September 13, 2008 (Schladming, Austria) – The final World Cup XC race takes place on Sunday in the famous ski resort town of Schladming, in the scenic Dachstein region of Austria. It’s questionable, however, if spectators will get a glimpse of the panoramic mountain scenery, as the weather forecast is less-than-stellar.
Currently it’s raining, and has been doing so on and off for the past three days. The wet conditions will make the 5km course slick, especially the many grassy climbing sections. The course is very heavy on the climbing side, and the few descents are generally open and fast. It is an incredibly spectator-friendly lap, as it winds through the town centre and along a cobbled street lined with cafes. The start/finish area is at the base of the Planai gondola, along with the expo area.
Following Sunday’s Elite Men’s and Women’s races, the 2008 World Cup Champions will be crowned, and Canadians are guaranteed to be on the podium. Marie-HÃ©lÃ¨ne PrÃ©mont (Can) Rocky Mountain has the title mathematically sewn up for the women, and Catharine Pendrel (Can) Luna Women’s MTB Team is currently in second overall, with a very strong chance of retaining it. In the men’s category, Julien Absalon (Fra) Orbea is guaranteed the title, but Geoff Kabush (Can) Maxxis is currently tied for second overall with World Champion Christoph Sauser (Sui) Specialized, with one race to go.
The women start at 10:00 a.m. local time / 4:00 a.m. EST tomorrow, and they will complete five or six laps (depending on conditions). All the top contenders are here: World Champion Margarita Fullana (Spa) Massi, Olympic Champion Sabine Spitz (Ger) Ghost, Olympic silver medallist Maja Wloszczowska (Pol) Halls, and the winner of the latest World Cup, Irina Kalentieva (Rus) Topeak-Ergon. At the end of the season, however, anything can happen, so it’s sure to be an exciting competition. Canada’s Sandra Walter (Can) X.O-Felt Women’s MTB Team is the third Canadian woman competing.
The men will take off at 1:30 p.m. local time / 7:30 a.m. EST and race seven or eight laps (depending on conditions). Defending Sauser will be vying for the win, along with the rest of the best, including Olympic silver medallist Jean-Christoph Peraud (Fra) Orbea, bronze medallist Nino Schurter (Sui) Swisspower, Canberra World Cup winner Ralph NÃ¤f (Sui) Multivan-Merida, teammate Jose Antonio Hermida (Spa) Multivan-Merida, and Roel Paulissen (Bel) Cannondale-Vredestein, and Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Full Dynamix.