The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup kicks off this weekend with the XCO racing from Stellenbosch. It’s an early season opener, and it’s the XCO riders kicking off the racing this year, with the Downhill not starting until Lošinj in Croatia, in April.
If you’re wanting to build up to the action in Stellenbosch, there will be pre race chat and analysis today on Red Bull TV at 1.30 GMT. Then you can watch the racing live on the same channel over the course of the weekend: the Elite Women are on at 10:00 GMT, and the Elite Men at 12:30GMT.
Racing for the UK will be the following riders:
Elite Women – Annie Last (riding for KMC-EKOI-SRSUNTOUR)
Elite Men – Grant Ferguson (riding for CST Sandd American Eagle MTB Racing Team)
U23 Women – Evie Richards (riding for Trek Factory Racing), Isla Short (Habitat Mountain Bike Team).
U23 Men – Frazer Clacherty (riding for OMX Pro Team), Dan Tulett, Cameron Orr
Annie Last, who last season made history by becoming the first elite British woman to win a medal in a cross-country mountain bike world championships, will be joined by under-23 cyclo-cross world champion Evie Richards, Frazer Clacherty, Dan Tulett and Cameron Orr, having spent a fortnight in a British Cycling training camp in Western Cape. Isla Short and Grant Ferguson, not part of the British Cycling Programme, have been making their own preparations. Grant has been in Cyprus training with his team, and Isla has been out in South Africa since the start of the month, acclimatising and getting to grips with the technical course.
Simon Watts, the lead coach for the mountain bike senior programme, said of the training camp:
“The world cup season starts early for us this year, and so the training camp in Western Cape is an opportunity for the riders to fine tune their training and really concentrate on their fitness as we approach the first world cup. Crucially, the time spent in South Africa will allow the riders to acclimatise to the current hot, dry climate ahead of the race.
“Stellenbosch is a new venue for the world cup series, and so our training camp will allow some time for the riders to familiarize themselves with the layout. From research, we expect the course will be fast-flowing with a good mix of stone and rock based features and two main climbs. We’re also expecting the course will be extremely dry and dusty due to the drought South Africa is currently facing.
“Evie and Dan are both arriving at the training camp having enjoyed a successful cyclo-cross season and will be holding racing form from which we can build on. For Annie, Frazer and Cam, we will use the training camp as their final preparations as we look to start the 2018 world cup season on the front foot.”
We’ve got an interview with Annie Last in Issue 118 of Singletrack Magazine, out 5th April – hop on over and subscribe to Singletrack if you want to get that delivered to your door.
If watching the XCO is not enough to get you off the sofa and out on the bike, then more TV awaits you in the form of the ‘Howard Street Dual Slalom’ in Sheffield, which sounds like it should make for very entertaining viewing. Broadcast live at 5pm, as part of the Outdoor City Weekender, there will be a mix of ‘local pinners and world cup winners’ duking it out through qualifying rounds to the finals around 7pm.
The press release reads:
“For the lads Sheffield’s own Steve Peat will be trying to go one better this year and get on to the top step where he’s stood so many times before. However, his 50:01 brothers will be doing their best to stop him. Josh’s Bryceland and Lewis – Ratboy and Loose, Hardline winner – Craig Evans, Right hand Sam Dale, Matt and Dave Hockenhull. Last year’s winner, Airdrop’s, Brett Penfold and second place Ben Moore are back again to defend their crowns. Elite downhill pinner Jono Jones is making his way up from Woburn. Team Cotic will be headed up by Rocket Man himself James Swinden and will doubtlessly be chased down Straightline Chay Granby. As well as his younger brother Will who is the reigning champion of the ThisiSheffield winter dual series.”
“The challenge from the lasses is headed up by last years winner Carrie Poole who held her 4 month old son aloft on the podium. She’ll be chased down by last years runners up Anya Tolwinska, Ellie Dewdeny and Katy Thorpe. BMX superstar Chloe Taylor will be challenging for the top step alongside downhiller Becci Skelton”
Of course, if you’re local you could head on down an watch for yourself – if that’s the case, then check out the rest of the programme as there’s plenty to interest bike riders and outdoor adventurers.