The 2020 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup season has been all but crushed by the Covid-19 pandemic and its resultant lockdowns and restrictions. But humans are resilient, smart and adaptable and we can finally watch the world’s fastest XCO racers in action again from today (29 Sept) at Nove Mesto, Czech Republic! Here are the details with what’s happening and which South Africans will be in action.
By Sean Badenhorst
It was meant to be a big year for the XCO racers with a full World Cup season, the World Champs and the Olympic Games. But this new strain of coronavirus created havoc and here we are, the end of September and not one major international XCO race has happened yet. Frustrating for the fans, and surely life-altering for the racers.
The good news is that a very abbreviated XCO and Downhill season will begin today (Tuesday 29 September 2020) with multiple World Cup rounds held at venues where there isn’t currently any lockdown.
Here’s what to expect:
- 29 September-4 October: UCI XCC and UCI XCO x 2 Rounds, Nove Mesto, Czech Republic
- 5-11 October: UCI XCO and DH World Champs, Leogang, Austria
- 15-18 October: UCI DH World Cup x 2 Rounds, Maribor, Slovenia
- 29 October-1 November: UCI DH World Cup x 2 Rounds, Lousa, Portugal
The only two 2020 XCO World Cup rounds this week should be interesting. The racing will obviously be fierce as riders are gagging for competition after months of training and stress. Continued international travel restrictions and some riders choosing not to travel, will see a reduced field, but the top South Africans will however be on their respective start lines.
Elite women: Mariske Strauss, Candice Lill and Cherie Redeker
Elite men: Alan Hatherly
Under-23 men: Daniel van der Walt
Junior men: Luke Moir
In the Elite women’s category, Lill (Faces), Strauss (CST Post NL Bafang) and Redeker (Pactimo) will try to salvage something of a year they’d rather forget. Strauss currently lies 24th on the UCI XCO World Rankings, Redeker is 42nd and Lill is 44th . Although it must be noted that the world rankings are biased currently to those that have been able to compete in UCI-points-scoring events over the past few weeks in Europe.
Lill (16th) and Strauss (13th) both finished in the top 20 at World Cups in 2019 and will be eager to continue their upward trajectory on a challenging course that offers a bit of everything. The two huge rock gardens and the rooty climbs are features of the course that can make or break a rider’s race. Both are challenging in the dry, but treacherous in the wet. And rain is fairly common there this time of the year.
“I came here a week early to ensure there are no surprises. My husband and coach, Darren is with me, which means I have someone to worry about the minor things that can end up causing major stress,” said Lill from Nove Mesto on Tuesday.
“I’m feeling good. It’s been a weird year for everyone. At one point in the year I decided that if nothing happens this year, that’s fine. I just set my goals long term for next year’s Olympics. I still did some really good training blocks though and I was able to focus quite well, so I have a solid base.
“When I found out I could travel, about two weeks ago, I started doing some speed work and sharpening. I’m really excited to race. I just want to perform well. I’m not too focussed on results, but I might surprise myself,” added Lill, who is looking to try and have a strong Short Course race on Tuesday to ensure a good start position for Thursday. Lill was 16th at the Nove Mesto World Cup round in 2019.
“A good start position makes all the difference. If I can have a good result in the Short Track race, I can hopefully start near the front at the XCO race. It’s a fun course with the rock gardens and jump lines, but the rooty climb is where you don’t want to be caught behind others. You want to try be in the first 10 there to ensure you have a solid first lap.”
In the Elite men’s division, Alan Hatherly (Specialized) will be South Africa’s only competitor. The 2018 Under-23 World Champion is currently ranked 46th in the world, but ended 2019 a very respectable 27th. He will be looking to get his first top 20 finish on a course that suits him.
Daniel van der Walt is racing his first Under-23 World Cup and is sure to feel the marked difference between Junior and Under-23 racing. But he’s not new to international racing, so will be looking for a safe race on a course that’s notoriously challenging to riders and bikes alike.
And Luke Moir, fifth at the 2019 Junior World Champs, will be looking to make the most of his brief final year in the Junior ranks. Unfortunately, in addition to having what should have been his best racing year yet, almost entirely cancelled, he’s now experiencing visa challenges and will likely miss the World Cup rounds at Nove Mesto, but is hoping be able to race the World Champs next week.
Catch all the racing action live on Redbull TV: https://www.redbull.com/int-en/live-events
Nove Mesto World Cup 1
XCC: Tuesday 29 September – 17h00 Elite Women; 17h45 Elite Men
XCO: Thursday 1 October – 10h15 Under-23 Men; 12h20 Elite Women; 15h50 Elite Men
Nove Mesto World Cup 2
XCC: Friday 2 October – 17h00 Elite Women; 17h45 Elite Men
XCO: Sunday 4 October – 10h15 Under-23 Men; 12h20 Elite Women; 15h50 Elite Men