The UCI World Cup travels Down Under to Cairns, Australia, for the second round of the downhill series and the first round of the cross-country on April 23-24. The series last visited Cairns in 2014, for the second round of both the DHI and XCO series. This year’s event will be a final test event for organisers before they host the UCI World Championships next year (2017).
Sitting above coconut fringed beaches and coral islands of the Great Barrier reef, the 1.9 kilometre DHI course is pure rainforest racing at its best. Riders depart high in the tropical mist and twist down through ancient rock outcrops on volcanic clay. Great Britain’s Rachel Atherton and brother Gee Atherton were the winners in 2014. Atherton won the first round this year in Lourdes, France while American Aaron Gwin (The YT Mob), defending UCI World Cup Champion, repeated as the Elite men’s winner.
Canada’s Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing), who was second in Lourdes will be in the hunt for the podium again and will be joined by teammate Mark Wallace who was 8th in Lourdes. Canadian Finnley Iles (Specialized DH) is the Junior men’s World Cup leader following his stunning victory in Lourdes. There are no Canadian women racing.
The 4.31 kilometre XCO course weaves its way through steep gumtree-lined ridges and dark rainforest valleys. Riders funnel into rainforest single track for a steep, tight and technical climb, before a series of high speed, technical drops. Eva Lechner (ITA) and Julien Absalon (FRA) were the winners in 2014.
Lechner will be in Cairns to defend her title but several top riders including Jolanda Neff (Sui) Stockli Pro, the defending World Cup champ, will not be on the start line. Canadian contenders are led by Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) along with Sandra Walter (Liv/Giant).
Absalon will battle long-standing rival, Nino Schurter (Sui) Scott-Odlo while defending Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze) Specialized Racing is out with a broken arm. Look for Canadian national MTB champ, Raphael Gagne (Cannondale 360fly p/b Sugoi), along with Scott-3Rox Racing’s Geoff Kabush and Derek Zandstra to fight for top finishes.