September 14, 2007 (Maribor, Slovenia) – Another World Cup MTB season is coming to a close this weekend with a triple event hosted by the ski resort of Pohorje in Maribor, Slovenia. All the top contenders are in attendance, including lots of Canadians, taking advantage of already being in Europe for last week’s 2007 MTB Worlds.
Four-cross qualifiers take place tonight, but the first big event of the weekend is the XC race. The Elite Women launch off the line at 11:00 a.m. local time (5:00 a.m. EST), while the Elite Men go at 2:00 p.m. local time (8:00 a.m. EST). The course traverses the bottom of the ski hill and includes a fun mix of twisty, rooty singletrack climbs and descents and some open road and grass sections. However, most of the 4.5km course takes place in the woods. There are several difficult high-speed descending sections, where treacherous water bars or sharp corners require riders to quickly ease up on the throttle. These sections are momentum- and rhythm-killers. Between these obstacles and the tricky roots, riders will have to stay on their toes tomorrow.
It has been sunny for the past several days, but the course — especially the roots, of which there are many — is still slick in places. The weather forecast is calling for much of the same: sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-20s. The technical nature of the track should suit the many Canadians taking part. “The course is sehr gut,” said Ricky Federau (Can) Trek-Wenting’s, using his extensive German vocabulary.
Of the 72 women registered, five will represent Canada tomorrow: Marie-HÃ©lÃ¨ne PrÃ©mont (Can) Rocky Mountain-Haywood, Kiara Bisaro (Can) Opus, Catharine Pendrel (Can) Norco Factory Team, Wendy Simms (Can) Kona-Les Gets and Sandra Walter (Can) X.O-Felt Women’s MTB Team. Russia’s Irina Kalentyeva (Rus) Topeak-Ergon is leading the series, but Canada’s PrÃ©mont is right on her tail in second spot.
Six Canadian Men are on the start list, which consists of 157 names: Geoff Kabush (Can) Maxxis, Seamus McGrath (Can) Rocky Mountain-Haywood, Federau, Max Plaxton (Can) Rocky Mountain-Haywood, Mathieu Toulouse (Can) Maxxis and Kris Sneddon (Can) Kona-Les Gets. Julien Absalon (Fra) Orbea has a commanding lead in the men’s overall. Kabush is top Canuck in 13th.
The women will be doing six (6) laps, with a modified first lap, which basically cuts out a chunk of singletrack at the beginning of the loop and replaces it with a long fire road climb. The men will be doing eight (8) laps, also including the modified lap to start. – SW
MTB World Cup racing makes a return to the Eastern European nation of Slovenia this weekend. After a 4-year run from 1999-2002, the MTB World Cup ceased making a stop here in Slovenia, one of the circuit’s best tracks. This year, the circus us back in town, and the course is better than ever. The track is getting rave reviews from riders for it’s speed, technical bits, as well as it’s flow — it’s just fun to ride. Big berms, lots of exposed roots and off camber and a few high speed sections at the top make for a fun four-minute run.
Canada’s Steve Smith (Cove) is back racing as a senior and his hand is feeling better. He is practicing today without his brace on and is able to hang onto the bars a little better than at Fort William, Scotland where the 2007 MTB Worlds were just held.
Tyler Morland (Cove) and Jeff Beatty (Mojo Orange) are here on the men’s side keeping Smith company and Claire Buchar (Specialized) is holding it down for the women.
Steve Peat (Gbr) is riding and his ankle and foot seem to be holding up well. Greg Minnaar (Rsa) is here, but will not be riding after suffering a broken Scapula on his final run at the DH Worlds in Scotland last weekend. Sam Hill (Aus) is on form and is 168 points up on Peat in the overall heading into Sunday.
The town of Maribor itself is a picturesque old world European city and has plenty of charm and photo opportunities. Most riders are as excited to play tourist as they are to ride their bikes here. Look for a fast race on Sunday, that may see some surprises on the podium.
Four Cross qualification is Friday 5:30pm local time (11:30am EST) and the finals are on Saturday at 6pm local time (12 noon EST). The World Cup Downhill Semi Finals begin Sunday at 10:30am local time (4:30am EST) and the finals are at 2pm local (8am EST). – FB