By Rob Jones in Champéry, Switzerland
For the first time this year, all three disciplines of mountain biking are happening together this weekend at a World Cup. Held on the outskirts of the small town of Champéry, nestled among the Alps along the French border in the southwest corner of Switzerland, the circuits have been drawing praise from cross-country, downhill and 4-cross racers alike.
Saturday morning, Margarita Fullana (Spiuk-Tau Ceramica) took over the lead on the first lap during the third cross country World Cup on a technically challenging course. She held the lead throughout the race to win by a margin of 19 seconds over second World Cup winner Irina Kalentyeva (Topeak-Ergon). Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain / Haywood) rounded out the top three. Besides taking the win for the day, Fullana also assumed the overall World Cup lead after three rounds.
The men are slated to race the 5.7km figure-eight shaped course this afternoon. Julien Absalon (Orbea) described the course as "real mountain biking." The World Cup leader and World Champion is among the favorites for the win. He'll be challenged by round one winner Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), Christoph Sauser (Specialized), who'll be looking for a win on home soil, and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Orbea) and Kashi Leuchs (Vredestein-Cannondale), both of whom have had consistent seasons so far.
12 women and 74 men will tackle the 4X. Favorites include Anneke Beerten (Bikepark.ch) and Jill Kintner (GT) for the women and Gee Atherton (Animal Commencal), Michal Prokop, Cedric Gracia (Commencal), Mickael Deldycke, Greg Minnaar (G-Cross Honda) and Brian Lopes (GT) for the men.
The downhill course features an average grade of 37% over a 581m vertical drop. It's steep and rocky, with many turns, and times are expected to be long -- over five minutes. Rainy conditions have made the course slippery, technical, and challenging, and riders will have to change their setup for tire choice, brakes, and suspension. One potential problem is that the middle section of the course is so steep that every crash and injury which requires evacuation will need a helicopter - forcing lengthy course closures.
For the 32 women, it is expected to be a race between Sabrina Jonnier (Ironhorse-Monster Energy) and Tracy Moseley (Kona). On the men's side (186 for the semi-final), Marc Beaumont (MBUK Santa Cruz) will try to repeat from Vigo, but Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate), Greg Minnaar (G-Cross Honda), Sam Hill (Ironhorse-Monster Energy), Gee Atherton (Animal Commencal), and Mick Hannah (Cannondale - The Cut) should also do well.
Four cross finals are scheduled for Saturday evening, and downhillers get their turn on Sunday with qualifying in the morning and finals in the afternoon.
For complete coverage of the World Cup, click here.