Posted by Editoress on 04/8/16
On Saturday the 26th edition of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will begin, bringing together the top riders from around the world in the Downhill and Cross-country disciplines.
For 2016, there are seven Downhill (DHI) events and six cross-country (XCO). Because this is an Olympic year, the schedule is modified, with the Cross-country and Downhill world championships split, and the World Cup series taking a hiatus during the Games in August. For the XC riders, the first three events are the final opportunities to gain valuable ranking points for Olympic spots.
The season begins with the opening round, in Lourdes, France, this weekend. Lourdes proved to be a strong opener last year - voted the best DHI event of 2015 - and looks to do the same this season.
Canada has riders in all three categories competing. Vaea Verbeeck is the only Canadian woman on the start list. For Junior Men, Canada has four starters listed: Henry Fitzgerald (Steve Peat Syndicate), Magnus Manson, Finnley Iles (Specialized Gravity) and Anthony Poulson (Kona Factory). In the Elite Men's category there are five Canadians: Mark Wallace (Devinci Global), Steve Smith (Devinci Global), Forrest Riesco, Philippe Ricard and Hugo Langevin. Wallace is the highest ranked, at 14th, followed by Smith at 21st.
Unlike many World Cups, that are distant from urban centres, the Lourdes World Cup is less then 5 minutes from the downtown core, resulting in 35,000 spectators attending in 2015. The Pic du Jer track is short, at 2100m, but drops 477m, for an average of 22.7%.
Rachel Atherton (Trek Factory Racing) and Aaron Gwin (The YT Mob) will start the season with the Number 1 plates, as the defending World Cup overall champions - they are also both with new teams. Lourdes is the only World Cup Rachel Atherton did not win in 2015, and Lourdes is guaranteed a new winner for the women, since last year's champion - Emmeline Ragot - has retired. Lourdes will also see a French world champion - Loic Bruni - compete in his first World Cup wearing the rainbow stripes.
From France, the action moves down to Cairns, Australia, for Round 2 of the Downhill and the opening round of the Cross-country. Next year, Cairns will play host to the world championships, so this World Cup will be a final test run for both organizers and athletes.
After a month's hiatus, the World Cup moves to Europe for Rounds Two and Three of the XCO series in Albstadt, Germany, and La Bresse, France. This concludes the Olympic qualifying period, and the XCO series takes a break at this halfway point until after the world championships at the end of June.
However, the DHI series starts up again for races in the traditional and storied venues of Fort William, Scotland, and Leogang, Austria. The races take place on back-to-back weekends in the first half of June, and takes the DHI Series through its halfway mark.
In July, both disciplines come together for Round Four of the XCO and Round Five of the DHI series, in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Lenzerheide hosted its first World Cup in 2015, and will be the site of the 2018 world championships.
Both the XCO and DHI series then move to Canada in early August for their penultimate rounds at the classic Mont-Ste-Anne event. Last year, Mont-Ste-Anne celebrated its 25th anniversary of being on the World Cup circuit, and no season would be complete without returning here. It is also the final XCO before the Olympic Games.
The 2016 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup concludes at the beginning of September, at Vallnord, Andorra, returning to the site of last year's world championships to crown the overall World Cup champions.
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