Posted by Editoress on 08/2/17
Mountain biking returns to Mont-Ste-Anne, Quebec, this weekend for the 27th consecutive year of international competition. This will be Round 6 of the Downhill World Cup and Round 5 of the Cross-country World Cup. MSA is one of the legendary stops on the World Cup circuit; the only venue to have participated in the Series every year since it began in 1991 - with the exceptions of 1998 and 2010, when it hosted the world championships instead.
Known for traditional courses incorporating natural terrain, MSA requires riders to have both technical skills and endurance if they hope to do well. The 2.9 kilometre Downhill run is one of the longest in the World Cup, with riders dropping from over 800 metres to 200 metres at the base. The Cross-country circuit is 4.3 kilometres, with constant climbing and descending, slippery roots and technical rock gardens. Temperatures are expected to cool for the weekend, however, rain will be sweeping through, making the courses muddy and slippery - true MSA conditions!
Downhill qualifying will take place on Friday afternoon, with the Final on Saturday.
In the Downhill, Canada has one World Cup champion already - current Junior world champion Finn Iles (Specialized), who has already wrapped up the Junior title with four wins in five races. On the women's side, top Canadian contenders are Miranda Miller (Specialized), who recently defended her Canadian title, and Vaea Verbeeck, coming off top-10 finishes in the last two rounds. In the Elite Men, Mark Wallace (Canyon Factory) is having his strongest season to-date, currently sitting sixth overall in the standings and very much in contention for a top-5 overall finish.
At the top of the standings, Myriam (Pom Pom) Nicole leads the women's field after two consecutive wins. There is little chance of world champion and defending World Cup champion Rachel Atherton (Trek Factory) catching her after missing two rounds due to a shoulder injury, however, the Brit will certainly be looking to get back to the top step of the podium. Realistically, only Tracey Hannah (Polygon UR), winner of Round 2 and 80 points behind Nicole, has a chance of catching the Frenchwoman in the overall standings.
In the men's overall standings, Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) - the only rider with two wins this year - has carved out a commanding lead of 160 points over Troy Brosnan (Canyon Factory) with just two rounds remaining. Defending champion Aaron Gwin (The YT Mob), beset with problems this season, is sitting third, but at a distant 253 points.
The cross-country races will take place on Sunday.
In the cross-country, Canada women have had considerable success at MSA over the years. Catharine Pendrel (Clif Bar), a four time winner at MSA and the defending champion, struggled in the early season but is showing good form going into the second half of the season. Emily Batty (Trek Factory), the recently crowned Canadian champion, is having one of her strongest seasons ever, with top-10 finishes in the last three World Cups and is currently ranked eighth in the overall standings.
Catharine Pendrel on her way to winning in 2016
Emily Batty was 3rd in 2016
The overall women's standings are still tight enough that an upset could occur. Yana Belomoina (CST Sandd American Eagle) holds a strong 190 point lead over Maja Wloszczowska (Kross Racing), with Linda Indergand (Focus XC) 240 points back. Belomoina just won the European Continental title last weekend. Among those not attending are Jolanda Neff (Kross Racing) and Sabine Spitz (Wiawis Bikes). Also a question mark is Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds (Scott-SRAM), whois on the start list but has not raced at all this season.
Peter Disera, 3rd in Albstadt
On the men's side, Peter Disera (Norco Factory) is having a breakout season in the Under-23 category, finishing in the top-10 in all four previous World Cups and currently fourth in the overall rankings. Disera also recently won the Elite men's title at the Canadian national championships. Under-23 national champion Sean Fincham (Forward Racing-Norco) will be another rider to watch in U23. In the Elite Men's category, Rio Olympian Leandre Bouchard (BH SR Suntour KMC) is the top ranked Canadian on the Elite men's World Cup circuit, sitting 25th overall.
Julien Absalon winning in 2016
The Elite men's race will see the return of Julien Absalon (BMC), the defending World Cup champion, who has missed the past two rounds after suffering a broken collarbone. Will he be able to beat the so-far unstoppable Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM), who has won four-for-four this season? The overall title is all but mathematically won by Schurter at this point; the question is can Absalon, Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized), David Valero (MMR Factory), Maxime Marotte (Cannondale Factory) or the new European Continental champion Florian Vogel (Focus XC) beat the Olympic and world champion at some point this season?
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