CYCLING Preview: Can anyone stop American Mountain Bike World Champ Kate Courtney in Vallnord?

Mountain Bike World Cross Country champ Kate Courtney (USA)

The third leg of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Cross-Country schedule – and fourth stage of the Downhill – is this weekend in Vallnord (AND), one of the more exotic and popular stops on the circuit.

But there are many questions that come with this week’s stop, including:

● Can anyone stop American Kate Courtney from winning her third straight World Cup race this season?

Her victory at the 2018 World Championships was something of a surprise, but she has been brilliant in winning at Albstadt and Nove Mesto, first over 2017 World Champion Jolanda Neff (SUI) and then Rebecca McConnell (AUS).

Courtney, of course, leads the World Cup with 700 points, with Neff second (490) and Chloe Woodruff (USA) third with 385.

● What’s happened to Swiss star Nino Schurter, the seven-time World Champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the first two races of the year? After winning four of the seven races ib the tour last season (and medaling in six of seven), he’s only posted a second in the Nove Mesto race so far in 2019. Swiss Matthias Flueckiger has finished 1-3 in the two races and Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel was 2-1.

Van der Poel leads the World Cup points standings with 700 points, followed by Flueckiger with 500 points and Schurter (485).

Last season, Gerhard Kerschbaumer (ITA) won in Vallnord, with Schurter second. Norway’s 2004 Olympic champ Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja won the women’s race, ahead of Neff.

The non-Olympic Downhill events have been dominated this season by the French in the men’s division and British riders in the women’s. Three-time World Champion Loic Bruni won at Maribor and Leogang, with teammate Amaury Pierron winning at Ft. William. But Australia’s Troy Brosnan has won medals at all three events: 3-2-3.

Britain’s Tahnee Seagrave won the Maribor opener and five-time World Champion Rachel Atherton (GBR) won at Ft. William. But as with the men, an Australian is the only one with medals in all three races: Tracey Hannah, who has finished 3-2-1, taking the gold in Leogang.

Look for results from Vallnord here.