July 31, 2014 (Mont-Ste.-Anne, Quebec) – After a six week break, the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano returns this weekend with all three disciplines at Mont-Ste.-Anne, Quebec, Canada, the first of first two stops in North America. Mont-Ste.-Anne is the longest running venue on the World Cup circuit, having run every year since the start of the World Cup series in 1991, with the only exceptions being 1998 and 2010, when it hosted the MTB World Championships.
The action begins on Friday with Round 4 of the Eliminator, a first-time event for Mont-Ste.-Anne. Organizers have put together a course that requires both speed and technical skill as riders climb out of the start and then have to negotiate a pumptrack before a sprint to the finish.
The start list will be missing one major contender – women’s World Cup leader and world champion Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory), who is taking a break from racing to recover from physical and mental exhaustion. This will move Kathrin Stirnemann (Sabine Spitz Haibike) into the overall lead, since even a win by other top contenders, such as Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo), would leave them with less points than Stirnemann.
The men’s race will be a lot tighter, with the top three contenders all in attendance, and only separated by 20 points. World Cup leader and world champion Paul van der Ploeg leads Round 3 winner Fabrice Mels (Salcano Alanya) by only three points, with defending World Cup champion Daniel Federspiel (Otztal Scott) 20 points back. Look for Canada’s Leandre Bouchard, the reigning Canadian XCE champ, to be aiming for the podium again – he placed 5th in the Eliminator at Round #3 in Albstadt, Germany.
The Mont-Ste.-Anne Downhill combines both long, high speed sections and technical rocky, rooty segments, where a rider can easily crash out of contention. Manon Carpenter (Madison Saracen) holds a 90-point lead in the women’s standings, and is the only rider to have won two rounds this season.
Emmeline Ragot (Lapierre Gravity Republic), the winner of Round 3, is second in the standings, with Nicole Myriam (Commencal/Riding Addiction) 28 points further back and world champion Rachel Atherton (GT Factory) right behind her. A poor result by Carpenter could see any of these three riders vault into lead.
Leading the Canadian women on the start line are former Canadian champ, Micayla Gatto (Pivot Factory DH) who is 11th overall with fellow Canuck Casey Brown (Bergamont Hayes) in 12th.
The men’s standings are headed by Specialized Racing DH team mates Troy Brosnan and Aaron Gwin, with Brosnan holding a slim 29 point lead over former two-time World Cup champion Gwin. Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who recorded his first ever World Cup win in Round 4, is third, 87 points behind Brosnan. World Cup defending champion Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing), who won here on home soil last year, will also be looking for his first win of the season as he comes back from injury.
The Cross-country at Mont-Ste.-Anne is a classic course of hard, long climbs, and rocks, roots and slippery mud on the descents and, for 2014, the organization has completely redesigned the circuit. The 4.1-kilometre course contains more hard switchback climbing than ever, and the crowd-favourite ‘Beatrice’ rock garden descent has been brought back, after being removed last year for rebuilding.
One rider to watch for will be the newly crowned Commonwealth Games gold medalist and Canadian champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna), who arrived here straight from Glasgow, Scotland, the day after winning the Games title. Joining Pendrel on the start line is her Games silver medalist teammate, Emily Batty (Trek Factory), who is also eager to do well at home. Legendary Marie-Helene Premont, a local star and crowd favourite, may suit up as well.
The Canadian men feature recent MTB national champ Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox), who won an historic 8th national title this year. Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain) and Max Plaxton (Cannondale Factory), both just back from the Commonwealth Games, will be on the start line as well with lots of other Canucks vying to up their game.
Follow all the action on Redbull TV and UCI.ch, starting with the Eliminator on Friday.