August 22, 2014 (Meribel, France) – Located in the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps, Méribel is famous for hosting the 1992 Winter Olympic hockey and women’s alpine skiing, and is within the Vanoise National Park.
The World Cup action begins on Friday with the sixth and final round of the Eliminator. The 725 metre course sends the riders off a gondola platform at the chairlift station, down four start ramps and straight into the ‘Meribel Wall’, a big wall ride, before a series of jumps, log and rock sections, a short climb, and a final banked turn into the finishing straight.
In the women’s competition, Kathrin Stirnemann (Sabine Spitz Haibike) has mathematically won the World Cup with 225 points after Round 5, since Jenny Rissveds (Scott Odlo), at 160 points, cannot surpass her total in the final round. Rissveds is tied on points for second with world champion Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory).
The men’s title is still up for grabs, with three riders still in close contention. World Cup leader Fabrice Mels extended his lead in the overall standings over world champion Paul van der Ploeg of Australia after the last round, and now has 157 points to van der Ploeg’s 138, with defending champion Daniel Federspiel (Otztal Scott) in third at 130 points.
Saturday is Gravity Day, with the attention shifting to the Downhill for the seventh and final round. The track provides stunning vistas of the mountains surrounding the valley, but riders won’t have a lot of time to enjoy the view on this steep, fast track that drops 550 metres in 2100 metres length.
From a very open and fast top section, riders drop into a series of rooty, rocky wooded segments that are likely to be muddy and slippery, before a final open and fast section with sweeping turns that will allow spectators to watch riders coming into the finish arena from a long distance out.
The competition for the women’s title tightened up after the previous round. Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen) continues to lead the standings with 1180 points, but Emmeline Ragot (Lapierre Gravity Republic) is now only 70 points back after her win in the previous round, and world champion Rachel Atherton (GT Factory) is 120 points in arrears.
The men’s lead changed after the last round, with Josh Bryceland (Sanata Cruz Syndicate) overtaking Troy Brosnan (Specialized Racing DH). Bryceland now leads with 1007 points, with Brosnan second at 964 and Aaron Gwin (Specialized Racing DH) in third with 925 points.
The 2014 World Cup concludes on Sunday with the Cross-country. The 4.7 kilometre course is old school – lots of natural rough, rooty and rocky sections, with considerable steep climbing. In the dry it is technically demanding, in the wet only the most skilled riders will be able to ride every section.
The women’s overall title was mathematically won by Jolanada Neff (Liv Pro XC) after Round 6, but the there is a tremendous battle for the rest of the podium spots, with eight riders vying for four spots. Canadian champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) is showing very good form at the moment, coming off a solo win in the last round, but defending World Cup champion Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools) has been steadily improving all season and sits only two points behind Pendrel in the battle for second overall.
The men’s series is down to two riders – World Cup leader Julien Absalon (BMC) and his constant rival, world champion Nino Schurter (Scott Odlo). Between them, they have won all six events this year, and are currently tied at three apiece. While it would take a miracle for Schurter to overtake Absalon for the overall title after missing one round, the duo will certainly battle to break their tie in wins.
Catch all the action on Redbull TV, beginning with the Eliminator on Friday.