This weekend is the UCI Mountain Bike World Championship in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada. This is the biggest single race of the year for the cross-country, downhill and four cross disciplines and this race determines who gets to walk away with the coveted rainbow stripes jersey. Even though I can appreciate the downhill and four cross events, I enjoy watching cross-country the most, and this year, cross-country has seen it’s fair share of drama in the world cup events especially among the women.
According to the latest standing, Jolanda Neff (SUI) is the current leader in the world cup ranking with Kate Courtney (USA), winner of 2018 World Championship and current holder of the rainbow jersey, and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (FRA) right on Jolanda Neff’s back wheel. Even though Jolanda Neff holds the world cup lead, that is no guarantee she’ll take the win in this year’s World Championship event. So far this year, the women’s cross-country has been so competitive that the World Championship’s rainbow jersey is anyone’s to grab. It really can go to anyone in the women’s top twenty of the world cup ranking, which includes another rider from the USA, Chloe Woodruff, which I definitely see as a World Championship contender. Even though she’s ranked nineteenth in the world cup ranking (mostly because of her absence in Vallnord and Les Gets), she’s had a strong season in the events she has raced in. Either way, it’s refreshing to see another USA rider in the world cup ranking, because after all, the USA started the sport, but I digress.
Really, for the World Championship among the women, it’s anyone’s for the taking because so many of them are such strong riders. The depth of competitiveness in the women’s category is extremely rich and if current fifth place holder Rebecca McConnell (AUS) is having an “A-game” day, she might very well be the one to go home with the rainbow stripes.
For the men’s, things don’t look as competitive with Nino Schurter as the current world cup leader, winner of the 2018 World Championship and current holder of the rainbow jersey for the elite men, but Mathieu Van Der Poel (NED) is not far behind in second place by a 21 point margin and Henrique Avancini (BRA) in third. In terms of the men’s World Championship possible winners, and if I were placing bets, my money would be on Van Der Poel for the win. Even though he’s ranked second in the world cup ranking, he is such a strong rider that comes from a rich lineage of cycle racing, and he can easily pull off the win at the World Championship, especially if the course ends up being wet and muddy given his cyclocross back ground. Van Der Poel is currently the cyclocross world champion…that’s right, you heard me, cyclocross world champion.
So, overall, things don’t look as competitive for the men as they do for the women. I feel that the men’s category doesn’t have as rich a pool of competitiveness as the women, but the fight between Nino Schurter and Mathieu Van Der Poel sure has been fun to watch all season. However, the competition among the women can easily go as deep as the first fifteen to twenty places. Among the women, it feels like anything can happen, which makes it far more exciting to watch, whereas the men’s category feels a bit more predictable narrowed down to two maybe three riders.
Either way, I think this weekend’s Mountain Biking World Championship is going to be exciting to watch in either category. We will see who get’s to leave Canada with the chance to wear the sought after rainbow stripes for the next year. Will Kate Courtney and Nino Schurter defend their World Championship title, or will someone from the pack rise up and take it? Tune in to Red Bull TV this weekend to watch the drama unfold.