CYCLING Preview: Van Vleuten seeks season title at Boels Ladies Tour; Schurter & Neff try for MTB season titles

Swiss Jolanda Neff, the 2017 World XCO Champion

It’s a busy week in cycling, with the men’s Vuelta a Espana continuing, but also the important, six-stage Ladies Tour of Norway and the final World Cup race in Cross Country Olympic and Downhill, to be held in Snowshoe, West Virginia (USA).

(1) Boels Ladies Tour: Dutch star van Vleuten chasing Vos for season title

This is the 22nd edition of the Boels Ladies Tour in the Netherlands, one of the longest races in women’s cycling, but shorter than the 10-stage women’s Giro d’Italia. The stages are fairly flat, with some rises in the final two stages.

This year’s race has five returning winners and 11 prior medal winners:

● Ellen van Dijk (NED) ~ Winner in 2013; second in 2016-18, third in 2010-14-15-17
● Annemiek van Vleuten (NED) ~ Winner in 2017-18; second in 2013
● Lisa Brennauer (GER) ~ Winner in 2015; second in 2014
● Trixi Worrack (GER) ~ Second in 2006
● Kirsten Wild (NED) ~ Second in 2009-10; third in 2011
● Anna van der Breggen (NED) ~ Second in 2017; third in 2018
● Chantal Blaak (NED) ~ Winner in 2016
● Lucinda Brand (NED) ~ Second in 2015
● Charlotte Becker (GER) ~ Winner in 2008
● Lizzie Deignan (GBR) ~ Third in 2013
● Alena Amialiusik (BLR) ~ Third in 2016

Dutch star van Vleuten is out to re-take the seasonal World Tour points lead from countrywoman Marianne Vos, who is not riding here. With just two races after this one – and both much shorter – this could be the key to the seasonal crown. At present:

1. 1,467.00 ~ Marianne Vos (NED)
2. 1,367.67 ~ Annemiek van Vleuten (NED)
3. 1,220.17 ~ Kasia Niewiadoma (POL)
4. 1,049.33 ~ Lorena Wiebes (NED)
5. 1,043.00 ~ Anna van der Breggen (NED)

Van Vleuten’s win in this race last year helped propel her to the 2018 World Tour title.

The riding actually began with the 3.8 km Prologue on Tuesday. Van Vleuten won that in 5:06, ahead of Lisa Klein (GER: 5:10) and Brand (5:11). The first stage (123.0 km) was won by Wiebes in 2:59:02 in a mass finish that also included the contenders. So, van Vleuten continues in the lead, with Wiebes now three seconds back and Italy’s Letizia Paternoster just four seconds behind.

The race continues through Sunday. Look for results here.

(2) UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Final: Swiss stars Schurter and Neff looking for more season titles

Immediately following last week’s World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec, the season World Cup titles are on the line in Mountain Biking, with the final stage of this year’s circuit getting ready in Snowshoe, West Virginia (USA). The current situation:

Men/Cross Country:
1. 1,670 ~ Nino Schurter (SUI) ~ 8x World Champion and five in a row (2015-19)
2. 1,649 ~ Mathieu van der Poel (NED)
3. 1,360 ~ Henrique Avancini (BRA)
4. 1,348 ~ Mathias Flueckiger (SUI) ~ 2019 Worlds silver medalist
5. 970 ~ Gerhard Kerschbaumer (ITA) ~ 2018 Worlds silver medalist

Women/Cross Country:
1. 1,625 ~ Jolanda Neff (SUI) ~ 2017 World Champion
2. 1,552 ~ Kate Courtney (USA) ~ 2018 World Champion
3. 1,225 ~ Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (FRA) ~ 2015 & 2019 World Champion
4. 1,210 ~ Anne Terpstra (NED)
5. 992 ~ Rebecca McConnell (AUS)

Schurter is a six-time World Cup winner and is the clear favorite since van der Poel is prepping for the World Road Race Championships and is expected to skip Snowshoe. Avancini is the only one with a mathematical chance of catching Schurter, but the Swiss would essentially have to be injured and not compete to lose.

The women’s race is between Neff, a three-time winner and Courtney, who has emerged into world class in the last year. Neff was much better last week at the World Championships, winning the silver medal.

1. 1,312 ~ Loic Bruni (FRA) ~ 2017-18-19 World Champion
2. 1,222 ~ Amaury Pierron (FRA) ~ 2018 World Cup Champion
3. 1,094 ~ Troy Brosnan (AUS) ~ 2019 Worlds silver medalist
4. 883 ~ Danny Hart (GBR) ~ 2011 & 2016 World Champion
5. 859 ~ Loris Vergier (FRA)

1. 1,460 ~ Tracey Hannah (AUS) ~ 5x Worlds bronze medalist; 3x World Cup bronzes
2. 1,310 ~ Marine Cabirou (FRA) ~ 2019 Worlds bronze medalist
3. 819 ~ Nina Hoffmann (GER)
4. 754 ~ Veronika Widmann (ITA)
5. 730 ~ Rachel Atherton (GBR) ~ Five-time World Champion

With a maximum of 250 points awarded for the win, only Bruni – coming off a third straight world title – and Pierron can fight for the men’s World Cup trophy. Same for Hannah and Cabirou in the women’s division, with Hannah looking to finally win the seasonal trophy after three straight third-place finishes.

The World Cup Cross Country Short race will be on Friday; the Downhill finals will be on Saturday and the Cross Country Olympic finals on Sunday. You can find results here.