World Cup leader Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) will get to race the next UCI cross country World Cup round at home, in Nove Mesto, Czech, on August 14. He got a chance recently to check out the course at what is a brand new mountain bike World Cup venue.
On a practice lap, Kulhavy took 12 minutes to get around the 4km track, which has been used for other non World Cup events. "The track isn't ridden out yet, so it's not exact, but once it is, it'll be much faster," he said. "I already like it now and it will be even better.
"There is a lot more gravel, sand and rocks on the track compared to last year," said Kulhavy. "If it rains, there won't be any problems with the track, it'll be rideable."
UCI officials will decide three days prior to the race how many laps the racers will do.
"We expect seven or eight laps," said Lukas Vlach, the Merida Biking team manager and also one of the track builders. "We've taken Jaroslav's remarks into account; however, we cannot build the track just for him."
Kulhavy checked out the course for about an hour. It's located in the woods where famous cross country skiers such as Katerina Neumannova and Lukas Bauer have celebrated victories.
True to his usual riding style, Kulhavy rode the technical sections with instinctive elegance and climbed steep slopes with lightness. He rode slowly through some more complicated sections, memorizing the track as he went.
"This track suits him well," said Kulhavy's coach, Viktor Zapletal, who also rode the course.
When asked where on the course, the attacks would come, Kulhavy said, "I can't really say yet," said Kulhavy. "It probably won't be just one place. Most likely in the second half of the race, when the three steep hills will give everyone a hard time. The softer ground there will also make it hard. Towards the end, it will be more strenuous."
The course is on a relatively small area, so spectators will see the best of the best up close and as often as possible.
Passing should not be a problem. "The climbs are wide and not extremely fast. If you have the power and energy, than it'll be possible. The downhill sections are worse, there isn't much room for maneuvering. It'll be possible at the start and finish on the stadium, where the track is wide all the way back to the forest," said Kulhavy.
He predicted the course will test not only fitness but also technical ability. "I would compare the track to Offenburg and Champéry. It's not as extreme as Mont-Sainte-Anne in Canada, which is good. A lot of people had problems there, especially the women."
Kulhavy is set to race the European Championships one week prior to the Czech World Cup. "My priority is to win the entire World Cup. I can't afford to risk a fall or a technical problem. I'm going to watch out for (Nino) Schurter. If I beat him, than I got it." Kulhavy has already won three World Cup rounds this season.
Another objective of Kulhavy's, the world championships will happen two weeks after the World Cup in Czech.
Kulhavy plans to come to Nove Mesto one week before the race after the track has been marked. He will train on the course one day before the race, once it is ridden in. "That should be enough. You can't think of many new things to do anymore. I have to prepare myself physically for the climbs."