The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup for cross country resumes this weekend for round six at the new venue of Nove Mesto Na Morave, in the Czech Republic. Nove Mesto Na Morave, approximately 90 minutes southeast of Prague, is the site of a world-class nordic ski centre, which will play host to the World Cup.
The weekend opens with the third eliminator competition of the season on Friday evening, and the first since it was announced that the eliminator will become an official World Cup series in 2012. This should result in increased interest from the athletes for this spectator-friendly elimination event. After a time trial on the short course to seed the top men and women, heats of four riders at a time will see the top-two move on to the next round, until there are only four left to race for the title.
On Saturday, the under 23 men and the junior men and women will be the first to race the cross country circuit, followed by the elite and under 23 women on Sunday morning, and finally by the elite men on Sunday afternoon.
The 4.2-kilometre circuit is very compact, offering spectators the chance to view the race multiple times per lap. The circuit gives little opportunity to rest, with riders either climbing short power climbs, or descending only to immediately face another climb. With the exception for the start-finish, in the nordic skiing stadium, the majority of the course is in forested terrain, adding twisty singletrack and technically demanding sections to the obstacles facing the riders. The first lap will cut out a narrow climb, descent and a dropoff.
In the women's race, expect a renewal of the season-long competition between World Cup leader Julie Bresset (BH-Suntour-Peisey Vallandry) and second-ranked Catharine Pendrel (Luna). Bresset holds the lead in World Cup wins (three, to Pendrel's one), but the Canadian, who is the world's number one ranked rider, recently beat Bresset at the 2012 Olympic test event in London.
Others to watch for include World Cup number three ranked Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), Pendrel's teammate Georgia Gould, and the chance of a home win by Katerina Nash (Luna), who could benefit from local support.
The strong favourite for the men's race is World Cup leader Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized), with three wins this season, and no finishes out of the top-three. With Kulhavy racing before a home crowd of Czech supporters, he will be hard to beat. However, Julien Absalon (Orbea), who missed the last two World Cups, did beat Kulhavy on the similar terrain of Offenburg, Germany, in round three, and decisively beat him at the Olympic test event.
Kulhavy responded last week by defeating Absalon for the European continental title, so this one is too close to call. Others to watch include the Scott-Swisspower duo of Florian Vogel and Nino Schurter.