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By Wendy Booher
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup racing heads west to Bromont, Quebec, after a wet weekend in Mont Saint-Anne, where upsets in the men’s downhill and women’s cross-country rankings renew competition heading into this weekend’s round.
Sam Hill (Monster-Specialized) ousted Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who suffered a crash last weekend, from the number one spot, while LUNA’s Catharine Pendrel outranked Elisabeth Osl (Central Ghost) thanks to a commanding win at Mont Saint-Anne.
Defending their series’ leads this weekend will be Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) in women’s downhill; Anneke Beerten (Suspension Center) and Jared Graves (Yeti) in 4-cross; and the near-peerless Julien Absalon (Orbea) in men’s cross-country.
Hill, Pendrel, Beerten, and Absalon will also seek to defend respective wins from last year’s event at Bromont, but three new UCI-approved courses for each discipline may yield different results this time. In between enjoying the Canadian way of life and training this past week, Absalon was out sampling the new course.
“It’s really different from Mt. St Anne,” explained Absalon. “We have a long climb. It’s physical but not technical and after that, we enter a wooded section where it’s more technical with a lot of roots and rocks; it’s fast and easy to make mistakes.”
Racing in “frenemy” territory
Two weeks ago at the Canadian national cross-country championships in St-Felicien, Quebec, Pendrel took over the national title from local favorite, Marie Marie-Hèléne Prémont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain), who had held the title for the previous four years.
Then Pendrel scored again with a victory last weekend at Mont Saint-Anne. Pendrel, who came fourth in the Olympics in Beijing, becomes the latest Canadian woman to leave a lasting impression in international mountain bike racing. She also dismisses any prospect of rivalry between her and Prémont.
“I respect Marie as a racer and she, like Alison Sydor and Chrissy Redden before her, has shown me Canadians can be the very best,” Pendrel said. “Racing her has forced me to raise my game if I want to be among the best in the world. Of course we both want to be the one winning races, but if it’s Marie or another rider that is stronger on the day, then it’s on to trying to be there for the next race.”
Racing begins Saturday with downhill and 4-cross finals then continues on Sunday with the cross-country events.