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Cross country and downhill rounds on for the weekend in New York
Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing)
One week after visiting Mont-Sainte-Anne, the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup heads south to Windham, New York, in the Catskill Mountains north of New York City. This is the second year for this venue, which had a very successful debut as the World Cup final in 2010. For 2011, Windham will play host to round five of the cross country and the downhill, but not the four cross.
The weather is expected to remain as hot as it was in Mont-Sainte-Anne, pushing 30 degrees Celsius during the middle part of the day when racing takes place, so it will likely play factor in the cross country. There is a possibility of rain on Friday, which could make things muddy, but the weekend is forecasted to have fine weather, and the majority of the course should dry up.
Both the cross country and downhill courses are little changed from last year. The 5.5-kilometre cross country course is very straightforward - a long, long climb to the highest point and then fast descent to the start-finish. Due to the long opening climb, a start loop is not required to spread out the field. Elite men will do six laps, elite women and under 23 men five, and under 23 women four.
The same fields that started at Mont-Sainte-Anne are scheduled to race in Windham, with the exception of Sabine Spitz (Central Haibike). Spitz crashed hard on the descent in Canada, dropping out of the race; however, she had already planned on skipping Windham. The men's field will once again be missing past World Cup leader Julien Absalon (Orbea).
For the women, it should again be a battle between last week's winner Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and World Cup leader Julie Bresset (BH-Suntour-Peisey Vallandry). Bresset crashed quite hard in Mont-Sainte-Anne, but finished third and should be recovered for this week. Pendrel won at Windham last year.
Other women to watch for include Irina Kalentieva (Topeak-Ergon), Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) and, possibly shooting for her first World Cup podium, Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek).
On the men's side, Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) is proving to be unbeatable - in the absence of Absalon. He dominated last week, taking back the leader's jersey, and is the clear favourite here in Windham. Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) will almost certainly be a podium contender, and world champion Jose Hermida (Multivan-Merida) is coming on form with a strong third place last week. On the North American side, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) will be looking to improve upon seventh at Mont-Sainte-Anne, and Todd Wells (Specialized) is hopefully recovered from his crash last week.
For the downhill, the 1.8-kilometre run will take riders through the trees for much of its length, offering a combination of rocks and roots that favour technically proficient riders.
The Trek World Racing duo of Tracy Moseley and Aaron Gwin are proving to be almost unbeatable this season, with each having wins in three out of the four World Cups thus far, including last weekend. Floriane Pugin (Scott 11) is the only rider to beat Moseley this year in the women's competition (at round three, in Leogang, Austria), and she was less than two seconds back in Mont-Sainte-Anne, so Moseley's victory is by no means assured.
Similarly for the men's field, Gwin was second in qualifying last week to Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), and the two were virtually tied in the final run until Minnaar crashed in the lower half of the course. Minnaar injured his hand in his crash, but it does not appear to be bothering him too much in training here at Windham.