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World Cup racing officially returns this weekend, as the cross-country season kicks off in the heart of the Black Forest at Albstadt, Germany. Racers will compete on a 2.6-mile lap that serves up two long, steep climbs and fast and technical descents like the notorious “Red Bull Devil’s Corner,” on a course that requires tactical, but risky, riding.
Kate Courtney, winner of Albstadt in 2019 (the last time the race happened due to COVID), will return to defend her title in both XCO and Short Track, which she won on a slick course muddied by heavy rains.
Courtney has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, but the other five women on the Long Team vying for two spots on Team USA—Erin Huck, Lea Davison, Hannah Finchamp, Chloe Woodruff and Haley Batten—will undoubtedly use this weekend’s race to potentially gain important points, and as a warm-up for World Cup No.2 in Nové Město, Czech Republic, where the final Olympic spots will be decided. As will U.S. racers Keegan Swanson and Christopher Blevins, who are vying for one men’s spot on Team USA for Tokyo.
Dutch racer Mathieu Van der Poel will be back in Albstadt to defend his 2019 Short Track win, although he certainly hasn’t been sitting around waiting for XC racing to return; the roadie just won Strade Bianche, two stage wins in Tirreno Adriatico and nabbed second place in Tour of Flanders.
Race weekend starts on Friday with Short Track, an all-out race lasts approx. 20 minutes and, apart from the 125 World Cup points on offer, determines the crucial starting spots for the longer Cross-Country Olympic race on Sunday.
All the action will be carried live or on demand on Red Bull TV (Rob Warner and Bart Brenjens will have the call, as usual).
From Albstadt, the Cross-Country athletes will head to the Czech Republic before meeting up with the Downhill athletes for the first double header of the season in Leogang, Austria.
The full schedule, barring any COVID-related cancellations is as follows:
May 15-16: Nové Město, Czech Republic (XCO/XCC)
June 12-13: Leogang, Austria (DH/XCO/XCC)
July 3-4: Les Gets, France (DH/XCO/XCC)
August 14-15: Maribor, Slovenia (DH)
August 24–29: UCI Mountain Bike World Championships – Val di Sole, Italy
September 4-5: Lenzerheide, Switzerland (DH/XCO/XCC)
September 18-19: Snowshoe, USA (DH/XCO/XCC)