Mountain bike racing has been in the cyclocross spotlight this year thanks to Mathieu van der Poel and Ellen Noble’s announcements that they are targeting the XCO mountain bike race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
This Saturday, the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup schedule kicks off in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The race is the first of seven World Cups this season.
The race is being held despite a severe drought that has been afflicting the region for the several years. Water use restrictions have been placed on residents, and officials in nearby Cape Town are afraid the city might run out of water. The mountain bike racers will be limited to the same 50 liters of water as residents.
Who to Watch For
Ellen Noble will not be making the trip to South Africa with her new Trek Factory Racing team, but she does plan to race the next event in Albstadt, Germany in May and the rest of the World Cup schedule after that.
The Elite Women’s race will feature several familiar cyclocross faces. Leading the start list is defending World Champion Jolanda Neff. Neff’s start is a little improbable after she broke her collarbone in a crash at the Hoogerheide Cyclocross World Cup in late January. She raced last weekend in Spain, meaning she recovered in just five weeks.
— UCI MTB Stellenbosch (@epicworldcup) March 7, 2018
Other familiar names include Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, Annika Langvad, Eva Lechner and Worlds fifth-place finisher Elisabeth Brandau of Germany.
In the Elite Men’s race, Mathieu van der Poel is kicking off his road to Tokyo in Stellenbosch. In his first mountain bike World Cup last year, Van der Poel raced from the 90th start position to an eighth-place finish at Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic. On Saturday, he will receive the 47th call-up, so his task of racing to the front and challenging World Champion Nino Schurter is a little less tall.
Other cyclocross names on the start list include Gioele Bertolini of Italy, Keegan Swenson of the U.S. and Raphael Gagne of Canada.
How to Watch
The Elite Women’s and Men’s races will be live streamed on redbull.tv.
The Women’s race starts at 5 a.m. EST and the Men’s race is at 7:30 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 10.