ELITE WOMEN’S XCO
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.