Skinny Dipping #002 – Kielder, Courtney and the Cape

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It feels like 2019 has got off to a galloping pace. Not only are we already on our second edition of our XC and endurance news, the year’s second 24 hour race has already been and gone.

Kielder Chiller, Almost Weather Thriller

Only in its third year the Kielder Chiller is a new addition to the 24 hour race calendar at a time where others – SITS, 24hrs of Exposure and Mayhem as we knew it – have fallen away. This year saw a couple of changes to the course including the addition of the black enduro run and a skills loop right at the end of the lap to keep things interesting.

As with January’s Strathpuffer, in the north of Scotland, racing for 24 hours in Northumberland in February isn’t for the faint hearted or the weather shy. A few days before the event Kielder was hit by some spectacularly high winds and rainfall which made for some last minute course changes and a late confirmation that the race would actually go ahead. But by the start time things had calmed down dramatically and the racers had an unexpected easy time on the weather front. Maybe it’s not actually grim up north after all.

24 hr pain cave

Nigel Smith and Emily Greaves topped the men’s and women’s solo races. Team JMC were out in force taking the Female and Mixed Quads titles and Fishface Cycles took the Male Quads and Female Pairs. David Gobby and Amy Hickman took the win in the Mixed Pairs and Richard Rothwell and Stu Copperthwaite in the Male Pairs.

In a change to usual proceedings, our man Jason Miles passed up the opportunity to ride solo and embraced the tea drinking, crisp eating and chin wagging of the quads race. He still made it onto the top of the podium though – some things don’t change.

Not drinking tea

For the full results and all the category winner, head over here.

Pre-season prep and pack shuffling

Away from dankness of the UK’s 24 hour racing we head to the sunnier climes and to the pros preparing for the international XC season.

Cementing his position as the coolest man in XC, here’s World Champion Nino Schurter hanging out during the off-season, building trails with his dad and brother and styling it up. If you look closely you can see he’s so chilled out he’s even let his leg hair grow.

Dad, Dad! Build us a bigger jump!

Great Scott!

And if one World Champion wasn’t enough, SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing Team has strengthened its line up with the signing of Kate Courtney from Specialized and European men’s champion Lars Forster. Courtney ended last year with the World Championship title – ending a period of 17 years without an American in the stripes – alongside her second US national title and Cape Epic win.

Colgate? Check! Persil? Check!

Courtney will be staying on home turf for the early season with US Cup races, the Sea Otter Classic and the PANAM Games in Mexico in April before the World Cups start.

Team director Thomas Frischknecht: “For Kate, it’s important to continue developing as a top 10 World Cup racer just as she did last year and not be primarily seen as only the World Champion. Winning the World’s title at only 22 years of age proved what she is capable of. But it’s not realistic to believe she can repeat winning at the highest level all the time. However, being so young, she still has great room for improvement and is able to learn things quickly. It’s going to be exciting to see how her season unfolds this year.”

Star Trekking

One of the most exciting team line-ups this year has got to be Trek Factory Racing XC with 2019 World Cup winter Jolanda Neff joining its line-up. At 26 Neff is already a World Champion, three-time World Cup Champion, three-time European Champion, four-time Swiss Champion and the winner of 12 World Cups.

Neff joins existing riders Emily Batty, Britain’s Evie Richards and Ellen Noble making Trek a formidable force. Richards will be racing in her final season in the U23 category although her chance to defend her World Championship title will depend on her recovery from a knee injury and surgery which put an early end to her cyclo-cross season this year.

Team colours Credit: Matthew Delorme

On your marks

With the XC World Cup season not until May racers are only just starting to emerge from winter’s training. The first big UCI points event is the eight day, 624km Cape Epic at the end of March. While the mountain trails may not be the most technical, the heat and sand make for a hard-going ride and it remains one of the most competitive races on the calendar. The open terrain also means that cameras can follow the race and the Cape Epic is the only televised stage MTB race with both a live stream and highlights available via the website.

Annika Langvad and Jolander Neff do battle at La Bresse. Credit: Bartek Wolinski

The World Cup season itself starts off at Albstadt, Germany on 17th May and finishes up in September in the Snowshoe resort, West Virginia, US. The full schedule goes like this:

  • 17-19th May 2019 – Albstadt, Germany
  • 24-26th May 2019 – Nova Mesto na Morav, Czech Republic
  • 5-7th July 2019 – Vallnord, Andorra
  • 12-14th July 2019 – Les Gets, France
  • 2-4th Aug 2019 – Val di Sole, Italy
  • 9-11th Aug 2019 – Lenzerheide, Switzerland
  • 28th Aug – 1st Sept 2019 – Mont Sainte Anne, Canada – World Championships
  • 6-8th Sept 2019 – Snowshoe, USA

Back in the UK the HSBC National XC series is just four weeks away with the first race of the season at Sherwood Pines on the weekend of 23rd/24th March. There are fun categories alongside the age and elite races if all-out leg busting isn’t for you. Entries are open until Mon 18th March.

With the sun shining outside and all this talk of XC racing, it’s almost like it’s summer already. But next month we’ll start to bring you news of the British XC races, so that should put a (rain) dampener on things. Until then, it’s hup, hup, hup! from us.

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