The XC Form Guide - Who's Going Fast Coming into the 2019 World Cup Season

May 15, 2019 at 7:20
by James Smurthwaite  
Your women elite podium- Courtney Langvad Batty.

The XC season kicks off this weekend in Albstadt with XCO and XCC races before we head straight to the Czech Republic and the classic Nove Mesto track for round 2 a week later. It's a rapid fire start to the season and will mean racers have to be on top form from the very beginning to avoid slipping behind the pack before their campaigns have really got going.

XC racers spend most of their off-season away from the race track, instead punishing themselves in the gym and on the road bike to eke out extra watts, but there have been a few outings for even the top riders. Let's take a look at who has shown some good early form at the biggest races of the winter:


Cape Epic

Described as the Tour de France of mountain biking, the Cape Epic stage race kicks off the season for a lot of riders. The race is run in pairs over the course of a week in the heat of South Africa. Nino Schurter regained his title with Lars Forster while Annika Langvad partnered with road race legend Anna Van Der Breggen for the fastest women's team.

Men

1st. Nino Schurter & Lars Forster
2nd. Manuel Fumic & Henrique Avancini
3rd. Damiano Ferraro & Samuele Porro
Women

1st. Annika Langvad & Anna Van Der Breggen
2nd. Candice Lill & Adelheid Morath
3rd. Ariane Lüthi & Maja Wloszczowska

Full Results


Swiss Cup

The Swiss Cup is one of the more hotly contested National series, mainly because of the calibre of the Swiss riders taking part. There have been three rounds so far, the first of which was the least competitive as it fell just after the Cape Epic. Rounds 2 and 3 attracted a stacked field of riders though and produced some super interesting results.

Round 1 - Tamaro Trophy

Your 2018 under 23 World Champion - Alessandra Keller.

Men

1st Mathias Fluckiger
2nd Titouan Carod
3rd Jordan Sarrou
Women

1st Alessandra Keller
2nd Ramona Forchini
3rd Kathrin Stirnemann

Full Results

Round 2 - Buchs

Lars Forster prior to the start.

Men

1st Lars Forster
2nd Mathias Fluckiger
3rd Florian Vogel
Women

1st Ramona Forchini
2nd Jolanda Neff
3rd Rojna Eibl

Other significant results
Nino Schurter - 9th

Full Results

Round 3 - Solothurn

The champ on home soil. Practically his home town. There was no other outcome really. This crowd carried him.

Kate Courtney took the win in the women's race in round three but drama spilled out onto social media as the current under 23 women's champion, Alessandra Keller, called out Jolanda Neff for a crash that left her with two fractured wrists and unable to race until Les Gets. Neff, who stopped during the race to check on Keller after the crash, claims that the course design was to blame and Keller was not aware of an upcoming corner, which led to the crash.


Men

1st Nino Schurter
2nd Mathias Fluckiger
3rd Lars Forster
Women

1st Kate Courtney
2nd Jolanda Neff
3rd Ramona Forchini

Other significant results
Alessandra Keller - DNF

Full Results


Sea Otter
Annika Langvad took the opportunity to jump past her old ream mate and ran with it.

North America's big races came at Sea Otter with two chances for riders to test their form in Monterey, California. Christopher Belvins showed strongest for the men with a first and second over the week. There was also a win for Simon Andreassen and two third places for Andrew L'Esperance. In the women's race, Annika Langvad showed early season form once again with two wins, while World Champion Kate Courtney finished second and third in the two events. Erin Huck and Catharine Pendrel showed they're strong coming into the first race with podium spots.

Thursday

Pro Men

1st Christopher Belvins
2nd Peter Disera
3rd Andrew L'Esperance
Pro Women

1st Annika Langvad
2nd Erin Huck
3rd Kate Courtney

Full Results

Sunday

Men

1st Simon Andreassen
2nd Christopher Blevins
3rd Andrew L'Esperance
Women

1st Annika Langvad
2nd Kate Courtney
3rd Catharine Pendrel

Full Results

Italian Nationals
The Italian National Series is also hotly contested with the likes of Schurter, Forster, Kerschbaumer, Frei, Lechner and more making appearances.

Round 3 - Titano


Round three in Titano attracted the biggest names but it was a total washout so take the results with a pinch of salt. Scott dominated the men's race with Lars Forster and Nino Schurter on the podium, split by Bianchi's Nadir Colledani. Eva Lechner took the win in the women's race.

