ELITE WOMEN’S XCO

Australian Mountain Bike - - Between The Tape -

This is per­haps one of the tough­est races to pre­dict - with any of the top 20-25 rid­ers in the world able to win if they per­form at their very best.

Den­mark’s An­nika Langvad is the reign­ing world cham­pion and has form at Cairns, hav­ing won last year’s World Cup event on the same course. Third that day was Bec Henderson and the Can­berra rider will again be desperate to put on a show for all the Aussies. She’s a con­sis­tent top-10 per­former on the World Cup cir­cuit, but home sup­port could be vi­tal to turn a ‘de­cent’ re­sult into some­thing re­ally spe­cial – es­pe­cially with the race wide open on pa­per. On this sea­son’s form, expect Ukraine’s Yana Belomoina and Poland’s Maja Wloszc­zowska to chal­lenge strongly for hon­ours. Wloszc­zowska, 33, is an Olympic sil­ver medal­list from the 2016 Rio Games, while Belomoina has taken a real step up re­cently af­ter com­ing into the elite level on the back of her 2014 Un­der-23 World Cham­pi­onship suc­cess. Then there’s the enigma that is Jenny Rissveds. The 23-year-old Swede blitzed the 2015 Un­der-23 sea­son, won a World Cup event at Len­z­er­heide in her first se­nior cam­paign and then landed the 2016 Olympic gold. Since then, though, she’s ad­mit­ted it’s been hard to deal with the in­creased pres­sure and also suf­fered a double fam­ily be­reave­ment that kept her out of serious ac­tion un­til July.

And we’ve still not men­tioned Bri­tain’s An­nie Last (2017 World Cup win­ner at Len­z­er­heide), or Switzer­land’s Jolanda Neff (over­all World Cup cham­pion in 2014 and 2015), or Ger­many’s veteran Sabine Spitz (for­mer World and Olympic cham­pion) who def­i­nitely can­not be writ­ten off.

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