lots of daft and non-sensical cliches rather than simply providing insightful comment on the race.
But what was absolutely intolerable was the anchor - Kate Mason (?). Completely devoid of understanding or knowledge of the sport, talking vacuous pish which just underlined how false her enthusiasm was. When she was interviewing Bart at the end of the women's race he had an absolutely perfect 'WTF' expression at some of the things she was asking or saying. 'The race was so magnetic'.....what does that mean FFS......!??
There must be someone from within the sport that they can find to host the pre and post race stuff.
"To give credit where it is due there was a lot of worry about what the new World Cup series and its coverage would look like under Warner Bros. Discovery and the ESO, but they have nailed it for the first round"
Disco+ didn't work here in Colorado. We subscribed, and looked for like an hour trying to find the coverage. nope, no coverage on Disco+, not on the app on our TV, or phone, or their website.
So we ended up cancelling it, and then subscribing to GCN+, which sorta works because our TV has a browser built in, and sure I guess I could have cobbled together a laptop hooked to the TV. but I much prefer the Redbull app.
anyway, my main point is that everywhere one looked, prior to this weekend, all websites said that Disco+ had the rights to MTB broadcasts in the US, yet it's NOT on Disco+ (in the US)
A little late for Sagan possibly, unless he suddenly gets a miraculous performance improvement.
Currently a shadow of himself.
Would be interested in a comparison to last years figures.
Sad thing is because you have to subscribe this year the powers that be won’t care if the figures are down as it’s making them money..
I really missed rolling lap times from top 10/top 15. Where were Kate/Jenny/Yolanda for instance - well it turns out they were hovering near top 10 but nobody had any idea.
Discovery launches the new MAX app combined with HBO in a week. I assume my HBO max app will become this (which is also on Roku unlike GCN) and then I’d want to see a much more polished presentation. Strike that - Discovery MUST deliver a more polished, more thorough, more slick presentation because now I’m paying for both MAX and GCN+.
Where are the instructions to watch? I'm in Canada.
We'll have to see how they get on with DH before making a final judgement, though.
There is no reason for him to stop racing as long as he enjoys it and finish in the top 10