By Rob Jones in Mont Sainte-Anne
The weather has gone through a substantial change from yesterday's cool temperatures and cloud. Friday morning's rain was the leading edge of hot, hot air that has been hanging around the Great Lakes. Saturday's expected high is 31°C with the humidex bringing it to over 40°C. It is likely to become a significant factor on this difficult course. Even at 9am this morning it is hot and sticky.
With the heat in mind, the officials have decided the number of laps: 6 for the Pro Men and 5 for the Pro Women, plus a start loop for each.
With the following exceptions: Alison Sydor (Can), Marga Fullana (Spain), Annabella Stropparo (Italy) and Maja Wloszczowska (Poland), most of the top women have made the trip here from Europe. A notable absence is Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain Business Objects) who apparently has decided to stay home. She is never at her best in the extreme heat and after the National's two weeks ago where she finished 2nd to Marie-Hélène Prémont, she appears to be focussing on training for the upcoming Road National's in Kamloops. The favourites for the women are the trio of hometown hero Marie-Hélène Prémont (Rocky Mountain Business Objects), Olympic and World Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida), who is currently leading the World Cup, and Olympic Bronze medallist Sabine Spitz (Specialized) - second to Dahle at the last World Cup in Willingen, Germany.
The most notable absence in the men's field is Olympic and World Champion Julien Absalon (France). Absalon had stated in advance that his focus this year would be the World Championships and that he would not be attending the World Cup races outside of Europe. Other notable absences include regular podium finishers Jean-Christophe Peraud (Lapierre), Bart Brentjens (Giant), Thomas Frischknecht (Swisspower) and Houffalize round winner Marco Bui (Full Dynamix).
This is going to be the first chance for all of the Canadian men, except Max Plaxton (Maxxis-MSC), to race against the Europeans. The obvious Canadians to watch are National Champion Geoff Kabush (Maxxis), who won on a similar course here two weeks ago, and has been consistently the strongest rider on the North American circuit. Kabush's team mate Matt Toulouse has also performed well on this course. Roland Green (Kona Les Gets - 2nd to Kabush at the Nationals) is also here. This will be his first World Cup since Calgary in 2004, almost exactly one year ago
The women's race starts at 11h and the men at 14h.