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MTB World Cup XC #5 - CDM

St Félicien, Quebec, Canada, July 1, 2007

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  • Race 1 - July 1: Elite Women Cross Country
  • Race 2 - July 1: Elite Men Cross Country

New World Cup venue ready for racing

Canadians look for wins at second consecutive round on home turf

By Rob Jones

Home alone: Irina Kalentyeva (Topeak)
Photo ©: Frank Bodenmuller
(Click for larger image)
Round five of the cross-country mountain bike World Cup takes place tomorrow near the town of St-Félicien, Quebec, approximately 300 kilometres northeast of last weekend's race in Mont Sainte Anne.

St-Félicien is a last minute replacement for Angelfire (New Mexico), after the organizers of the planned triple there abruptly pulled the plug last December. The area has never held a race of this magnitude before (they have held a well regarded Canada Cup race); however, Mont Sainte Anne (MSA) organizers Gestev, are assisting with the technical management of the event.

While the terrain holds many similar characteristics to MSA - well-treed, rooty, and rocky ground - the 6.4 kilometre circuit does not feature nearly as much sustained climbing as MSA. Instead, there are more short, steep climbs and descents, plus lots of technical sections and twisty turns.

Canadian Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain Haywood)
Photo ©: Frank Bodenmuller
(Click for larger image)

"The course is a great mix of technical climbing, fun flowing single track and challenging (to ride fast and in control) but rideable descents." according to Canadian Kiara Bisaro (Opus). "It is a technical course, but if it is dry everything is easy to ride. If it rains, I think it will definitely favour those people who have good technical skills. The course is one of the best I have ever ridden. There is always something fun or interesting ahead."

Tereza Hurakova (Ceska Sporitelna MTB), ranked seventh in the standings after MSA, echoed Bisaro's comments, saying that she loves the course, and that Christoph Sauser (Specialized) has been helping her to choose the best lines in the corners. Sabine Spitz (Ghost International), third at MSA, also had praise for the circuit, although she was more interested in talking about the moose she and her husband almost hit when driving up from MSA!

After a one kilometre start loop, the riders head onto a steady, wide climb for the first 700 metres of the circuit. The climb continues on singletrack for another 300 metres and then is a mixture of up and down, and lots of turns for the next three kilometres - most of this on singletrack with a few wider sections.

At the four kilometre mark the riders face the second climb - shorter but steeper and on singletrack. After a one kilometre flat traverse across the top slope, the final kilometre enters the most technically difficult part of the course, as it descends back to the start-finish area.

At this point it looks like the women will do a start loop and five laps, and the men two additional full laps. The course does also offer the option to set up a half lap if rain moves in.

Absalon & Hermida:
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

For the women, it will again be a battle between World Cup leader Irina Kalentyeva (Ergon-Topeak) who won last weekend at MSA, Ren Chengyuan (China), Spitz and Canadian star Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain-Haywood). Premont will certainly be highly motivated, after a crash early in the race at MSA denied her the opportunity for a third consecutive win in front of a home crowd. Former series leader, ranked #2 in the standings, Marga Fullana (Spiuk-Tau Ceramica) will not race.

If it rains, look for Kalentyeva and Premont to be the favourites. The overall title is still open to the four top riders, and likely will be at least a three-way battle until the final event in Maribor (Slovenia) after the Worlds in September.

On the men's side, Julien Absalon (Orbea) has the chance to take his fourth consecutive win of the series, and mathematically lock up the overall title with one race remaining. However, both Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida) and Sauser have pushed him hard in the past few races, and Absalon's victory is by no means assured. The top North American hope will be Canadian champion Geoff Kabush (Maxxis), who finished a strong third at MSA, and would certainly like to score his first ever World Cup victory on home soil.