It's a long grind, but the fat lady has almost sung on this year's edition of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. And it's gonna be a wild weekend of racing, with only the Men's 4X overall a 'done deal'—Jared Graves wrapped that up in Val di Sole.
There are five World Cup overall winner's titles up for grabs here in Windham, New York, at the World Cup Finals. Some overall titles are pretty much a wrap—Anita Molcik is unlikely to beat Anneke Beerten in the Women's 4X, and in the Women's DH Sabrina Jonnier is unlikely to finish so far off the podium as to put her overall lead in jeopardy; but the remaining overall World Cup wins are anything but a foregone conclusion.
Women's 4X: neither Jana Horakova or Caroline Buchanan of the 4X racers can beat Beerten's overall lead, even if they can beat her here. Beerten's only threat, then, is Anita Molcik. Noting against Molcik, but that's unlikely to happen, so let's just say the overall is Beerten's to lose at this point and call it good.
Men's 4X is going to be a glory ride for Graves, pure and simple. But don't think he'll piss it away with a half-assed effort simply because he's taken the overall already. Oh no. Definitely not. The Yeti rider lives to win. Look for this 4X final to be a show of strength from "Grubby" Graves.
For the Women's DH title, it's almost in the bag for Sabrina Jonnier. She's got a comfortable lead for the overall—185 points over Emmeline Ragot, and this course definitely favors the World Cup leader more so than Ragot. She's looking confident, too. But anything can happen, so in the unlikely event of Sabrina having a complete meltdown of some sort, look to see Jonnier take the overall here.
In the Men's DH, it's stupidly, ridiculously, insanely tight: only seven points separate Gee Atherton and Greg Minnaar from the overall win. It's a 2:30 (plus or minus a few) track, so there can be no margin for error for either rider—particularly in Qualifying, which awards the winner 50 UCI points. The two riders are so close, that whichever qualifies fastest will likely win the Overall. No pressure there…
The Men and Women's XC are both going to be tight. In the men, Nino Schurter's leads by a mere 26 points over Julien Absalon. A win by either here declares the overall winner. The women are in a similar position: Catharine Pendrel is leading Eva Lechner of Italy by 54 points, with Willow Koerber lurking a only 5 points behind Lechner. Pendrel only needs to place second here to win the overall. Were she to slip to third, either Koerber or Lechner would still need to win to take the overall—and Koerber has won on this track before, although not in as stacked a field as this. Interesting…very Interesting.
You gotta love showing up just in time for ''Wing'' night at the local brew pub in Windham, NY.
The start is just past this sign.
So there's a kind of ledgey step down thing about a third of the way down the track that gave more than one rider pause for thought as they walked the track and even up to about half-way through practice.
Another place for thought: The Minefield--a short, rock strewn bit of nastiness. As the day wore on, a line developed, but it's still evolving.
''it's been a while since we had a wide open track like this,'' commented Chris Kovarik. ''I'm glad to see the multiple line choice available vs. pure singletrack.''
Yes, Sam Hill is here. Yes, he rode practice today. Will he be able to race here? Will he be able to race worlds?
Justin Frey is a very popular man. He runs the Fox suspension support rig. And is not exactly immune to the ladies...
Nitty-gritty: Tracy Moseley putting her new Session DH ride to work in practice.
A newly recovered broken hand has Kyle Strait putting in some seriously pain-filled practice laps. His tweet has him uncertain as to whether or not he can race.
A potential spoiler is Sam Blenkinsop. He's been on the edge of taking the top step of the box all season long, and can put some power to the pedals--a necessity for a win here.
Joey Schuessler is looking for a good race here.
Greg Minnaar using every bit of his suspension Guinea-pigging the inside line off the rock step down near the top of the course. This image does poor justice to the size of this huck to flat--but it is fast.
Sabrina Jonnier is looking extremely confident.
Minnar wasn't the only one to test the inside line. Brendawg Fairclough put his stamp on the landing zone right next to Minnaar's track.
Nice to see someone other than Lapierre and GT deciding to put a bumper on the bike frame to protect the stanchion tubes.
Ah, Kashima--it isn't just for suspension forks anymore. A handful of World Cup riders are running it on the rear shock.
With the fog and rain of the Wednesday gave rise to a small pile of cut spikes in most team pits, but a dry and sunny forecast saw the track drying out in short order.
Custom paint on Anneke Beerten's World Champ 4X bike. I want some.
It's not all about big bikes here at Windham; it's also the final for the XC racing set as well. Todd Wells' new Specialized Epic sees an equally brand new BB30 getting pressed in.
And while SRAM's waiting for a new espresso machine, Sandy, a solid Scotsman through and through, patiently waits for the pot to boil for a hot cuppa tea.
You are looking at a World Cup dinosaur: a 9-speed XTR cassette. Anyone? Anyone?
Myron Billy, Todd Wells' wrench in North America, put his signature on the Specialized rider's brand new S-Works Epic wagon wheeler.
The man who saved gravity racing in the USA: Jeremiah Dylan Dean; with a World Cup on his soil, you can pretty much guarantee that JDD will be on the scene, never mind the fact he's about 3,000 miles from home and forgot to water the plants before he bailed out for Windham.
''I love New York!'' -Takei Kyosuke, a bit further from home--7,000 miles to be exact--and STOKED!
With World Champs on the horizon, you start to see the experimentation with anything that will give riders an edge. Tubular tires glued to a carbon rim? Why not?
So there you have it. Five races to go. Three titles are completely up in the air, and two are mostly a foregone conclusion, but aren't exactly certain. What is certain is that it's going to be a wild one here in Windham, New York.