After a break of almost a month, the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano begins again this weekend with round six of the downhill in La Bresse, France. The World Cup returns to La Bresse after an absence of one year.
It was raining earlier in the week, and is scheduled to rain again for race day on Sunday, making the many grassy sections slick and slippery. This is a fairly short course, so any time lost will be extremely damaging.
The women have a relatively small field of 37 riders (35 started the qualifying round); however, all of the top competitors are here, led by world champion and World Cup leader Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing). Moseley's lead is a fairly slim 100 points over Floriane Pugin (Scott 11), with round five winner Rachel Atherton (Commencal) considerably further back at 260 points in arrears.
Moseley, unless she has a disastrous ride, should come out of the race still in the lead, but Pugin, racing before a home crowd, may be inspired here in La Bresse and close up the gap even tighter for the final round. In addition to the above women, Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) continues to return to form after an early season injury, and would certainly like to repeat her win of 2009 here.
In qualifying, it was confirmed that the race is between Moseley and Pugin, with the World Cup leader beating her French rival by 2.089 seconds, and adding 10 points to her lead in the standings. Jonnier took third, while Atherton crashed in training and just rolled out of the start gate before stopping, to give herself more recovery time. The British rider is still qualified for the final, since she is a protected rider.
The men's series is all but wrapped up by Aaron Gwin, Moseley's teammate on the Trek World Racing squad. The American, after four wins in five races, holds a commanding 342-point lead over second place Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate). Gee Atherton (Commencal) is the only other rider with a mathematical chance of catching Gwin, and that is very remote, since he is 461 points back. For the win, besides the aforementioned riders, look to the 2009 winner, Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate), and France's Fabien Barel (Mondraker) for a possible upset.
In qualifying, Gwin again confirmed that he is untouchable this season, with a 2.103-second winning margin over Canada's Steve Smith (Devinci Global Racing). Atherton finished third, over three seconds back, with Peat in fourth and Minnaar fifth. Two top riders had trouble on their runs - sixth ranked Brook MacDonald (MS Evil) finished 195th, and ninth ranked Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International) was 162nd. Both, because of their protected status, will race in the final.