By Rob Jones
Sunday morning, racers in St-Félicien, Quebec, will tackle round five of the cross-country mountain bike World Cup. It's the second consecutive weekend of world cup racing action in Canada.
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.
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. 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.
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