Men

1st Lars Forster
2nd Nadir Colledani
3rd Nino Schurter
Women

1st Eva Lechner
2nd Martina Berta
3rd Vera Medvedeva

Full Results

The rest of the series

Stephane Tempier currently leads the men's series with wins in the first two rounds and a second place in round 4. Gerhard Keschbaumer has also been flying and sits second having won the fourth round in Pineto.

Martina Berta sits at the top of the women's leaderboard currently with wins in round one and four but she only has a slim lead over Eva Lechner who won round three. Sina Frei took the win in round two but sits outside the top ten rankings as she has not raced any of the other events in the series.

Full Results

On the skinnies

There’s a lot of crossover between skinny tyres and chunky tyres and riders are increasingly contending races on both.

Mathieu Van Der Poel enjoyed a stunning cyclocross season, where he won 32 of 33 races he entered, including the World Championships. He also took to the tarmac to take wins in the Amstel Gold race (a performance that has been called one of the greatest of all time), Dwars door Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl in the Spring Classics.

His only mountain bike race so far was the Belgian Mountain Bike challenge, in which he won all four stages despite being stuck behind a tractor on stage one...

Anna Van Der Breggen, the current road Olympic and World Champion, dipped her toes into XC racing at Val di Sole last year and came back to win the Cape Epic with Langvad. It will be interesting to see if Van der Breggen returns for more mountain bike racing this season.

The pair have also been enjoying good form racing for the Boels Dolmans team on the road with Langvad picking up three top-five finishes in the Spring Classics and Van Der Breggen winning the Fleche Wallonne.




The Fantasy XC League is Presented by Trek and SRAM.



MENTIONS: @trek / @SramMedia




75 Comments

  • + 52
 Whether you like riding XC or not, I think this is going to be one of the best seasons to watch to date. The competition is stacked and there is talent pouring out from everywhere. I couldn't be more excited for whats to come this year!
  • + 19
 Now that you own CyclingTips this is the perfect opportunity to link their EXCELLENT article deconstructing MDVP's win at the Amstel Gold: cyclingtips.com/2019/04/the-weekly-spin-deconstructing-mathieu-van-der-poels-improbable-amstel-gold-victory

Yet, you link telegraph? Come on, PB.
  • - 11
flag mattsavage (May 15, 2019 at 12:36) (Below Threshold)
 wouldn't want to be criticized for linking to their paysite?
  • + 8
 @mattsavage: If you tried reading, it specifically says it isn't a paywall. So go ahead, click "no thanks" and read the article like normal.
  • + 9
 VDP is the best all round bike rider in the world right now, full stop. Maybe not the best mountain biker, but luckily for him, Albstadt is basically a road race lol
  • + 6
 Totally Agree. Best cyclist at the moment. Talent in every type of bike he rides. @mnorris122:
  • + 1
 @mnorris122: I would like to see him do some trials riding. Because I honestly believe he could impress us there as well.
  • + 1
 @ratedgg13: thanks, didn’t see the no thanks button... just didn’t want to sign up for more stuff in my inbox...
  • + 7
 MVDP is so crazy strong this year rumors say (former) Sky and other major teams have approached him with big offers. His Amstel win and Flanders Tour were from another planet. If doubt his skills just google MVDP dirt jump or whip.
I think this year is gonna be his
  • + 3
 MVdP is sponsored by casino though and surely makes hella bank. He's signed for several more years. He'd have to be offered an INSANE amount of money to drop that and no longer be able to dictate exactly what he wants to do (road, XC, CX).
  • + 3
 MvdP will struggle as usual on the Hilly courses. MTB is W/KG.
  • + 1
 @jclnv: He has ridden really well at Albstadt in the past and it does not get hillier then Albstadt.
  • + 1
 @WhatAboutBob: Are they steep climbs? Listen, I love the guy but he’s a big dude.
  • + 0
 @jclnv: Tour of Flanders has some pretty whackass climbs and look at what he did there...bunnyhopped into a planter in a narrow village road going somewhere around 50km/h, couldn't hop out the other side before hitting the curb, punctured his front, and while slowing down with one hand and calling for team car with the other, he went into a missing cobblestone in the sidewalk and went down hard.

Put in an insane effort and came 4th.
  • + 3
 @jclnv: Yeah.

