Into the Dark Woods - World Cup XCO 2, Germany

May 20, 2016 at 14:51
by Matthew DeLorme  


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.

There is some fine architecture to be seen in Albstadt.
There is some fine architecture to be seen in Albstadt.

The side streets of Albstadt transport you to another time. Perhaps one where you are lured into a pointy roofed house by a lady with candy who might roast you in a wood fired oven.
The side streets of Albstadt transport you to another time. Perhaps one where you are lured into a pointy roofed house by a lady with candy who might roast you in a wood fired oven.

Albstadt has some wonderfully strange art works along it s streets. These are the Baby Men Dinosaur Hatchlings. Not sure on the real name but it close enough for these purposes.
Albstadt has some wonderfully strange artworks along its streets. These are the Baby Men Dinosaur Hatchlings. Not sure on the real name, but it's close enough for these purposes.

Detail of baby dinosaur man. German artists certainly have a sense of humor.
Detail of baby dinosaur man. German artists certainly have a sense of humor.

The Bowl will be wall to wall with German fans come Sunday but for now it s quiet as a mouse.
The Bowl will be wall to wall with German fans come Sunday, for now it's quiet as a mouse.

First tracks on fresh grass.
The first tracks on fresh grass.

Giacomo makes the final adjustments to the SRAM Eagle group set on Manuel Fumic s bike. Eagle looks to be just the gearing for the climbs here in Albstadt.
Giacomo makes the final adjustments to the SRAM Eagle group set on Manuel Fumic's bike. Eagle looks to be just the gearing for the climbs here in Albstadt.

Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell warm up before braving the elements.
Bec Henderson and Dan McConnell warm up before braving the elements.

Evidence of a time when Albstadt was once under much water is abundant in the lime stone.
Evidence of a time when Albstadt was once underwater is abundant in the limestone.

Final adjustments are being made as practice gets underway.
Final tweaks are being made as practice gets underway.

Sometimes an ear makes the gauge for adjustment.
Sometimes an ear is the only the gauge needed for adjustment.

World Cup XCO 2
Throwing shapes into slippery corners.


Chloe Woodruff on the fast single track descent during practice.
Chloe Woodruff on the fast single track descent during practice.

The track becomes slipperiest after it s had a chance to dry out a bit when the rain stops. The mud becomes an ultra slick clay and full slide is in effect.
The track becomes slipperiest after it's had a chance to dry out a bit when the rain stops. That's when the clay mud becomes ultra slick and a full slide is in effect.

Keegan Swenson with a mud mask any spa service would be envious of.
Keegan Swenson wearing a mud mask many would pay top dollar for.

Bec Henderson will be looking to follow up her third place finish in Cairns with another strong result this weekend.
Bec Henderson will be looking to follow up her third place finish in Cairns with another strong result this weekend.

Catharine Pendrel out for a wet lap. She will be looking to improve on her result in Cairns here in Albstadt.
Catharine Pendrel out for a wet lap. She will be looking to improve on her fourth place result in Cairns here in Albstadt.

Julien Absalon out on his first lap of practice. He flatted in Cairns and made an incredible comeback through the field. Will he take his first win of the season he in Germany
Julien Absalon out on his first lap of practice. He flatted in Cairns and made an incredible comeback through the field to finish third. Will he take his first win of the season here in Germany?

Much of this race will be be about grip.
Much of this race will be about grip. We just have to wait and see how nice Mother Nature will play.

The snails in Albstadt are huge and probably delicious with butter.
The snails in Albstadt are huge, and probably delicious with butter.

Evidence of a wild ride.
Evidence of a wild ride. It's like greased lightning out there at the moment.

Went out weighing 20 pounds came back weighing 28.
Went out weighing 20 pounds, came back weighing 28.

A sink wash and roof top drying done early on in the day are key if you want to ride in clean dry kit tomorrow.
A sink wash and rooftop drying done early on in the day are key if you want to ride in clean, dry kit tomorrow.



27 Comments

  • + 64
 "Went out weighing 20 pounds, came back weighing 28." - Still lighter than my bike!
  • - 16
flag Konda (May 21, 2016 at 10:50) (Below Threshold)
 That's exactly why gram counting in mountain biking is ultimately pointless.
  • + 14
 @Konda: If they road out on a 28 lb bike, they would be coming back with a 36. How is that an argument against weight savings at an elite level?
  • + 5
 @swamper1: He's British, everyone knows they have secret powers when it comes to mud
  • + 30
 XC really is impressive stuff. I'll keep riding 'enduro' and dh, but with Pinkbike increasing the xc coverage I will gladly admit I was wrong in my judgement of xc, great stuff
  • + 2
 I completely agree since the middle of last season I have been watching the replays of all the XC races and I love it. Schurter and Absalon are like having two Rachel Athertons in the same field.
  • + 13
 It seems Julien gain the extra mm he left in the rear shock put them on the dropper post... Nice..
I always said the most important travel suspension is the space between your ass and the seat/wheel... Look at those bmxers...
  • + 1
 good insight
  • + 6
 I don't get why they dont use Marshguard type mudguard... Weights virtually noting, would save them 80% of mud on their face and glasses, and it would keep the upper part of the fork from retaining all the dirt ...
  • + 9
 Albstadt does not belong to the black forest but to the swabian alps!
  • + 2
 Sorry, it was meant more as an analogy to how little light these woods seem to have.
  • + 4
 I have always thought there's potential to design an xc bike for mud conditions that has lower mud pickup properties. Things like narrow diameter frame tubes, no bb "shelf", no holes that fill on chainrings, forks etc. Be interesting to see how much less mud weight you'd pick up.
  • + 1
 That would be fascinating.
  • + 3
 Yeah, aerodynamics is for roadies. We need mud dynamics. Still fluid dynamics in a way, but from a different angle. Whoa, now I'm interested in the tunnel Specialized is going to build to test their gear, rider position etc.
  • + 8
 Who's crazy enough to use Crank Bros hubs??
  • + 6
 Congrats to Shimano, for a drivetrain that can take that mud.
  • + 5
 Pretty sweet to see dropper posts and proper mud tyres on the WC circuit! Oh and nice work on the coverage PB.
  • + 4
 Great coverage, PB! Keep it up!
  • + 1
 Stunning pics. Course looks challenging. I dont know if i could have fun though. on a 20 pound xc bike hell yes.
  • + 2
 I am not sure that all of those trails ascribe to the two-meter rule!
  • + 2
 Anyone else click the link thinking Amir Kabbani?
  • + 2
 Anton Cooper gonna be here?
  • + 1
 Instagram seems to say yes. Hopefully at full health too.
  • + 2
 Love the coverage. That last picture is great.
  • + 1
 I wouldn't be sure about those snales though....
  • + 1
 Great photos!

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