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UCI MTB 2007 World Championships – Preview and Photos

September 4, 2007 (Fort William, Scotland) – The 2007 UCI MTB & Trials World Championships officially kick off today in Fort William, Scotland with the XC Team Relay at 1:30 p.m. local time (8:30 a.m. EST), followed by the opening ceremonies at 6:00 p.m. local time (1:00 p.m. EST). Fort William has enjoyed years of favouritism as a World Cup venue from riders and spectators alike, due to the enthusiastic Scottish MTB fans and challenging, visually exciting and enjoyable courses. This week, the site has the honour of hosting the 2007 season’s most anticipated competition, with rainbow jerseys being awarded in the four MTB World Championship disciplines: XC Team Relay, XC, DH and 4X.

XC Team Relay
September 4 – 1:30 p.m. local time / 8:30 a.m. EST

Canada will not be entering the XC Team Relay competition this year, despite having been very successful in the past. Switzerland is the defending champion, but it will be an exciting competition, as countries compete in teams compiled of their best Elite Man, Woman, U23 Man and Junior Men in a relay format.

XC Junior Women
September 5 – 10:30 a.m. local time / 5:30 a.m. EST

For the Junior Women’s XC race Canada will be represented by National Champion Andréanne Pichette (QC). Last year’s Tanja Zakelj (Slo) has moved up to the U23 ranks, but Switzerland’s Kathrin Stirnemann (Sui), who placed fifth last year, may be next in line for the rainbow stripes.

XC U23 Women
September 5 – 1:00 p.m. local time / 8:00 a.m. EST

The U23 Women also ride on Wednesday, with Canada’s sole representative being reigning Canadian Champion Emily Batty (ON). It’s her first year in the U23 category, but she has shown she can step up to the challenge of riding faster and longer. Everyone is expecting the Chinese Ren Chengyuan (Chn) to take the title for the second year in a row, however. Chengyuan dominated the U23 competition last year and won the first World Cup of the season against the world’s top women.

XC Junior Men
September 6 – 9:30 a.m. local time / 4:30 a.m. EST

Two Canadian Junior Men made the trip to Scotland: National Champion Jeff Clarkson (BC) and Canada Cup Champ Francis Morin (QC) will both be contesting a very competitive race, which was dominated by the Swiss last year. All three Swiss riders who took over the podium in 2006 have moved up to the U23 category, however, which leaves things wide open.

XC U23 Men
September 7 – 1:30 p.m. local time / 8:30 a.m. EST

Three U23 Men will represent Canada: Max Plaxton (BC), Neil Kindree (BC) and Raphael Gagne (QC). Plaxton has consistently placed among the top U23 riders in this year’s World Cups and with his bronze medal at last year’s World Championships, he’s sure to be motivated. This is Plaxton’s last crack in this age category. Kindree is Canada’s National Champion and has shown immense talent. Gagne has also fought his way through the ranks in Canada and has the potential to do well. The Canadian men will be up against a very strong international field, however, led by defending World Champion Nino Schurter (Sui).

4X Men & Women
September 7 – 8:00 p.m. local time / 3:00 p.m. EST

Friday night will draw the weekend crowd with the Men’s and Women’s 4X finale. The local fans are gravity-crazy, so the 4X is definitely a spectator highlight. Michal Prokop (Cze) will try to defend his title in the Men’s competition, but Brian Lopes (USA) has been on fire this year and will likely give the top-notch field a run for their money. On the women’s side, American Jill Kintner (USA) will be on the defensive, with the hopes of beating all the other women to the finish. No Canadians are competing in this event.

XC Elite Women
September 8 – 10:00 a.m. local time / 5:00 a.m. EST

The pinnacle of the week’s competition for XC fans will be Saturday’s Elite races. The women charge off the line in the morning, led by #1-ranked Irina Kalentyeva (Rus). Canada’s bets for a medal are pretty darned safe in the hands of Marie- Hélène Prémont (QC), who was third last year in New Zealand. Defending Champion, Gunn-Rita Dahle (Nor), will not be competing, as she is still convalescing after suffering a stomach illness. Other Canadians ready to pull out all the stops are Kiara Bisaro (BC), who finished third in Fort William at a World Cup in 2004, and Catharine Pendrel (BC), who is just coming off of a huge gold medal win at the 2007 Pan American Games.

XC Elite Men
September 8 – 2:00 p.m. local time / 9:00 a.m. EST

All eyes will be on golden boy, Julien Absalon (Fra), on Saturday afternoon, as he defends his multiple World Championship titles. Victory is definitely not a given for the Frenchman, as riders like Jose Antonio Hermida (Spa) have defeated him more than once this season. Canadians will cross their fingers for National Champ Geoff Kabush (BC), who had an impressive ride onto the podium at this year’s World Cup in Mont-Ste-Anne, Que. Seamus McGrath (BC) and Ricky Federau (BC) make up the remainder of a strong Canadian team.

DH Junior Men & Women
September 9 – 10:30 a.m. local time / 5:30 a.m. EST

Sunday is reserved for the DH, which will be a crowd favourite with so many of the world’s top riders hailing from Great Britain. Things start off with the Junior Men and Women. Hans Lambert (QC) and Steve Smith (BC) will rip it up in the name of Canada in the Junior Men’s race. Both are stellar DH riders, with Smith placing sixth at the Worlds last year. Anne Laplante (QC) and Miranda Miller represent Canada in the Junior Women’s competition, with the hope of following in two-time Junior Women’s World Championship Bronze Medallist, Micayla Gatto’s (BC), tire tracks.

DH Elite Women
September 9 – 12:30 p.m. local time / 7:30 a.m. EST

France’s Sabrina Jonnier (Fra) defends her Elite Women’s DH title on Sunday, but the competition will be nipping at her heels, including Canadians Gatto and Claire Buchar (BC). Gatto, National Champion and in her first year as a Senior, shows a lot of promise, as does Buchar, who was 15th at last year’s Worlds.

DH Elite Men
September 9 – 1:30 p.m. local time / 8:30 a.m. EST

Australia’s Sam Hill (Aus) has been the one to beat at the World Cups this year and he is also the defending World Champion in the Elite Men’s DH. The crowds will be roaring for Great Britain’s DH stars like Steve Peat (Gbr) and Gee Atherton (Gbr), however, and if cheering will help propel their favourites onto the podium, they’ll do their best to help. Canada will rely on the speed and prowess of National Champion Luke Kitzanuk and other top descenders Jeff Beatty and Tyler Morland on the DH course.

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