June 6/08 2:11 am - Fort William World Cup Preview
Posted by Editoress on 06/6/08
Fort William World Cup Fort William, Scotland
Coverage brought to you with the assistance of Velirium
Photos from DH training tearlier today
The Mountain Bike World Cup has moved to Fort William, Scotland - site of the 2007 world championships - for round five of the cross-country and round three of the gravity events this weekend. The actions gets underway this evening with the 4-Cross, followed by the cross-country tomorrow, and concluding with the downhill on Sunday.
Probably the most talked about aspect of this year's Fort Bill event - the seventh consecutive year - is the weather, which is dry and sunny. It is so dry, in fact, that the riders are raising dust on the downhill; something that has never happened before.
The courses have all had minor tweaks from last fall's world championships, with the cross-country circuit undergoing the most extensive revision: the course has been shortened by about 500 metres, with the very top of the climb loped off, and a technical section in the last third of the loop removed. This should make for a very fast circuit.
In the cross-country, there is only one name missing from the top-10 in the men's rankings, but it is number one, Julien Absalon (Orbea). Absalon had already declared that he would not do anymore World Cups after the fourth round, to prepare for the Worlds and the Olympics. So this opens the opportunity for possibly last weekend's winner Christoph Sauser (Specialized) to take the series' lead.
On the women's side, some of the missing names from last weekend are back - Sabine Spitz (Ghost), Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) - however, world champion Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon) is still missing due to illness, and sixth ranked Nathalie Schneitter (Colnago) has skipped the race to prepare for the world championships in the U23 category. Both categories are well down in numbers, with 92 men and 49 women on the start list.
A full contingent of North Americans are here, as they continue to fight for Beijing spots. On the women's side, it is led by World Cup leader Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain), followed in fifth by Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and in sixth by Georgia Gould (Luna). From there it is a drop to 17th in the ranking for Mary McConneloug (Kenda), followed by Kiara Bisaro (Opus) in 23rd.
On the men's side, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) holds down ninth in the rankings, with Todd Wells (GT) immediately behind him. Adam Craig (Giant) is 17th, with Seamus McGrath (Fuji) dropping back to 26th after his crash and subsequent withdrawal from the race last weekend.
Sauser is the favourite for the men, but the French duo of Cedric Ravanel (Lapierre) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Orbea), plus last week's second place finisher, the surprising South African U23 rider Burry Stander. Kabush will be looking for another podium result after last week's third place, while Todd Wells will want to move up one spot and put an American on the podium.
On the women's side, it should be a very exciting race, with Premont, Dahle, Marga Fullana (Massi) and Spitz all vying for the win. It will also be interesting to see if the Chinese can rebound after their poor showing at altitude last weekend.
Racing starts tomorrow at 11 am local time (6 am EDT) for the women, and 2:30 pm local (9:30 am EDT) for the men, and our live coverage will start with the women's race. The announced distances will be six laps for the men and five for the women.
For the 4-cross, some big names have returned on the men's side, now that they have finished BMX Worlds and Olympic qualifying. Australian Jared Graves (Yeti Fox) came back to take the top spot in qualifying, with former world champion Michal Prokop (Czech Republic) coming in fourth. Last week's winner Dan Atherton (Animal Commencal) qualified second, a quarter of a second slower. Missing is world champion Brian Lopes (Ibis-Oakley), who stopped racing 4-Cross after last week (except for the Worlds later this month).
The women have not seen the same return of riders. Melissa Buhl (KHS) qualified first, with World Cup leader Anneke Beerten (MS-Intense) flatting and coming in third from last. Beerten is the overwhelming favourite, after riding away from the rest of the field in the first two rounds.
In the downhill, the Atherton duo of Gee and Rachel will try to repeat their feat of last weekend before an appreciative home crowd. Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), says that the course is not much faster than previous years, despite the dry conditions.
"At the top it is dry, and rough, and fast, but the corners are really slippery because of the gravel, it is like little marbles under your wheels."
Minnaar, Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate), World Cup leader and world champion Sam Hill (Monster Energy) join Gee Atherton as the top favourites, but the home crowd always seems to spur on the Brits like Peat and Atherton to do well. On the women's side it is a two horse race - Atherton and world champion Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis). Jonnier lost the World Cup lead last weekend to Atherton, so she will certainly be looking to take it back on Sunday.
This weekend is the 100th DH World Cup. The first was held 15 years ago in Cap d'Ail, France.