2017 MTB XCO Nationals
The UCI MTB World Cup has been spectacular, with shakeups in both disciplines, as well as multiple podiums from Canadian riders. Junior men’s DH superstar Finn Iles (CAN, Specialized) has four wins out of five events so far. In XCO, Peter Disera (CAN, Norco Factory Team) has been turning heads with a strong World Cup campaign, highlighted by a bronze medal in Albstadt, Germany
With four of six UCI World Cups in the bag, Yana Belomoina (UKR, CST Sandd American Eagle) holds the elite women’s overall after landing on the podium in each and winning rounds two and three in Albstadt and Vallnord, Andorra. Meanwhile, Nino Schurter’s (SUI, Scott-SRAM) lead is nearly insurmountable as the 2016 Olympic and World champ closes in on setting a record for being the first elite man to win every World Cup in one season.
The elite women’s series has been extremely exciting with deep competition and lots of action. When Annie Last (GBR, OMX Pro Team) won at the fourth stop in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, she made history as the first British woman to win a World Cup in 20 years. It also marked an incredible comeback for the young rider, who has faced her share of obstacles during the past few years. Annika Langvad (DEN, Specialized) started 2017 strong with a win at the first event in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, where she earned her rainbow stripes last year, but she has struggled with consistency since.
The Canadian women have had some highs and lows this season, with Emily Batty (CAN, Trek Factory Racing) logging the best result – a fifth place in round three in Andorra. Olympic bronze medalist Catharine Pendrel (CAN, Clif Pro Team) hasn’t found her rhythm yet as she tries to shed some bad luck and regain her winning edge. Pendrel’s best result in the series to this point is 10th place in Lenzerheide.
While Schurter’s domination may sound boring, the elite men’s races have been anything but, with several challengers rising to the task and trying to find gaps in the Swiss rider’s armour. First it was David Valero (ESP, MMR Factory Racing Team) who put up the biggest fight, finishing second in Nove Mesto, only 26 seconds behind. One of Schurter’s most interesting adversaries this year has been 22-year-old cyclo-cross phenom Mathieu van der Poel (NED, Beobank-Corendon), who led the Swiss star for part of round two in Albstadt to eventually finish second at 26 seconds. Notably, the previous weekend in Nove Mesto, van der Poel started in 90th position, catapulted himself into eighth place in the end, and tied with Schurter for the fastest lap time. In Lenzerheide, van der Poel once again took turns on the front, but eventually faded to 10th, as Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE, Specialized) came out of nowhere to finish a surprising second, setting the fastest lap of the entire race on the final circuit to cross the line a mere three seconds in arrears.
The Canadian men’s contingent has had a tough go so far this season as they battle to score points in a ruthless field. They are led by Olympian Leandre Bouchard (CAN, BH-SR Suntour-KMC), whose best result is a stellar 16th in Albstadt. He is ranked 25th in the overall.
The rivalry is intense in the U23 women’s series, as the winner of rounds one and four and runner up in the other two, Kate Courtney (USA, Specialized), leads by only 40 points over second and third, Sina Frei (SUI, JB Brunex Felt Team) and Evie Richards (GBR, Great Britain Academy Team), who have one win each. The top Canadian in the mix is Anne-Julie Tremblay (CAN, Cyclone d’Alma Team Canada) in 26th overall after a breakout 16th-place finish in Albstadt.
Canada’s Disera started his season fast out of the gate, landing a top 10 in Nove Mesto and setting the tone for his podium the following weekend. He went on to nab seventh in Vallnord and
10th in Lenzerheide. Currently fourth in the overall, he’s only eight points behind third place, Petter Fagerhaug (NOR, Team Norway). A different rider has won each round so far with Fagerhaug taking the opening round, while second overall in the standings, Nadir Colledani (ITA, Torpado Gabogas), sped to the top step of the
podium in the second event. Former Junior World Champ Simon Andreassen (DEN, Specialized) earned victory in Vallnord and series leader Martins Blums (LAT, ZZK) reigned supreme in Lenzerheide.
The elite women’s ranks saw an upheaval of epic proportions when world number one Rachel Atherton’s (GBR, Trek Factory Racing DH) marathon winning streak was broken in Fort William, Scotland, during final training. She crashed and was unable to take to the track for the round two final with a dislocated shoulder. This left the door open for a charging Tracey Hannah (AUS, Polygon
UR), who had finished a close second behind Atherton in round one in Lourdes, France. In Scotland, Hannah earned the second World Cup win of her career by over 10 seconds. The field was unsettled by Atherton’s absence, and it was Tahnee Seagrave’s (GBR, Transition Bikes / FMD Factory Racing) on the top step for round three in Leogang. When Atherton returned to racing for round four in Andorra, she lacked her trademark aggressive style. Her tentative riding left her in fourth place, while Myriam Nicole (FRA, Commencal / Vallnord) took the victory. On a roll, Nicole did it again on stop five in Lenzerheide. Miranda Miller (CAN, Specialized) has the best Canadian finish so far this season with a sixth in Lourdes, but she’s since been hampered by a knee injury. Vaea Verbeek (CAN, Rocky Mountain) is the highest ranked Canuck in the series in 12th.
The elite men’s racing has been heated too. The legend Greg Minnaar (RSA, Santa Cruz Syndicate) captured his 20th career World Cup victory in Fort William on a 29er. He would take his 21st in Lenzerheide, along with the series lead, but in the season opener, the big favourites were shafted by Mother Nature when torrential rain hit in Lourdes partway through the men’s final, quickly rendering the course a quagmire. A good run and luck with the weather allowed Alexandre Fayolle (FRA, Polygon UR) to take his first ever World Cup triumph, followed in second by Canadian speedster Mark Wallace (CAN, Canyon Factory Racing DH). It’s been a thrilling season, with lots different faces on the podium. In Leogang, Aaron Gwin threw down the quickest run (USA, The YT Mob), while Troy Brosnan
(AUS, Canyon Factory Racing DH) owned Fort William.
The junior men’s World Champion, Canada’s Iles, only had one blip in his season so far – a second place in Fort William. In all the other stops, he rolled through with the fastest time and has a commanding lead in the series, while Melanie Chappaz (FRA, Dorval AM Nicolai) leads the junior women’s standings. There are no Canadians competing in the junior women’s category this season.
Emily Batty celebrates her fifth place at round three in Andorra
Peter Disera (r) earns his first U23 men’s podium in Albstadt, Germany.
Canada’s Miranda Miller claimed sixth in Lourdes, FRA.
Canada’s Finnley Iles has four out of five victories to lead the Junior Men’s DH Series.