If you’re like me, the start of the WorldTour cycling season’s Spring Classics is pretty sweet, but the first round of the Mountain Bike World Cup is what it’s all about. We didn’t have to wait as long as normal this season, as the top-level series kicks off this weekend in Stellenbosch, South Africa on March 9th-10th. Thanks to Red Bull TV, you can watch every pedal stroke all season long.
Men’s XC in 2018
If you were under a rock last year, you missed what was quite possibly the most incredible season by any cyclist ever. Scott-SRAM’s Nino Schurter won every single round of the series and then added the World Championships for good measure. Perennial title rival Julien Absolon missed much of the season with a broken collarbone, leaving a challenger-by-committee approach to unseat Shurter, with only cyclocross superstar Mathieu Van der Poel as the only rider to really push Schurter at the round in Albastadt, Germany. Can Schurter run the table two years in a row? Luck, logic, and odds say no, but after last year’s performances, it’s unclear who could possibly beat Nino into second place on a consistent basis in 2018.
Women’s XC in 2018
If the men’s racing was predictable in 2017, the women’s racing was anything but. Yana Belomoina emerged mid-season as the women to beat, winning a slew of World Cups, the World Cup Overall title, as well as seeing herself crowned as European Champion. Specialized Racing’s Anika Langvad couldn’t quite repeat her magic from 2016, but remained a top contender throughout the season, along with the evergreen Gunn-Rita Dahle. The Canadian duo of Emily Batty and Catharine Pendrel didn’t have the same level of success as in the past, but watch for them both to make a big step forward this year. The 2018 season will be run without Olympic Champion Jenny Rissveds, who is stepping away from the sport in order to sort out some personal issues relating to depression and chronic fatigue. A move like this shows that Jenny is wise beyond her years and has her priorities straight. She’s going to be successful in whatever she chooses to do in life, be it racing bikes, academia, or whatever she wants to pursue. But we’re hoping to see her come back to the sport, as she has all the talent in the world and adds plenty of speed to the women’s field.
You can watch the whole season on Red Bull TV, including event replays if you can’t watch them live. They even have a really slick Red Bull TV application for your phone so you can watch on the go. Search for it in the App Store or the Google Play Store. Thanks for supporting mountain biking, Red Bull!