After a thrilling 2018 season, World Cup cross country racing is back and, as always, there’s a fast group of Canadians looking to mix it up with the world’s best when racing returns to Albstadt, Germany.
Racing starts Friday May 17 with the new, action-packed Short Track XCC discipline. Introduced last year, XCC will continue to shake up the World Cup weekend in its second season. Sunday is still the main event, the Olympic Cross Country men’s and women’s finals. Elite racing will be televised live, while under-21 race earlier in the day.
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There’s fast Canadians in each of these events, including a trio of Canadian women who could be racing for the win on Sunday. Here’s the top Canadians to watch, and cheer for this weekend in Albstadt, Germany:
In 2018, Batty was knocking on the door of her first World Cup win. A stellar season saw her take four straight World Cup podiums, then add a world championships bronze on top of that. In each of those races, Batty raced like she could win – and came incredibly close. The addition of Swiss sensation Jolanda Neff to Batty’s Trek Factory Racing team could be the push the Canadian needs to step onto the top of the podium this season.
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Gaining momentum steadily over the last two seasons, 2019 could be the year Haley Smith becomes a constant presence at the front of World Cup racing. Last season saw the Uxbridge, Ont. rider land her best-ever World Cup finish at home in Canada, taking eighth at Mont-Sainte-Anne. The Norco Factory Team racer followed that up with an incredible sixth place at UCI mountain bike championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
The veteran of the Canadian men’s cross country squad, Raphaël Gangé has been showing great speed already this year. Going into World Cup season Gagné’s already earned one major jersey, winning the Pan American continental championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico. With the Olympic qualification process getting started, Gagné surely has an eye to returning to the Games when they land in Tokyo in 2020
Canada’s Olympic bronze medal winner from Rio 2016 has had a quieter start to her 2019 season, with less travel for racing than some other racers. This follows a 2018 World Cup campaign that was interrupted by a broken humerus. Even with that significant injury, Pendrel made an impressive return in the latter half of last season. With Olympic qualification approaching, and world championships returning to Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que., look for the two time UCI XCO world champion to build off her extensive experience to move up to the front of the race this year.
The two time elite national champion is training full time for the first time this year. After graduating with a degree in engineering, he’s been turning in solid results all season, from Europe to California now that he can focus solely on riding his bike. The elder Disera brother has been a fixture at the front of Canadian cross country racing for so long that it can be easy to forget that he’s still young and most definitely still gaining momentum. With no textbooks in his carry-on luggage to Albstadt, look for Disera to make his way further up through the crowded elite men’s field.
The off-season brought some big changes for Léandre Bouchard this year, bringing him back home to the Quebec-based Pivot Cycles-OTE team after some time with a European outfit. With a different type of support and a more close-knit team surrounding the tall Quebec rider at home, look for the 2016 Olympian to make a bigger impact on the international stage this year.
In addition to the elite races, the under-23 World Cup events take place in Germany, but will not be televised. There’s also a UCI Junior Series HC event, the Alba-Gold Junior’s Cup on Saturday, 18 May. Carter Woods and Emilly Johnston are the sole Canadian youth entered in the Alba-Gold race. No word yet on whether the race is ABBA themed, though that reference would probably be lost on most of the 16 and 17-year-olds racing anyway.
Full start list of Canadian entries for 2019 Albstadt, Germany World Cup