Albstadt is basically 4 minute steep climb, 30s descent, 1 minute flat, repeat.

He is a big dude, at 77kg he needs to be able to hold around 450+ watts to ride near the front. That is a big ask for 1.5hrs. But in 2017 if hadn't hit the deck he would have sprinted (and crushed) Nino for the win at Albstadt.
  • - 10
flag RedRedRe (May 15, 2019 at 16:16) (Below Threshold)
 Any top level road rider if moving to Xco will probably crush the field. Except the few with no handling skills ie froome. I remember Sagan at the olympics, he started last and it was in front of the race in less than a minute. Actually he passed at least 15 people before even passing the start line, like in 2 seconds.
  • + 0
 @jclnv: This^, just is too big for most World Cup cross country courses.
  • + 6
 @RedRedRe: Really?

Let us just look at MVDP. He does 6 pro-tour races on a C-level team. Wins 3, and is 4 in the other 3. Mean while after three season of mountain bike racing he is yet to stand on the top step of an XCO world cup.

And are you really surprised that one of the best sprinters in the world can sprint through a field of climbers?

Road riding is full of ex-mountain bikers. But the other way around, not many. Vos at her absolute peak raced mountain bikes for a year, I think she managed a top 10.
  • + 3
 @RedRedRe: the XC guys are putting out similar power numbers as road racers...i don't think there is much difference in raw power, XC racers are just more like crit racers. Road riders don't have the bike handling skills though, a lot of xc is bike handling vs raw power.
  • + 2
 @RedRedRe: He also did a few races in the run-up and was third or fourth. XCO requires masses of technique compared to Road so power isn't the be all. I doubt Nino has the best normalized W/KG in every race but his efficiency and technique are absurd. The guy doesn't waste one watt and he rails everything.

MvdP has had crashes after climbs where Nino just keeps this relentless pace over the top and into the descents. MvdP seems to have a crazy lactate recovery for repeat 100% efforts but when the pace is non-stop relentless from Nino the mistakes seem to creep in. Who knows though? Maybe he can drop a bit of weight and get up there?

Either way he's the most talented roadie since Hinault/Merckx. Maybe even better than those guys when you consider the level now.
  • - 6
flag VFreehd (May 15, 2019 at 21:38) (Below Threshold)
 Who the hell is MVDP?
  • + 6
 @VFreehd: Former junior World road race champion, current Dutch Road race champion, 2019 World Cyclocross Champion, 2019 World Cup Cyclocross champion, 2nd 2018 XCO World Cup, winner of the 2019 Dwars Doors Vlaanderen, winner of the 2019 Amstel Gold etc.

He's 24...
  • + 3
 MVDP is too big to win in XCO?
Surely Kulhavy can't be shorter than him, and he had great sucess.
  • + 1
 @clink83: Don't have the bike handling skills??? Have you heard of the cobble classics? The Stelvio decent? Riding shoulder to shoulder in a peleton avoiding road furniture at 45km/h probably doesn't require bike handling skills? I am sure they are but a fraction of the skill required on your hotly contested Strava segment at your local trail system.

youtu.be/rZcxikw6wFo
  • + 1
 I think you're both right - @WhatAboutBob and @jclnv - but what about Vallnord and Val di Sole (climber tracks too); MvdP (1.84 m) finished third and third. And Kerschbaumer (1.83 m) finished first and second.

Probably MvdP has never been at his top form for Albstadt (surgery before the race in 2018 ) plus the cyclocross season. Maybe he was a 'little' tired. And Kerschbaumer doesn't peak until later on the season.

So, I don't think is all about being too tall.
  • + 8
 Not a massive roadie fan but I still get chills watching the Amstel finish. Incredible.
  • + 7
 For me, the women's XC is the best racing on the planet...... doesn't matter the discipline.
  • + 2
 The list should also include the Whiskey Off-Road. The pro women finished 1. Kate Courtney, 2. Chloe Woodruff, 3. Catharine Pendrel, 4. Haley Batten, 5. Erin Huck. The pro men's race was won by Keegan Swenson with last year's runner-up Howard Grotts coming in 20th. Would love to see how they'd stack up on the brutal Grand Junction Off-road course but unfortunately it always conflicts with the boring UCI circle-track races.
  • + 2
 Would be an incredible race if we got to have these guys here!
  • + 1
 Pedantic point, but...

