August 22, 2006 — The worlds most talented young women have their chance for the glory of wearing the Rainbow Jersey on Wednesday, Aug. 23. At 10am 24 junior women will race the biggest race of their young careers. For the first time ever, the UCI is recognising an under 23 womens category – the 29 registered women start at 12:30am. Lap counts have yet to be confirmed.
Emerging victorious will certainly not be easy as the course is a muddy mess due to heavy rain that fell over the weekend and has saturated the clay base of the trails turning the top layer into “peanut butter”, as many have described it. With a predicted overnight low of -3 Celsius heavy frost is expected. A chilly start to the day may mean that the Juniors are racing on frozen ground until the tempature rises to a forcasted 11 Celsius.
The strongest favourite for the race is Tanja Zakelj of Slovenia. She placed third at the MTB Worlds last year making her the strongest returning racer. Zakelj also won the European Championships in Italy this year. Julie Krasniak of France was 6th last year and was second at Euros. Switzerland’s Nadja Roschi is the second best returning competitor having placed fifth last year. Hometown-girl Monique Avery won the Oceania Championships on the same course in March.
Emily Batty of Brooklin, Ontario represents Canada’s best chance for a medal. Already a veteran at age 18, Batty has raced at the national level for the previous four seasons. Placing 13th in Livigno last year and having strong sucess at Swisspower Cup races in Europe this year, Batty has the ability to have a top placing. Alexandra Gelinas-Hamelin, a first year Junior, will give the MTB Worlds a first shot tommorow.
Being the inaugural year for this category, the top U23 racers from around the globe have not competed against one another in this format so this event should provide wide open racing. Based on results this season, tommorrow’s top favourite could come from a nation that is not traditionally associated with mountain bike racing. China’s Ren Chengyuan has had great World Cup sucess placing ninth at Fort William, Scotland and most recently sixth at Mounte Ste Anne, Quebec.
Other contenders include Swiss rider, Sarah Koba, who beat the majority of her competiters when she won the European Championships this year. Tereza Hurikova of the Czech Repbublic was the 2005 Junior World Champion and placed second to Koba at the Euros. Adelheid Morath of Germany is another rider to watch as she placed 11th in the elite women’s race and MTB Worlds last year.
Canada’s Meghan Kindree of Squamish, B.C. should be in top form having recently been crowned the British Columbia elite provincial champion. Jean Anne McKirdy of Valemont, B.C. is Canada’s U23 national champion and has been steadily progressing under coach Lesley Tomlinson. Oshawa, Ontario’s Catherine Vipond is also representing Canada on the startline.