Home > MTB

Worlds go electric: the surprisingly strong start list for MSA’s eMTB race

World champions, elite downhillers and a strong field of young Canadians

Mont-Sainte-Anne is hosting the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships for a record third time, including the first ever UCI sanctioned eMTB championship race.

While no one is quite sure what to expect from the event, the start list is diverse and impressively distinguished. Among the competitors lining up for the debut eMTB event are Olympic medallists, world champions, cyclocross racers and elite downhill racers.

The front row of Wednesday’s race is a veritable who’s who of cross country racing. Five Olympic medallists will be on the start, three of whom have gold medals to their name. In fact, the Men’s eMTB race will be more heavily decorated than the entire elite men’s cross country event on Saturday. They may not be at their peak race fitness right now, of course, but the UCI’s imposed max assisted speed of 25 km/hr will be well under some of these riders top speed.

Julien Absalon
Julien Absalon racing the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup in 2016, under his own power. Photo: Matt Stetson.

Julien Absalon, twice Olympic champion and the most decorated men’s cross country rider ever, returns to racing after his recent retirement. He’ll face off against old rivals Jaroslav Kulhavy, the 2012 Olympic champion who is also racing Saturday’s elite XCO unassisted, and Marco-Aurelio Fontana, the London 2012 bronze medallist.

2000’s Olympic podium will be well represented too. Miguel Martinez, the gold medal winner in Sydney, and bronze medallist Christoph Sauser are both slated to start.

La Bresse World Cup Finals Downhill DH
Bernard Kerr was on a different podium 12 months ago, when he was fifth in the World Cup downhill final in La Bresse, France. Image: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

Lining up against these legends of the sport will be current elite World Cup downhill racers, and legends of a different sort, Wyn Masters and Bernard Kerr of Pivot Factory Racing.

From there, it gets a bit more diverse.  US Marathon XC champion Payson McElveen will line up alongside fellow American, and retired moto-cross rider Charlie Mullins.

Even reigning downhill world champion Loïc Bruni’s father is getting in on the action. Jean-Pierre Bruni, who earned more rainbow stripes of his own at the UCI Masters mountain bike world championships last week, will also be on the start line.

Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette won the revived TransRockies Classic stage race earlier this summer. Photo: John Gibson
The Canadians

Canada is sending a mix of experience and youth, with current Canada Cup cross country racers lining up with veterans of the sport. Andreas Hestler, who raced against Martinez at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, will be making his return to the world championship stage.

He’ll be joined by Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette, Félix Longpré, Alexandre Vialle, part of the next generation of cross country racers, all with strong Canada Cup XCO results under their own power this year.

You can see the full Canadian men’s e-MTB team here.

Maghalie Rochette
Maghalie Rochette winning Pan-American Cyclocross national championships one week before she defended her Canadian national championship.
Women’s eMTB world championships

The women’s start list is smaller, but also quite strong. Cyclocross national champion Maghalie Rochette leads the two-person Canadian quad. She’ll be joined by Courtnay Romkey on the start line. The duo will be taking on elite World Cup level cyclocross racer Caroline Mani of France, and the Netherland’s multi-talented Anneke Beerten, who was recently on the podium in the year-long Queen of Crankworx competition.