"32 of 33 races he entered" is not correct. He won 32 of the 33 races he finished (the only race he completed he didn't win was Koppenberg Cross). He entered another race but crashed, badly twisting his ankle and recorded a DNF. He still raced the next day and won.
  • + 2
 I'd love to see Anna van der Breggen to do great this year. Also, cool to see that Pinkbike is no longer censoring the name of Mathias Fluckiger. Now that is massive progress.
  • + 5
 it's gonna be a race on muddy conditions, Jolanda Neff for the win.
  • - 1
 muddy gravel paths. Technicals skills are not a factor.
  • - 5
flag ratedgg13 (May 15, 2019 at 12:52) (Below Threshold)
 @WhatAboutBob: Shows how much you know about XC...
  • + 8
 @ratedgg13: the first world cup race is on a gravel path....
  • + 4
 @ratedgg13: Don't make assumptions about peoples knowledge levels. If your experience with XC matches mine we have met many times at world cups over the years. According to the 1/2 dozen athletes I am coaching that are racing the WC this week the course is at best a muddy gravel path.
  • - 6
flag ratedgg13 (May 15, 2019 at 19:20) (Below Threshold)
 @WhatAboutBob: I'm not disputing the gravel path, I'm disputing any kind of claim that says that technical skills are not a factor - regardless of conditions or track - and regardless about claims of whom you may coach or what experience you have. Its a stupid claim and we both know it.
  • + 5
 @ratedgg13: On that course the terrain isn't technical enough for technical skills to be a factor. A more skilled rider will go down those descents may 1 to 2 seconds quicker. Not fast enough to make a difference. That is what I mean that technical skills aren't going to be a factor.

Last year in the rain Jolanda's technical skills were a huge factor. She was light years quicker than any other rider on the course. Same conditions this year, Jolanda lucky will pull a couple of bike lengths on any of the other top riders.

Like it or not there are some course where superior technical skills do not make a real difference.
  • - 5
flag ratedgg13 (May 16, 2019 at 7:02) (Below Threshold)
 @WhatAboutBob: 1-2 seconds per lap adds up real quick, especially in whats predicted to be muddy conditions. So seems like your whole argument is pretty thin. I'll be more than happy to come back here after the race outcome and discuss how it played out and see whose conjecture is more accurate.
  • - 1
 @jaydawg69: You didn't tell me anything related to what I was talking about. I read the article, and the athletes commentaries several days ago along with everyone else on this website. My comment has nothing to do about the trail, but again the absurd claim that "Technical skills are not a factor". So come back after race day and lets see who is right, shall we?
  • + 1
 @ratedgg13: sorry but technical skills are not going to be a factor on this course. How many downvotes you got on this?
  • + 1
 @jaydawg69: Down vote away, but Comment back on Monday and we'll see who was right.
  • + 0
 @jaydawg69 @WhatAboutBob so how about that "no tecinical skill" race today?
  • + 1
 @ratedgg13: Technical skills were still not a deciding factor. The people who won were the best climbers, their descending ability had zero impact on their results.

When I look at the results some riders with notoriously bad technical skills had some very good finishes. So even in horrible conditions those were vastly superior technical skills had no significant advantage.
  • + 1
 @WhatAboutBob: ridiculous. Van Der poel is by far the strongest, fittest rider and he got handily beaten by fluckinger, the superior technical rider. A huge margin of the "strongest" riders were sidelined due to crashes that could have been better handled with technical skills. Today's mud turned a garbage course into a technical riders opportunity.
  • + 2
 @ratedgg13: Did we watch the same race? Van Der Poel lost time on nearly every single climb to Fluckinger. Their descending speed on the other hand was just about the same every single lap.

The crashes that happened were largely due to people getting caught out on dry tires.
  • + 1
 @WhatAboutBob: Are you claiming that Fluckiger has a fitness and strength advantage over Van Der Poel? Sure he gained time on climbs, but I don't think its possible to claim that Fluckiger had such an advantage due to being a strength rider, when Van Der Poel has had one of the greatest seasons of cycling (across all disciplines) in memory - he's in about the strongest form we've ever seen of a cyclist.
Instead, its probably more attributable to Fluckiger being the better mtb cyclist - having an edge in line choice. After all, Van Der Poel is a cyclocross racer who otherwise should be more experienced and capable in wet weather and muddy racing.
Sure SOME of the crashes were due to tire choice, but lots of top riders were getting caught out coming too hard into corners and descents; the better riders used technique to make it through while supposedly stronger riders with worse technique went down (I think Avincini might be a good example).
  • + 1
 @ratedog33 your theory got bunked and now you’re back pedaling as explained above
  • + 1
 @jaydawg69: I disagree, but its clearly not worth arguing with either of you over.
  • + 1
 @ratedgg13:

