By Steve Medcroft
The UCI World Cup continues this weekend in Balneario Camboriu on Brazil's southern coast about 50 miles north of Florianópolis, the capital of the state of Santa Catarina. The stop is the first UCI mountain bike World Cup ever in South America. Racing kicks off Saturday July 2nd with the fifth race in the UCI World Cup downhill and continues Sunday with men and women's sixth 2005 cross country World Cup.
Due to the difficulty and expense in traveling to South America between two North American World Cups (Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec June 24-25 and Angel Fire, New Mexico), many top pro cross-country racers are passing on the event. Notably missing are series leader Christophe Sauser (Siemens-Cannondale), Canadian national champion and NORBA series leader Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) and women's cross country sensation, Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects).
Which leaves an open door for riders like Adam Craig (Giant), who came fourth in last week's Mont-Sainte Anne cross country behind three riders who won't be in Brazil, and Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) who, although she never needs anyone to make it easier for her to win, has fallen off her normally dominating form (16 straight World Cup wins before 2005) by losing twice his year only to upstart Premont.
But the race won't be completely smooth going for the favourites. Mixed in amongst the traveling World Cup pro's will be a large field of Brazilian racers. Qualifying at regional events across Brazil, the cross-country race alone seems especially attractive to local racers. More than two thirds of the 70 or so confirmed starters originate from South America.
On the downhill side of things, most of the usual suspects will be making the trip. Series leaders Sabrina Jonnier (Fra) and Tracey Moseley (Kona Les Gets) are both on the start list and expected to do well. As is Greg Minnaar (Team G-Cross Honda) who currently leads the men's downhill series, and Fabien Barel (Kona Les Gets), winner of last week's World Cup in Canada.
But again, as in the cross-country event, there are a number of South American racers looking to make a mark for themselves in downhill. Brazilian Markolf Berchtold said "I go to battle" about his desire to win on his home soil before arriving in Balneario Camboriu on Thursday. Berchtold currently ranks 19th in UCI world rankings. However it ends up, dominated by favourites or falling to a lesser-known regional racer, riders are in for a scenic event. Weekend weather reports call for clear skies in the mid to high seventies.
Check back on Cyclingnews for race reports and pictures as news comes in from Brazil.
Schedule of Events
Saturday, July 2
16:00 - 18:00: 4X Qualifications
10:30 - 13:00: World Cup Downhill Semi Finals
14:00 - 16:00: World Cup Downhill Finals
18:00 - 19:00: World Cup 4-Cross Finals
Sunday, July 3
11:00 - 13:00: Women's World Cup Cross Country
14:00 - 16:15: Men's World Cup Cross Country