A few more than the usual cross-country suspects will be in the United Kingdom as the World Cup starts round 2 this weekend.
For Americans, one name on the start list harkens back a few years as far as World Cups go — Jeremiah Bishop. Cannondale Factory Racing’s Bishop, who has focused on endurance racing the last several years, had a hot spring on the domestic cross-country scene and decided to try his legs back on the world stage. Bishop’s disadvantage is he’ll be starting far back — in the 73 spot out of 120-plus. That’s due to his lack of UCI points, which is a byproduct of his endurance race focus.
Meanwhile, Brian Lopes will contest the UCI’s new style of mountain bike race at Dalby Forest, or to be exact, the nearby streets of Pickering. On Friday there is the Pro Sprint Eliminator, a new, cash-heavy event the UCI is introducing in the UK and round 3 in Germany at the end of May. The men and women winners take home about $1,400 each.
Riders complete the course once against the clock to decide who they will compete against in the eliminator rounds that follow. Then racing looks something similar to four-cross, in that the eliminator features timed qualifiers where 32 riders in groups of four will race in approximately 3-minute-long heats, with the top two advancing to the next round, until the final four are matched up.
Also on the Eliminator start list even though the Dalby stop doesn’t host a downhill are other gravity experts, including Trek World Racing’s Aaron Gwin and reigning world dh champ Tracy Moseley. To race the Eliminator requires an OK from the cross-country officials at the UCI, at least 20 world-ranking points or the nomination by the relevant national association. Whether the gravity riders actually race Sunday’s XC remains to be seen — but don’t hold your breathe.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Lopes about the Eliminator. “Obviously I have plenty of experience racing 4x, but those races are gravity fed and usually no more than 1 minute long, so tripling that amount of time with some small climbs and plenty of flats will be tough. Three minutes is a lot longer than you think when you’re going all out…”
On Sunday, expect to see the ongoing duel between Nino Schurter and Julien Absalon on the Dalby course, where, Schurter beat Absalon in a sprint finish last year. Also able to win are world no.1 ranked Jaroslav Kulhavy, world champion Jose Hermida, and 2011 Cape Epic winners Burry Stander and Christoph Sauser of Specialized.
You can watch the Dalby Forest World Cup XCO race on Freecaster.tv.