Canadian Cyclist: Riders to watch at Nove Mesto World Cup
Feature photo: 2014 World Cup start via Rob Jones/canadiancyclist.com
This weekend will see the start of the 25th season for the Cross-country series of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic.
Nove Mesto, awarded the title of best cross-country World Cup multiple times, is also the site for next year’s world championships. In addition, riders and countries are chasing every point they can in the race for Olympic qualifying for Rio next year. Canadian Cyclist will be providing live coverage, photos, reports and interviews all weekend.
Held in the wooded, rolling countryside 90 minutes southeast of Prague, Nove Mesto offers a tough 4.1 kilometre circuit, with half of it climbing. From the magnificent arena, riders head out through a rock garden then up a long climb followed by an immediate descent and a second long climb. After descending through a difficult rock garden, riders hit the longest sustained climb, then go over a drop off and back up to the highest part of the course. A final descent takes them to the flatter portion of the circuit, where they face the famous Rock n’ Roll technical section before heading into the stadium for the end of the lap. New for this year, as the riders start each lap they will face a new obstacle section.
Weather forecasts call for cool and overcast conditions, with a strong chance of rain. However, the mostly wooded course sheds water well, so riders shouldn’t get too bogged down in mud if it does rain.
The women’s race will see defending World Cup champion Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli Pro) go up against Canada’s world champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna). Others to watch for include Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools), Maja Wloszczowska (Kross Racing), Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), Canada’s Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) and Annika Langvad (Specialized). Missing from the start line will be local favourite Katerina Nash (Luna) and London Olympic champion Julie Bresset (BH-SR Suntour-KMC). The women will do a start loop plus 5 laps.
Besides Pendrel and Batty, also on the Elite women’s start list are Canadians Sandra Walter (Canadian National), Mikaela Kofman (Scott-3Rox), Cindy Montambault (CVM 2 V) and Rebecca Beaumont (Cyclone D’alma).
On the men’s side, we will see the resumption of the continuing battle between World Cup and world champion Julien Absalon (BMC) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo). These two riders completely dominated the series last year, and each will be looking for the opening win of the season. Other names to watch include local favourite and reigning Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized), Daniel McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) and Florian Vogel (Focus XC). The men will do a start loop plus 6 laps.
Canada has six entrants in the Elite men’s race. Derek Zandstra (Scott-3Rox) and Raphael Gagne (Canadian National) have both been racing strongly in early season California races, as has Adam Morka (Trek Canada). Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) has had a slower start to the season, but is the most consistent Canadian man on the World Cup circuit. Leandre Bouchard (Canadian National) has moved up to the Elite ranks after podium finishes previously in the Under 23 category, and Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory) is also listed to start.
The action begins on Saturday with the Under 23 Women, where number one ranked Margot Moschetti (Betch.nl Superior Brentjens) will battle Jenny Rissveds (Scot-Odlo). American Kate Courtney (Specialized) will also be a podium contender. Canada’s entrants will be Haley Smith (Canadian National) and Catherine Fleury (Canadian National). The Under 23 women will race a start loop plus 4 laps.
On Sunday morning, the racing begins with the Under 23 Men, where a world class field is scheduled to start. Former Junior world champion Anton Cooper (Cannondale Factory) will face competition from Howard Grotts (Specialized), Grant Ferguson (Betch.nl Superior Brentjens) and Victor Koretzky (BH-SR Suntour). Canada has three entrants, led by former Junior world championship silver medallist Peter Disera (Canadian National). He will be joined by Alexandre Vialle and Marc-Andre Fortier (Canadian National). The Under 23 men will race a start loop plus 5 laps.