Even with a volcanic cloud throwing air travel to and from Europe into disarray, the first World Cup race of the season will go on as scheduled in England.
The opening round of the Mountain Bike World Cup will take place in Yorkshire Dalby Forest on April 24 and 25.
But for some of the teams that raced at the Sea Otter Classic in California the weekend before, getting across the pond continues to be a case of wait and see.
Jon Rourke, team manager of Subaru-Gary Fisher, said that even before the volcano on Iceland erupted, his athletes were scheduled to fly to the UK on April 21. Now Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Willow Koerber, Sam Schultz and Heather Irmiger are at the mercy of Mother Nature and the airlines.
“Our bikes and gear are already over there,” Rourke said. “For me, it’s getting riders and personnel over there.”
Rourke said some of his athletes are up for arriving at the venue at some point on Saturday for the Sunday race if their scheduled flight is cancelled and a Plan-B has to be put into action. Pre-riding the course is set for Friday and Saturday.
“The riders are chomping at the bit,” he said. “They’d just [arrive on Saturday] and figure it out: Better late than never.”
According to the race organizers and the UCI on Monday, winds continued to drive the ash cloud over the UK, keeping flights from arriving at any airports in the country.
Nonetheless, the UCI confirmed that the event will go ahead as planned and, according to an event press release, all teams are encouraged to make every effort to get to Dalby Forest in time for official training on Friday.
“There are already teams from far afield, including Australia and Canada, that have arrived in Yorkshire, with the UCI Commissaire President traveling overland from Germany to ensure the event goes ahead.”
Specialized’s global marketing manager Nic Sims said Todd Wells, Lene Byberg, Christoph Sauser and Burry Stander all managed to depart Northern California soon after Sea Otter, where Stander won the cross-country race and Wells the short-track.
“The guys and Lene are actually already in Europe — amazingly enough,” Sims said on Tuesday.
The Specialized contingent made it to Frankfurt, Germany and rented several vans, which they’ll drive through France. From France they’ll ferry across the English Channel to the race, Sims said.
The Luna Pro Team’s Marla Streb said Luna Chix Catharine Pendrel, Katerina Nash and Sea Otter women’s XC and short-track winner Georgia Gould will make the event in England.
“Whether or not they’re taking the ferry, paddle board, or whatever, the Chix can always rely on [Luna Road Manager Waldek Stepniowski’s] smooth talking to make things happen,” Streb said.
For other racers at Sea Otter, getting to Europe means actually getting back home. Cannondale Factory Racing had Roel Paulissen, Marco Aurelio Fontana and Manuel Fumic at Sea Otter. But Michael De Leon said the athletes managed to get out of the country and are on track
for the next race.
“It took some creativity,” he said, “but our team is looking good.”