CYCLING Preview: Can Courtney and Flueckiger repeat in Nove Mesto?

Swiss Mountain Bike star Mathias Flueckiger (Photo: Shimano)

Fans of Mountain Bike Cross Country racing had to be shaking their heads last week at the results of the season opener in Albstadt (GER). Sure, it was rainy and windy, but seeing Swiss veteran Mathias Flueckiger and American Kate Courtney on the top of the podium – instead of perennial Swiss stars Nino Schurter and Jolanda Neff – had to be a bit of a surprise.

The UCI’s Mercedes-Benz Mountain Bike World Cup has moved on to Nove Mesto (CZE) for this week’s events, including a Short Track race for men and women, as well as the Cross Country competition.

The entries include the big names and will pose a real test for both of last week’s winners. Let’s not underestimate them, however:

● Flueckiger was the 2012 World Championships bronze medalist and finished sixth at the Rio Olympic Games.

● Courtney came through the junior and U-23 ranks as a consistent winner and won the World Championship in 2018.

But they will have their hands full this week, with a challenging course and a great field:

● Nino Schurter (SUI) ~ 2009-12-13-15-16-17-18 World Champ; 2016 Olympic Champion
● Gerard Kerschbaumer (ITA) ~ 2018 World Championships silver medalist
● Maxime Marotte (FRA) ~ 2016-17-18 World Cup seasonal bronze medalist
● Ondrej Cink (CZE) ~ 2015 World Championships bronze medalist
● Mathieu van der Poel (NED) ~ 2018 World Champs bronze; World Cup seasonal bronze
● Stephane Tempier (FRA) ~ 2017 World Cup seasonal silver medalist
● Thomas Litscher (SUI) ~ 2017 World Championships bronze medalist

● Jolanda Neff (SUI) ~ 2017 World Champ; 2018 Worlds silver; 2014-15-18 World Cup gold
● Annika Langvad (DEN) ~ 2016 World Champion; 2016-18 World Cup runner-up
● Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (FRA) ~ 2015 World Champion; 2017 Worlds bronze medalist
● Emily Batty (CAN) ~ 2018 World Championships bronze medalist
● Yana Belomoina (UKR) ~ 2015 World Championships bronze; 2017 World Cup winner
● Annie Last (GBR) ~ 2017 World Championships silver medalist
● Catharine Prendel (CAN) ~ 2011-14 World Champion; 2010-16 World Cup Champion

Last year in Nove Mesto, Schurter was the winner for the second year in a row, ahead of Anton Cooper (NZL) and Marotte. Langvad won the women’s race, beating Neff and Ferrand-Prevot.

Look for results here.