MTB Worlds started

Yes, we are in June and it's already the mountain bike World Championships in rainy Val Di Sole, Italia. The Olympics are messing the usual calendar but that's good for those who will be crowned World Champions this week as they will get to wear rainbow jerseys for longer, the 2009 calendar is back to normal.

The French team already won the Team Relay in front of the heavily favored Swiss team. The host got bronze and Canada got sixth, better than the DNS last year when a few canadian riders didn't get at the venue on time.

What do I predict? For the XC men, Sauser looks strong but so does a few riders within the Swiss team. Will Julien Absalon repeat? He probably can but for some reason, I'd like to see someone else win. Domination is impressive but makes for boring racing. Last year's U23 World Champion Jakob Fuglsang seems to be getting better and could end up on the podium. Geoff Kabush has shown sparks of speed by taking third in Andorra so he could do well if he doesn't have the bad luck he had last year when he got on the site very late and hurt his arm just days before the race. Good luck Geoff. My wildcard pick: Roel Paulissen. He's been laying low this year (planned or not?) but has a lot of experience. He's more than due for a big win and maybe he was only targeting this race and the Olympics, not every World Cup races this year. I'm also curious to see how Belgian cyclocross superstar Sven Nys will do. He was strong in Fort William and he sure can deal with slippery conditions although his top target is the Olympics.

For the ladies, I'll be rooting for Marie-Hélène Prémont. She has been on the podium at every races this year, starting on the lowest podium spot but climbing all the way to the top at the last World Cup. She's strong and it could be her year. She annouced it would be her last year of competition so she will also be very motivated to win. Defending Champ and Russian pocket sized cutie Irina Kalentieva is a bit of an unknown as she missed the last few races due to sickness but she knows how to win and is good in muddy conditions. Gunn-Rita Dahle is also back after a year off but she hasn't been her old dominating self. She won a race by a hair but finished further back, DNF'ed or didn't enter others this year. I think she can podium but probably not win. I root and pick for Marie-Hélène, she's a Québec local and I'm curious if she will be able to smile even more if she was to win...

For the downhill, I'm not an expert but Greg Minnaar seems to be going great right now. Remember last year, started hurt, crashed and dislocated his arm in his final run and still finished 4th. It would be hard not to count Sam Hill as a favorite, a 2nd place for him seems like a crappy result because we are so used to see him win. Steve Peat will do his best once again to finally get those rainbow stripes and Fabien Barel seems to come out of the shadows every time the World title is at stakes.

For the gravity ladies, I don't expect surprises so look at the season World Cup podiums to see who's fast. My pick, Rachel Atherton.

For the 4X, I have no clue! Jared Graves? Prokop? Dan Atherton? Cedric? I don't think Cedric Gracia is going to win much in any races, he's past his prime but he can still make racing fun to watch. Dan Atherton wont win either, he is already going back home after breaking his collarbone in practice today.

Whoever wins, it should be a week of fine racing to follow.


Jeff Kerkove said...

Ira has been training at high altitude ;-)


Masini said...

Thanks for the preview... I'm heading there after taking in tomorrow's Tour de Suisse stage.

My picks (of course)... Jakob in the XC and Joost in the 4X! That's right... medals all around for Cannondale.