World Cup racing returns after month long break for the XC crowd and an extended off-season for the downhillers. Canada’s fastest are out in full force, looking to challenge the world’s best across the board.
Here’s who will be racing for Canada and what to expect from the top pros at World Cup DH #1 and XCC/XCO #3 this weekend in Austria. Racing starts Friday!
Canadians in Austria
As mentioned, there is a huge crew of Canucks racing in Leogang this weekend. For the cross country racers, it’s one last tune-up for whoever will be representing Canada at the Olympics in Tokyo. On the downhill side, it’s the end of a very long off-season for returning riders and the first World Cup opportunity for a crew of aspiring young juniors.
Mark Wallace will be hunting for redemption this weekend, afterefinishing fourth at 2020 world championships in Leogang last fall. The Vancouver Island pro thrives on steep, technical courses and revisions to the Austrian track deliver just that. Add in some rain, and the Canyon CLLCTV racer should feel right at home. He’ll be joined by perennial podium threat, Finn Iles (Specialized) and a solid group of younger riders.
Seth Sherlock (Intense Factory Racing), and Norco’s trio of Elliot Jamieson, Lucas Cruz and Henry Fitzgerald all are looking to make their mark in the crowded elite field. Magnus Manson, former Canadian national champion now racing enduro for Forbidden Bikes, could be the wildcard. He’s shifted his focus to the Enduro World Series and his sponsor doesn’t technically have a downhill bike. But it will be interesting to see how the Vancouver Island brand’s new Dreadnought, with some modifications, handles a full-on DH course.
Rachel Pageau will be the lone Canadian women on the downhill side. After several successful early-season races in the United States, Pageau will take on the strong elite women’s field on Saturday.
Most exciting could be the junior men’s category. Canada’s has remarkable success in this category in recent years, and five new riders will make their World Cup debut in Austria this weekend. For Tristan Lemire, Jackson Goldstone and Jacob Jewett, all signed to pro teams before they were of an eligible age to race, this is a long-awaited arrival on the international scene. Coen Skrypnek, of Calgary/Squamish, and N.Vancouver’s Drew Mozell don’t have the same factory support but both bring very solid race resumes with them to Leogang. Junior men is notoriously unpredictable, and any one of these young Canucks could step up.
Seven Canadians are racing in the elite women’s field alone, with another 10 in elite men, plus under-23s. These athletes range from Olympic medalists and hopefuls to newer riders looking to make their mark.
Catharine Pendrel, Emily Batty and Haley Smith all bring World Cup podium experience to Leogang. Jenn Jackson, though, has marched rapidly through the ranks at her last two races in Albstadt and Nove Mesto. Laurie Arseneault and Cindy Montambault round out the Canadian effort.
Léandre Bouchard and Peter Disera both put in very strong performances in Short Track XCC in the opening World Cup rounds. Both will be looking to convert that to full-distance success on Sunday. Sean Fincham is quietly moving forward in the field as he adapts to the elite men’s field. Fincham’s Norco teammates, Andrew L’Esperance and Quinton Disera, and Pivot Cycles-OTE’s Rahael Auclair and Marc Andre Fortier are joined in elite by Tyler Orschel, Alexandre Vialle and Anthony Bergeron.
Carter Woods is the Canadian pulling headlines, though. The Cumberland, B.C. u23 nabbed back-to-back wins in Albstadt and Nove Mesto. He’ll be looking to keep the streak going in Leogang. Joining him is Gunnar Holmgren, also making a strong impression in u23, Tyler CLark, Charles Antoine St.-Onge and Jeremie La Grenade.
On the women’s side, Quebec’s incredibly strong women’s cross country program is well represented. Marianne Theberge, Roxanne Vermette, Mirielle Larose Gingras and Juliette Larose Gingras are all on the start list for Austria.
World Cup DH#1 / XCO#3 – International favourites
It’s not just promising Canadian talent making this week exciting. The first two World Cup XCO’s were packed with thrilling racing. And, after a abbreviated 2020 season, there is a huge field of downhill racers all looking to get back on the podium.
The elite women’s field is stronger than ever, with veterans returning from injury and young riders looking to upset the status quo. Valentina Holl leads the latter crowd. The Austrian junior world champion is moving to her first proper season in elites after being sidelined by injury last year. She’ll have to face the same imposing canyon gap that took her out last season, though, if she wants to win this weekend.
Rachel Ahterton returns after missing the 2020 season, all set to resume her rivalry with Tahnée Seagrave, Myriam Nicole and Marine Cabirou.
Missing will be recently retired Tracey Hannah. The Australian made her surprise retirement announcement mid-2020.
The elite men’s field is always crowded, but perhaps now more than ever. Loïc Bruni continues his reign, but will be challenged by returning French rival Amaury Pierron. A resurgent Greg Minnaar won a historic World Cup in 2020. Loris Vergier is on a new team and fired up after a near miss in the World Cup overall series last year, mostly due to mechanical issues.
Not least of all, newly minted world champion Reece Wilson is back on the track where he earned his rainbow stripes. Wilson crashed in Maribor World Cup after winning worlds, so this will be his first chance to race as world champion since Leogang 2020.
Cross country XCC / XCO #3
The absence of Tom Pidcock, injured, and Mathieu van der Poel, who is racing road, should leave some breathing room for the elite men’s field. World Cup #1 winner Victor Koretzky will be on the start line, though. As will Nino Schurter, hunting Julien Absalon’s World Cup all-time wins record, which has eluded the Swiss star for two years now.
On the women’s side, Kate Courtney will be absent after imaging confirmed a fractured wrist from her crash in Nove Mesto. That leaves the French duo of Loana Lecomte, winner of both World Cup rounds this year, and world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot to battle is out in Austria.
U.S.A. will still be represented at the front of the race, but most likely by Haley Batten. Recently named to the U.S. Olympic squad, Batten earned her first elite XCO podium in Nove Mesto.
Jolanda Neff is working her way back from injury, while 2016 Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds continues to show glimpses of her form from Rio.