Here we are at the start of a fresh new season, and with new seasons come questions. The biggest being who did their homework in the offseason? There are other questions as well, as some riders have switched teams. Questions such as "Is the new team a good fit?" or "Will so and so like his or her new bike?" But the biggest question is where is everyone at in their fitness after an Olympic year. The Olympics put a special stress on riders and can leave them a bit out of the game the following season. The curse of the Olympics is much like the curse of the rainbow jersey, except it can affect anyone. It's no small thing carrying the stress of a nation's pride on your shoulders, much less having to maintain a peak for both Worlds and the Games. It is no wonder why the season after an Olympic year is such an interesting one. That's not to say there aren't exceptions to the rule, there always are. That said, we got the season underway today with the Women Elite and U23 men racers here in Nove Mesto, and interesting racing it was indeed.
Annika Langvad came into this season with the rainbow jersey, and she came out swinging today to take the win in commanding fashion. She took the lead after the start lap from Linda Indergand and never looked back. Langvad finished a minute up on the second place Sabine Spitz. Rumor had it that Sabine was retiring, but apparently, she couldn't stay away. While the front of the field suffered flats and other mechanicals, Sabine used her years of racing expertise to charge her way to second place. Worst retirement ever or best? Either way, it was one hell of a ride. For the U23 men Norway's Petter, Fagerhaug battled it out with Martins Blums to take the win and Sasu Halme took third. So far it has been a very exciting start to the season, and we have another day of racing tomorrow.
Thanks for the coffee, Irmo.
What better way to get your first World Cup started...
Osha_is_this_ok has to have these guys in their feed somewhere.
The always busy SRAM techs, keeping those big wheels turning.
It was a long sleeve and windows down kind of day after the nice weather we had been having here in Nove Mesto.
A huge men's under-23 field blazes off for the first World Cup of 2017.
Battle scars on Dutchman Milan Vader's leg. A bad day threw him back to 45th place.
Simon Andreassen fought hard, but only managed 49th. Simon's fought with back issues. No giving up for the strong Dane though.
Sebastian Fini Carstensen leads Fagerhaug early on through Mitas Choice.
The mechanicals came early on and never let up.
Prepared for flats.
Germany's Georg Egger took off full speed, making his way up to the top of the Nove Mesto course as his competitors follow.
Norway's Petter Fagerhaug led the race from the second lap onwards and rode to an uncontested win.
Petter Fagerhaug racing home on the final lap.
Sassu Halme drops it like it's hot. Third place U23 men.
Petter Fagerhaug saultes and bows his head all at once.
The battle is on for this leader's jersey. One more week to go till round two.
Covered in dust, but happy as can be. Third for Sebastian Fini.
Eat your sausages for strength, because you're not likely to find a vegetable in the near vicinity.
Pendrel posing for photo or three.
Neff was all smiles at the start of the race.
The UCI's iPad and app detects any magnetic abnormalities - it's used to find hidden motors in bikes. So far, none have been found in mountain biking. Checks are done prior and after races.
As racers warm up, the crew packs up their gear and head out to the tech zones.
We've said it before and we will say it again: spectators make a race. Maja Wloszczowska's fanclub is always present in large numbers in Nove Mesto and cheers her on.
Jolanda Neff is always fast out of the start gate. Eager for another World Cup win, the Swiss rider blazes off as threatening clouds gather.
Catharine Pendrel is always a force to be reckoned with, as was the case today. A twisted chain and a flat saw her chances vanish.
Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa overtakes Maja Wloszczowska as she struggled in Mita's choice.
Annie Last digging deep on her way to tenth place. It's nice to see Last come back into form.
Linda Indergand had a very strong ride today and took third.
Despite flying down the downhills this wasn't Emily Batty's day. The women's race proved to be full of surprises as fast riders struggled and others flourished.
Sabine Spitz. She has won it all in her career and she does not show any signs of slacking whatsoever. A very strong second for her.
Helen Grobert had a good first day out and took seventh place.
Belomoina powering up the big bad slog in the center. Belomoina took fifth.
Langvad and Ingergand on the first climb on lap one. Langvad would pass and never look back.
Annika Langvad. What can you say? She wasn't feeling the curse of the jersey today.
Maja had an off in Mitas Choice on lap one, but made it back to fourth by race end.
Up the center. Over and Over. It takes its toll.
18th was not how Jolanda Neff wanted to start the season off.
As for Annika, she has done it again. A solo victory, riding to another win in Nove Mesto.
Yana Belomoina and Maja Wloszczowska battle it out for fourth place.
Maja had another rough one in Nove Mesto, but this time she took the sprint.
Words from the winner.
See you back here tomorrow for U23 Women and Elite Men.