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UCI MTB World Cup MSA Celebrates 25 Years – Preview + PHOTOS

by pedalmag.com
MSA 25th annual is soon underway  ©  Michal Cerveny
July 31, 2015 (Mont-Ste-Anne, QC) – This year the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano celebrates 25 years of competition at the highest level, and there has been one constant for that entire period: Mont-Ste-Anne (MSA), Canada.

Grundig MSA World Cup 1991 Official Program  ©  Pedal

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.

Marie Helene Premont wins in 2007  ©  Cycling Canada

Legendary Premont  ©  Frank Bodenmuller

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  ©  Fraser Britton

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).

Casey Brown  ©  Michal Cerveny

Former Canadian DH champ Casey Brown (Bergamont Hayes Components Factory Team), ninth overall, leads the Canucks including recently crowned national champion, Miranda Miller.

Aaron Gwin  ©  Michal Cerveny

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 (Can) Devinci Global Racing won at MSA in 2013  ©  Fraser Britton

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.

Jolanda Neff  ©  Michal Cerveny
The course contains hard switchback climbing and the crowd-favourite ‘Beatrice’ rock garden descent. The hardest section of the course is likely to be middle, with a very steep singletrack climb immediately followed by Beatrice and then the Zig Zag climb from previous years. This will like be a critical portion of the circuit.

Pendrel in action  ©  Michal Cerveny file photo
Emily Batty  ©  Michal Cerveny

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.

Kulhavy (l) and Schurter battling it out  ©  Michal Cerveny

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.

Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) won silver and Julien Absalon (FRA) gold at the 1998 Junior Men's XCO MTB Worlds at Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec  ©  Tom Moran

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.

Raphael Gagne  ©  Peter Kraiker
Headling the Canadian men is Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain) who has been on fire winning Pan Am MTB gold and the Elite Men’s national title for the first time in his career.

Watch Pedal’s commemorative video Mont-Sainte-Anne – 25 Years of MTB History!  here.

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