After a month-long break, the action resumes this weekend for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, in Dalby in the United Kingdom. All three disciplines of the mountain bike World Cup came together for the opening round in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, but only the cross country athletes will compete in the second event in Dalby.
Appearing for the second time on the World Cup calendar, Dalby was a favorite with the riders last year, offering a technically and physically demanding course. This year, the course has been shortened slightly, however, organizers have managed to retain all of the technical features that thrilled spectators.
Set in a national forest in the northeast of England, near the town of Pickering in Yorkshire, the Dalby circuit has been shrunk to just over six kilometres, in keeping with the UCI mandate to shorten races while keeping a reasonable number of laps
In Pietermaritzburg, Chinese star Ren Chengyuan returned to competition after a two-year absence to literally ride away from the rest of the field. While Ren said in Pietermaritzburg that she would be doing the European rounds of the World Cup, one never knows until she actually shows up on race day.
The young French star Julie Bresset (BH-Suntour-Peisey Vallandry) made a strong move to the elite ranks in South Africa with a second place result behind Ren, after leading for the first half of the race. However, we can also expect to see increased competition from Russia's Irina Kalentieva (Topeak-Ergon) and 2010 World Cup champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna), who both said that they were still building form in Pietermaritzburg. All of these riders will resume their fight for the World Cup title in Dalby.
In the elite men's opener, there was a fierce battle between world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower)and Julien Absalon (Orbea) of France, with the Swiss rider taking the first round victory. This duo has been going head-to-head for two seasons now, and Schurter beat Absalon in a sprint at Dalby in 2010. Others to watch include Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) of the Czech Republic (third in Pietermaritzburg) and world champion Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida).
Dalby will feature separate races for men and women in both the Junior and Under 23 categories; a new feature introduced for this year by the UCI. The Juniors and Under 23 men will race on the Saturday, while the Under 23 women will race on Sunday, the same day as the elites, but in their own event.
The highly successful Eliminator street race through Dalby is also back on the calendar. This short, urban mountain bike race has been introduced for cross country World Cup venues, and takes riders through back alleys and down staircases in a heat series. Joining the cross country riders in this event on Friday evening will be the downhill World Champion and World Cup leader Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing) for the women, and legendary four cross rider Brian Lopes of the United States for the men.