There is no doubt that MVDP is the best cyclist in the world right now. But if you had a basic understanding of training you would know that even the top riders take recovery periods where they drop their form. It is highly unlikely that he is packing the form that he had a couple of weeks ago. I would expect him to be planning to hit top form again come August and September.

Today he was just out climber by a rider with superior form. And all though he is very technically proficient he is typically just off the very best. On this course his technique deficiencies do not hurt him. Probably why his top career results have been on this course.

BTW I am pretty sure that Avincini broke a spoken but stayed up right.
  • + 1
 @WhatAboutBob: "don't make assumptions about other people's knowledge levels" - I'm a former professional athlete, so don't try to tell me jack about recovery periods.

As for the rest, as I said in my last comment, it's clear we have different opinions and there is no use in arguing.
  • + 1
 @ratedgg13: I bet Fluckinger has at least as good W/KG than MvdP. He's also an amazing technical rider.

Stoked for him.
  • + 1
 @ratedgg13: You can't blame me for assuming that you don't know about basic training periodization. Anyone with basic training knowledge would have made the same assumption from your previous post.

Try putting some time and thought into your post.
  • + 1
 I predict Jolanda will be struggling this year... disappointing results at Worlds (for her) and last few races not so good as well. She should try Enduro.
  • + 1
 LOL! She will win the World Champs by over a minute.
  • - 3
 @jclnv: I bet Kate will handily beat her this season.
  • + 2
 @jaydawg69: I really don't think so and at Worlds (St Anne) Neff will destroy everyone. She takes a comical amount of time out of everyone on the descents there.
  • + 1
 @jclnv: agree big time
  • + 2
 That is pretty big prediction. However there is some basis to it I think. The typical span of dominance is about 4 to 5 years. When you look at the champions in the sport in the last 20 years, those with double digit WC wins and multiple WC only Nino has been at the very top for more than 4 years. Neff has been the best in the sport since 2014. That is 5 years. Still she has shown remarkable resilience during her career. Her ability to come back from dead in a race is like nothing I have ever seen. I think it might be a bit early for her to start to tail off.
  • + 1
 @jclv told you. Nerd isn’t dominant anymore
  • + 1
 @jaydawg69: Taking nothing away from Courtney, she rode great. That said I think she's flying and Neff and a lot of others are undercooked. Let's see if Courtney can keep winning.
  • + 1
 its really amazing how quickly Kate has got up to speed. She’s only going to get faster. Big fail on Specialized not keeping here.
  • + 1
 her
  • + 1
 @jaydawg69: Actually it has been longer than what you think for her to come to speed.

The first time really showed world class potential was at Sea Otter in 2017, when she took down Jenny Rissveds and Catharine Pendrel (Olympic champ and World champ). In a way it was that performance that sort of derailed both of those riders careers.

During her Kate's 2018 season she actually underperformed (World being the obvious exception). Within the sport it was expected that she would be regularly on or near the podium.

There is a really good story behind Kata and Specialized. I do wish it was mine to tell.
  • + 1
 @WhatAboutBob: someone has to tell....
  • + 1
 @WhatAboutBob

Oh come on man! PM me and Jaydawg69. I'd love to know.
  • + 1
 @James Smurthwaite you guys really need to update your rider options as many on the start list are not listed on the fantasy league
  • + 3
 Jenny Rissveds is making a comeback in the WC this weekend!! Go Jenny!!
  • + 1
 Well, my enduro and DH fantasy teams have been pathetic, so I'm *sure* my XC team is going to own.
  • - 1
 its gonna be a jolanda/kate showdown all season... unless its a gravel race with lots of climbing, non tech descents, and flat interval sections, then aunika is a force... but never count our Maja, she can still flex.
  • + 1
 Everyone sleeping on Emily Batty
  • + 1
 Austrian flag next to Daniel McConnell's name on Fantasy list
  • - 1
 mens races? meh... i'll come to watch VDP, that's about it.

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