This weekend, the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup makes its second North American stop, in Windham, New York, approximately one hour north of New York City in the beautiful Catskills Mountains. Now in its third year, Windham will pay host to both a cross country and a downhill event.
This small community always makes a point of turning the World Cup into a local festival, however, this year it has more meaning than usual, since it represents a triumph of the town over the devastation of Hurricane Irene last August. The hurricane dumped more than 25mm of rain in a matter of hours, flooding the town. For a time, it looked like Windham would not be able to recover and host the World Cup, but they have persevered. You can help, at windhamrebuild.org.
Both the cross country and downhill courses are little changed from last year, except for the start of the cross country, which is now in the center of town and takes the riders over the one bridge that survived the flood, up to the course. 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 are expected do six laps, elite women and under 23 men five, and under 23 women four.
The same strong fields that raced in Mont-Ste-Anne, Quebec, last weekend are expected to start in Windham - with one exception: Men's World Cup leader Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) has decided to go to altitude for Olympic preparation. This means that it is quite likely Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) will take over the World Cup lead. However, he will have a battle from Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), who finished second to Schurter in a sprint finish at Mont-Ste-Anne.
In the women's field, world champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) took over the series lead from the absent Julie Bresset (BH-SR Suntour-Peissey Vallandry), and hopes to extend her lead here. However, her American teammate, Georgia Gould, came close to winning her first World Cup last week, and will be even more determined to do so on home soil.
For the downhill, the 1.8-kilometre run takes riders through the trees for much of its length, offering a combination of rocks and roots that favour technically proficient riders. Aaron Gwin (Trek World Racing), with three wins in four events, is proving to be almost untouchable, and he will certainly be looking to extend his consecutive win streak to four on home ground, in front of family and friends. However, Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), the only rider to beat Gwin in the past two World Cup seasons, is looking to take his second World Cup win of the season and remain in contention for the overall.
For the women, it is a battle between World Cup leader Emmeline Ragot (MS Mondraker) and Rachel Atherton (GT Factory). Despite missing the opening round, Atherton has been almost perfect in the last three rounds, and has crept to within 40 points of Ragot in the standings, so a win here could vault her into the leader's jersey. Likely to miss the race is Florianne Pugin (Scott 11), who crashed heavily in training at Mont-Ste-Anne and is still recovering.