When the MTB World Cup rolls into town and the sun shines, a great time is guaranteed. That was the scene for this weekend’s racing in the Casa de Campo in Madrid – the world’s fastest XC racers dicing it out on a dry and dusty course.
Madrid is a superb city, full of life, with great architecture and world class museums. However, arguably one of its best features is its proximity to quality mountain biking. There are proper mountains 50km to the north and within the city itself there are two great parks, each criss-crossed with trails. One of those parks, previously a royal hunting ground, has played host to the MTB World Cup on several previous occasions and opened its gates to an XC round again this year.
The racing started on the Saturday with the Juniors, Masters and Vets. Each of the categories were well attended and the close racing that ensued gave a strong indication of what was to come on the Sunday. In true Madrileno style, spectator numbers were high all weekend and the party atmosphere was ever-present. Even on the Saturday the level of support and the cheering on the climbs was amazing.
Speaking of climbs, the course itself had plenty of them – the short, leg burning kind that don’t seem too bad at first but by the third and fourth laps are beginning to hit home big time. The singletrack was also super smooth which meant the hammer stayed down permanently and rest was not an option. To match the climbs, the descents were short and sharp, albeit mostly technically straightforward. Only the locally dubbed “descent of death” caused a few minor problems.
Sunday saw the Men’s and Women’s Pro events and the final of the trials competition. The women got the day going, blasting away from the start line at 10am. After disappointment in the first round, Gunn-Rita Dahle returned to the top of the podium in style with an incredible display of speed and power. Going to the front during the first lap, she never looked back and took a convincing victory. Marie-Helene Premont was the only one who could stay close and held second place until the end, whilst Sabine Spitz from Specialized put in an impressive late charge to take third.
For the men, the race was seven laps in the full heat of the day. They started like rocketships and the leaders kept the hammer down for the whole race. In the end the incredible class of Julien Absalon shone through and he took the win. In second place was the ever-popular Jose Antonio Hermida, cheered on by thousands of cycling mad Spaniards, whilst Christoph Sauser came in third.
A fantastic weekend of racing, a fantastic event. Something tells me the World Cup will be returning to Madrid again, let’s hope it’s sometime soon!