In 1991, MSA was part of the opening season of the World Cup, and it is the only venue in the world to have welcomed mountain bikers every year since, with 23 rounds of the World Cup plus two editions of the World Championships, in 1998 and 2010. MSA is considered one of the Classics of the World Cup, with every rider hoping to add a win here to add to their palmares.
Downhill: long, fast and technical course
The competition begins on Friday with qualifying for the downhill, round 5 for 2015. The 2.9 kilometre run combines both long, high speed sections and technical rocky, rooty segments, where a rider can easily crash out of contention.
Rachel Atherton (GT Factory) has a strong lead in the women’s series after three consecutive victories, with 910 points to Emmeline Ragot’s (MS Mondraker) 745. Australia’s Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR) is a distant third at 550 points, just 26 ahead of UCI World Champion Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen).
Former Canadian DH champ Casey Brown (Bergamont Hayes Components Factory Team), ninth overall, leads the Canucks including recently crowned national champion, Miranda Miller.
The men’s standings are much closer, with World Cup leader Aaron Gwin (Specialized) at 749 points, Loic Bruni (Lapierre Gravity Republic) with 645 and Round-4 winner Greg Minnaar at 633.
Steve Smith, who won here in 2013, and Mark Wallace both with Devinci Global Racing, lead the Canadian along with Matt Beer (Intense), who reclaimed the national championship jersey this year.
Cross-country: climbing portions critical
The cross-country, where MSA is Round 4, is a classic course of hard, long climbs, rocks, roots and slippery mud on the descents. For 2015, the organization has tightened the circuit to 3.9 kilometres for more spectator viewing.
There is a tie at the top of the women’s rankings, with Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli Pro) and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) both on 650 points. Neff won the first two rounds, but faltered in Round 3, when Dahle Flesjaa took a record-setting 29th World Cup victory. World Champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna), racing on home soil, lies in third place with 470 points. Fellow Canuck Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) recently won Pan Am Games gold and sits 7th overall.
The men’s series also has a tie at the top of the standings, with 2012 Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) both on 600 points. Schurter, with three consecutive second places, will be looking for his first World Cup win of the season.
Just 90 points back in third place is World Champion Julien Absalon (BMC), who began his international career in Mont-Ste-Anne with his first world title as a Junior in 1998.
Watch Pedal’s commemorative video Mont-Sainte-Anne – 25 Years of MTB History! here.