Preview: UCI Mountain Bike World Championships 2009
Posted August 31 2009
Words And Photography Luke Webber
Miss the World Championships last year? What were you thinking! Here's the roundup of 2008, with a look to this weeks action coming atcha live from Canberra, Australia.
For Team GB the 2008 World Championships ended on the biggest possible high. Under beating sun in Val di Sole, Italy, three Brits scored gold in mountain biking's biggest annual event.
Gee and Rachel Atherton took the rainbow jerseys in the Senior downhill, while Josh Bryceland won the Junior race.
But the great results didn't stop there; Steve Peat added another silver to his cabinet in the Senior downhill, while Liam Killeen produced a stunning ride from the mid-pack into fourth position in the cross country, with Oli Beckingsale recording tenth place despite a huge crash in the woods.
Looking to 2009 and Canberra presents a very different challenge than last year. In the Dolomites there was talk of how crazy the tracks were, but down under only the XC course has been met with such praise. The downhill has been criticised for its flat nature, while the fourcross track has a large BMX influence.
TUESDAY - TEAM RELAY
Right now in Australia riders have arrived for the opening ceremony before the first day of racing tomorrow; the cross country team relay.
Run off with teams of four, each containing a junior, under-23, male and female rider, each must in turn complete a single lap of the track before handing over to the next team member.
The British team, consisting of Liam Killeen, Annie Last, Kenta Gallagher and David Fletcher will be keen to build on their performance at the European Championships and must almost-certainly better their fourteenth-place finish at last years Worlds. The favourites for the race would usually be the Swiss team - but last year they were outdone by France. The team relay is never an easy race to call!
WEDNESDAY - WOMEN'S JUNIOR AND U23 XC
From Wednesday all events are individual and start with the Junior and under-23 women's cross country. With recent outstanding performances, including fifth place at last weeks Swiss Cup, under-23 Brit Annie Last is becoming an outsiders favourite for the race. There's no doubt she is familiar with the occasion - finishing ninth as a Junior in Val di Sole, and the best indication of her possible speed on the course will come with her lap time in the team relay.
THURSDAY - MEN'S JUNIOR XC
Thursday is the Junior men's XC where both British first-year riders Steve James and Kenta Gallagher will look for good experience in their first ever World Championships. Don't rule out a top ten finish from either rider - anything in the top twenty will be very respectable though.
FRIDAY - LIVE FOURCROSS FROM 0930 BST AND MEN'S U23 XC
Friday is the first live cast with the fourcross at 9.30am British Time. Jared Graves is the Aussie home favourite having wrapped up the World Cup overall, Joost Wichman the only rider getting close this season with three wins. If you're looking for a surprise winner throw some money at Sam Willoughby. The junior BMX World Champion who is beating the seniors, this kid is the future of multi-man gravity racing! Riding for Britain will be Dan Atherton, Scott Beaumont and Fionn Griffiths. Fionn has been in great form this year, currently holding second in the World Cup and will be in confident mood coming off a win in the previous round.
Also on Friday is the men's under-23 cross country. Riding for Britain will be 2007 Junior bronze medallist David Fletcher and Scott Thwaites. The overwhelming favourite for the race however will be South African Burry Stander. Second in Val di Sole, Stander has continued his great form through to 2009 and looks almost unbeatable.
SATURDAY - LIVE SENIOR CROSS COUNTRY FROM 0100 BST
For XC fans doing an all-nighter never felt more appealing. Kicking off with the Women's World Championships at 0100BST, there is no reliable form book to go on. There's been a long gap from Canada where reigning Champ Marga Fullana took a kicking, failing to finish both technical courses. Lene Byberg came out of that stint flying high with the win in Bromont and alongside Irina Kalentieva, Marathon World Champ Sabine Spitz and Catherine Pendrel will be the riders to watch. For GB Sue Clarke completes her comeback to international racing at the highest level and will be hoping for some better luck than in Canada where she punctured on lap one while sitting top 20.
The men's race is once again wide open. Favourite is Julien Absalon and the only man willing to take the fight to him in 2009 - Ralph Naf - is out injured. Roel Paulissen took the World Marathon Championships and has blistering form right now, Jose Hermida knows on his day he can be in contention and the Swiss combo of Florian Vogel, Christoph Sauser and Nino Schurter always represent. The big surprise could come from Canadian Geoff Kabush. In Bromont he took his first ever World Cup win and was on fire - if the course suits the big man, don't rule him out. Liam Killeen is Britain's sole representative and has battled for form this year, finding it in short supply. We know nobody else who prepares for the big occasion like Liam who was the shock of the 2008 Worlds with a fourth-place finish.
SUNDAY - LIVE SENIOR DOWNHILL FROM 0400 BST
The big one! First up will be the Junior race (unfortunately not live) where Bernard Kerr, the man of the Championship occasion will be hitting the track. Fellow Brit Danny Hart will be looking to take back a jersey for himself though, after a season of success has lead to the overall in the Junior World Cup competition.
Please Tracy celebrate like this again on Sunday. That way I can use a shot of you in TREK kit!
From here we're straight into the women's race. All we know is that Rachel Atherton isn't racing - the rest is to be decided on the day. Tracy Moseley is hurting for the win and flys on this type of course - remember South Africa a few months back? Sabrina Jonnier, Emmeline Ragot and Celine Gros are a French powerhouse though and have dominated the World Cup. Surely an all-French podium is out of the question?!
Blasting off at an anticipated 0430 BST is the big one - grab some strong coffee and start your day with the ultimate riding inspiration! Rob Warner will talk (or scream) you through the action and if it's a patch on 2008 we are in for a treat. Greg Minnaar - the powerhouse, Fabien Barel - the scientist, Sam Hill - the underestimated, Gee Atherton - the hunger and the greed, Mik Hannah - the comeback kid, Brian Lopes - the unexpected, Nathan Rennie - the forgotten.
Did we miss someone? Oh yeah Steve Peat. The people's favourite, the racers' favourite - nobody would mind if he won, the celebrations would be felt halfway around the world and mountain biking would be complete.
Preview - out.