The world’s fastest cross-country racers will this weekend assemble in Dalby Forest for the second round of the UCI XC World Cup.
The international challenge
Last year’s winner Nino Schurter outsprinted Olympic champion Julien Absalon in what was one of the most exciting, and the closest, racers of the World Cup series.
At the first round in South Africa last month Schurter proved to the main contenders that he’s on good form, taking the win ahead of Abaslon and the Czech rider Jaroslav Kulhavy. I’m not a betting man, but if I was the Swiss rider would be hard not to tip for a repeat win, securing his position at the top f the world rankings and starching his lead in the world cup.
Wearing the World Champion stripes, worth a significant boost in speed even if it’s just in the mind, will be Jose Hermida. Always popular with the crowd Hermida has been having a cracking season so far finish on the podium in third at the opening round of the World Cup in Pietermaritzburg.
Despite crashing out in South Africa (video: http://youtu.be/0IzVNzpXbjo) Burry Stander rode well at Dalby last year and finish third, and showed he’s on form by winning the South African XC Championships last month.
In the women’s race Irina Kalentieva, Willow Koerber and Katerina Nash will be looking for a repeat of their podium finishes last year at Dalby but the returning Chengyuan Ren from China showed awesome speed and form winning the first round in South Africa.
Julie Bresset is a name to watch. The Russian finished third in South Africa and won the British XC Series held at Dalby in April this year.
Of the British hopes Liam Killeen spearheads Great Britain’s 12-rider squad, and the 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist is perhaps our best chance of a top finish, with the top ten a realistic target if Killeen is on form. The pull of the home crowd and the London 2012 Olympics in the back of his mind will give him extra incentive to put in a good showing.
In the women’s category a top three finish is within reach of 20-year-old World under-23 silver medallist Annie Last. She’ll ride up a category and will be mixing it with the elite women, and will surely prove a tough test for the rider who has showed so much form so young. Last familiarised herself with the Dalby course by finish second in the British XC Series held there last month.
There’s strong representation in the under-23 men’s category, with David Fletcher, Kenta Gallagher, Steven James potential candidates for a good performance and riders to watch ahead of the Olympics next year. Could one of these three be vying for an Olympic medal? Keep a close eye on them.
Also keep an eye out for, and give a huge cheer for Tracy Moseley who will be a riding in the elite women’s race. While the downhill star won’t be mixing it up at the fast end of the race, following a strong ride in the Absa Cape Epic stage race and winning the first round of the UCI DH World Cup, a strong showing isn’t beyond the realms of imagination.
So there you go, you now know who you should be cheering for at the weekend. See you there.