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CROSS-COUNTRY ACTION RETURNS IN NOVÉ MĔSTO NA MORAVĔ WITH PIDCOCK AND PIETERSE JOINING THE FUN

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CROSS-COUNTRY ACTION RETURNS IN NOVÉ MĔSTO NA MORAVĔ WITH PIDCOCK AND PIETERSE JOINING THE FUN

3 weeks ago

The month of May has been intense for mountain bike, with the WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series venturing to Scotland, Italy, and Poland for a hat-trick of Gravity-fueled UCI World Cups, with two rounds each for the Downhill, Enduro and E-Enduro competitions. The action isn’t over yet either, with the Endurance competitions kicking off their European leg in Czechia’s Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ after April’s Brazilian double-header.

After two new venues in South America, the third rounds of this year’s UCI Cross-country Olympic (XCO) and Cross-country Short Track (XCC) World Cups bring riders to something of an annual staple – Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ. The course at the Czech city’s Vysočina Arena has featured in the UCI Cross-country Olympic World Cup every year since 2011, except in 2016 when it co-hosted the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.

Two hours southwest of the Czech capital Prague in the region of Vysočina, Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ has built a reputation for fast, frantic racing, with huge support present around the course and in the start/finish straight’s grandstand arena.

And with this weekend’s UCI Cross-country Olympic World Cup providing a final chance for athletes to earn points toward Olympic qualification, expect bar-to-bar action from the off.

FAST AND FURIOUS COURSE

Both the Cross-country Olympic and Cross-country Short Track races feature incredibly technical courses that take in the area’s picturesque forests and countryside before riders cross the start-finish line in front of the arena’s raucous grandstand. Punchy climbs are followed by fast, tricky descents and there’s little let-up for the riders. 

Nino Schurter’s (Scott-SRAM MTB Racing Team) six UCI Cross-country Olympic wins (including one UCI Cross-country Olympic World Championship) in Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ make him the most successful men’s rider of all time at this venue, but Tom Pidcock’s (Ineos Grenadiers) three-in-a-row means he’s the person to beat this weekend despite not racing his cross-country bike since February. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot’s (Ineos Grenadiers) two Czech wins make her the most consistent currently competing woman on the course.

 

ALL EYES ON PIDCOCK AND PIETERSE

While the first two UCI Cross-country Olympic and Short Track World Cups produced some outstanding, nail-biting racing, there were some notable absences in Brazil who will be making their 2024 WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series debut in Czechia.

Last year’s Women Elite UCI Cross-country Olympic World Cup overall winner Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) returns after a full Spring Classics season on the road, while the specialty’s 2023 UCI World Champion Ferrand-Prévot has been notching up wins in Europe’s early-season HC-class races. Both have tasted victory at the Czech course – Pieterse as recently as last year – so expect them to give the early-season in-form riders like Haley Batten (Specialized Factory Racing), Savilla Blunk (Decathlon Ford Racing Team) and Alessandra Keller (Thömus Maxon) a run for their money.

In men’s XCO racing, the reigning Olympic and UCI World Champion Pidcock has also prioritised road so far this year, with highlights being the win at the Amstel Gold Race and a top-10 finish in the General Classification at the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race. The multi-talented phenom will be aiming to make it four XCO wins in a row in Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ, where he also doubled-up with XCC victory last year.

Trying to stop him will be the high-flying Victor Koretzky (Specialized Factory Racing) - who hasn’t finished outside the top four at UCI Cross-country World Cups all season - and this year’s two UCI Cross-country Olympic World Cup winners, Christopher Blevins (Specialized Factory Racing) and Simon Andreassen (Cannondale Factory Racing). It’s also hard to rule out Nino Schurter – the Swiss legend only failing to make the podium once in 14 previous appearances in Czechia.

In the UCI Cross-country Short Track World Cup, Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing Pirelli) won’t be in Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ – the British rider still suffering from the after-effects of a concussion sustained in Araxá’s Olympic-distance event in Brazil. In her absence, expect Pieterse, Keller, Rebecca Henderson, and Laura Stigger to battle it out in the women’s race. 

Meanwhile, reigning Men Elite UCI Cross-country Short Track World Champion Samuel Gaze (Alpecin-Deceuninck) faces competition from recently crowned European Champion Andreassen, Pidcock and Koretzky in the men’s competition.

OLYMPIC ARITHMETIC

The third round of the UCI Cross-country Olympic World Cup is also the final chance for nations to earn precious points in the UCI Mountain Bike Olympic Qualification Ranking, that determines how many riders they can line up at the Paris 2024 mountain bike event. The top eight nations in the Ranking are allocated two places, and those in 9th to 19th can send one athlete.

France and Switzerland lead the way in both the men’s and women’s rankings, but there’s still potential for various permutations as you look further down the table.

In the men’s rankings, Denmark currently sits in 8th place with Great Britain just behind them in 9th and Brazil in 10th. All three could still qualify in the top eight depending on results in Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ, and it could come down to a straight shootout between Pidcock and Andreassen to earn their country a second Olympic spot. 

In the women’s, there’s a big contest for 19th, with South Africa (3112) currently in pole position ahead of Slovenia (3042) and Belgium (3035).

Racing gets underway in Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ tomorrow (Friday 24th May) with the Under-23 XCC racing – full schedule and events details are available here.

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