I recently had the pleasure of visiting Albstadt, Germany during the UCI World Cup XCO race as a guest of Cannondale for the world wide launch of their new F-Si 29 Carbon racing 29er hardtail. It had been several years since I’ve seen World Cup XC racing up close, in fact, the last one being the old races held in Napa, California. I even raced the old Grundig World Cup (as a beginner) in Napa when it was held at Skyline Park, before they moved it to the Domaine Chandon winery location (which is actually in Yountville, not Napa). Does anyone else out there remember the Disco Flyover and the cheerleaders? I also have fond memories of watching Miguel Martinez, Rune Hoydahl, Luca Bramati and Cadel Evans racing up the fireroad at sprint speed. On the women’s side, I recall racers like Alison Sydor, Lesley Tomlinson, Ruthie Matthes, Alison Dunlap, Shari Kain, Gunn-Rita Dahle (before she was married) and who could forget Olympic sensation Paola Pezzo. It was great to have this opportunity to see the modern day version of the highest level of mountain bike competition. Cannondale was gracious enough to give us free reign to roam on Sunday to enjoy all the sights and excitement of the Elite Men and Elite Women’s XC race.
Elite Women’s XC
First up was the Women’s Elite Cross Country. Building up a strong lead early and maintaining it all the way through, Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Liv Pro XC) from France followed up her win at Nove Mesto (previous World Cup round in the Czech Republic) with her second consecutive victory. Her brutal lead pace saw her finish with a gap of almost three minutes! Mountain bike racing legend, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) from Norway took second and current World Cup leader Jolanda Neff (Liv Pro XC) from Switzerland took third.
Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) placed highest for American riders with an 18th place finish with a time of 1:39:16.
Elite Men’s XC
Almost immediately following the Elite Women, the Elite Men’s XC race took off with a bang. The Albstadt course has become known for its steep climbs and narrow, fast descents. It has been referred to as a “climber’s course” but offers plenty of technical features as well.
Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) from Switzerland built up an early lead in the race but was gradually pulled in by eventual race winner Julien Absalon (BMC Racing) from France. With this win, Absalon became the first rider ever to win a record setting 29 cross country World Cups. With this third win of the season, Absalon holds a strong lead in the overall standing. After some serious dicing towards the end, Schurter took second by a scant five seconds over third place finisher, Stephane Tempier (BH-Suntour-KMC) from France. Overall it was a very strong day for France.
U.S. rider Stephen Ettinger (BMC Mountainbike Racing Team) placed 21st, with a time of 1:34:29.
After the Elite Mens race was over, I was able to tour the expo area before the mad dash to tear down and move on to the next world destination. I am more comfortable taking static shots of bikes and gear, than I am being out on a race course trying to shoot the high speed action in varying lighting conditions of World Cup competition. Featured here are a few highlights from the booths including photos of Cannondale, Rotwild bikes, Continental tires, Sigma Sport computers and lights, Eleven Sportswear and Suntour forks.
If you haven’t seen a World Cup race in a while, I strongly suggest traveling to check one out. World Cup racing comes stateside in August (7-10th) to Windham, NY and that round will feature World Cup XCO (Cross Country Olympic), XCE (Cross Country Eliminator) and DHI (Downhill) races. For more information about this round, check out: http://racewindham.com/
Please click through to see all the race action and event photos.