By Steve Medcroft
Wedged between World Cup stops in Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec (June 25-26) and Angel Fire Resort, New Mexico (July 9-10), this weekend's stop in Santa Catarina, Brazil is getting a pass by many of the top contenders in world-cup mountain biking.
Some racers cite the extended back and forth travel over a three week period as more draining than they're willing to risk. For the Gary Fisher/Subaru mountain bike team, the decision is part of the team's overall goal.
"Our focus going into the season is to be a Northern American racing team," said Gary Fisher, Lemond and Klein Bicycles Assistant Brand Manager and Gary Fisher/Subaru team coordinator Ryan Atkinson. "We're sponsored by Subaru of North America and when we look at the overall schedule, we try to show up in events that bring us face-to-face with their consumers. That means we focus on events in North America and Canada." Atkinson goes on to say that his riders have the discretion to race elsewhere if they want or need the points or results of a World Cup not on American soil; "I just haven't had any requests from our riders to go so far."
Whatever the reasons, the reality is that many of the current top World Cup contenders may be missing for the call up to the start line. This vacuum creates an opportunity for those who do show up in terms of bonus UCI points towards their world-cup rankings and the potential for a better result than they might attain with all the big names there.
American Adam Craig (Giant) is counting on that vacuum to give him a weekend to remember.
"The Siemens Cannondale boys aren't going," Craig said on Tuesday. "Kabush isn't going. No Michael Weiss. No Liam Killeen. I think I'm the only North American going. Hermida, Ralph Naef, Marti Gispert, Roel Paulissen, Erwin Bakker are the only contenders I know of that are going.
So what exactly does he hope to gain by competing in Brazil? "I hope to have a good race, get some points, get on the box, but mostly, I hope to go to Brazil and check it out."
Craig may be downplaying the opportunity that awaits him in Brazil. If his prediction of who's attending is correct, the three riders that kept Craig off the top podium step in Mont Sainte-Anne would be gone, paving the way for him to have a major shot at winning his first world cup.
But the travel concerns of the racers who aren't attending are real. Does Craig believe he's risking his form by extending himself further than his world cup competition? "I'm sure it would be nice to go back to Bend (Oregon), relax and train for a few days, but it seems awfully disrespectful and lazy to not attend a round of the world cup when it is an option. So no, I don't feel like I'm risking anything. Missing the opportunity is more of a risk for me."