This weekend the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup action shifts to Val di Sole, nestled in the Dolomite mountain range in northern Italy.
Three different disciplines of mountain biking are brought together over the weekend;
- Cross Country Eliminator (XCE) – Thursday 13th June (race taken place)
- Cross Country (XCO) follows – Saturday 15th June
- Downhill (DHI) – Sunday 16th June
The events are being streamed live online courtesy of Red Bull TV, so here is our guide on what to expect in the different races, and who you should keep your eyes on. Grab your computer and settle in for a weekend of mountain bike drama.
1. Cross country eliminator/XCE – Round 3
A new race format recently introduced to the World Cup, XC Eliminator consists of a series of heats where 4 riders compete on a short cross-country track. As the name suggests, in each round the two fastest riders go through to compete in further heats, while two are eliminated, until a winner is crowned.
This is the first time Val di Sole has hosted XCE, and the new course incorporated a punishingly steep climb, sections of a 4-cross track, and a long grassy straight to the finish.
Alexandra Engen of Sweden, riding on the Ghost Factory Racing Team, dominated the event coming first in the qualifiers then winning each of her heats. Hot on her tail was Kathrin Stirnemann of Switzerland coming in second, with another Swiss rider, Linda Indergand in third.
2. Cross Country/XCO – Round 3
A longer race, where riders complete several laps of a circuit that may include single track, hard climbs and technical descents. The route at Val di Sole has traditionally been more natural trail than many of the other world cup venues.
Hot off her victory in round two is Tanja Zakelj from Slovenia. Closely following her will be Maja Wloszczowska, who has come in second place in both World Cup rounds so far this year. Wloszczowska also placed second in the World Cup race here in 2011, and won here in 2010. Catherine Pendrel placed 3rd in round 2 and won at Val di Sole in 2011.
Keep your eyes open and fingers crossed for British hopeful and Olympian Annie Last, currently ranked 25th.
Val di Sole took a break from hosting XCO last year, and this year looks to be back with a bang.
3. Downhill/DHI – Round 2
The adrenaline-filled discipline of Downhill dominates Sunday’s racing. Rachel Atherton, hot off her decisive (and long anticipated) victory at Fort William a week ago, is one to watch, coming in first in the qualifiers.
Atherton won here last year, and in 2008 claimed the World Champion title on this course. Hot on her tail will be Manon Carpenter, the 2012 British National Champion, who came in second place in the Fort Bill, and Emmeline Ragot, who came in 3rd. Ragot made the podium in 3rd place in Val di Sole in 2012, with Morgane Charre – another hot contender – in second place.
The course is steeper, with more natural technical elements than Fort William, which suits riders like Myriam Nicole (AKA Pompon) who came in fourth last week, and won here in 2011. With good weather predicted, it’s going to be an interesting race!
All the events will be streamed live by Red Bull TV, so you can watch the action as it unfolds from the comfort of you sofa. If you have plans already – don’t worry! The recordings will also be viewable online after the events, allowing you to watch at your leisure.