After a year's hiatus, Nové Město, the classic Czech XCO venue is back with a bang this weekend.
Last season it served as the host of the 46th UCI World Championships, which saw Nino Schurter and Annika Langvad crowned.
Where are we?
We are pretty much slap bang in the middle of the Czech Republic in, to give it its full title, Nové Město na Moravě. It’s a town of 10,500 people that has a rich history of winter sports, having hosted the Biathlon World Championships in 2013. It’s the Vysočina Arena that will see the white-hot heat of battle.
What’s the track like?
The track is one of the most iconic/feared in the business and never fails to produce titanic battles. Rather than having one main climb and corresponding descent, the Nové Město track instead pitches riders up several individual steep slopes and back down treacherously brutal chutes.
And it’s this that makes the Czech race such a lip-smacking prospect for XCO aficionados. Over the years the winners of this race have triumphed via a combination of tactical burning of opponents and brute strength. Pretty much all the sections are taped widely inviting attacks and making them hard to defend.
There’s one notably large rock section, which features a number of lines, all of which have seen some big crashes over the years. Unfortunately for the riders, there’s a mini-grandstand set up in the woods beside them complete with a live PA and beer stall, so any mistakes are likely to be... remarked upon.
What’s the weather going to do?
After the dramatic affect that rain had on the opening round of the UCI World Cup in Lourdes, there will no doubt be a weather eye kept to the heavens by many of the racers. Generally speaking, things have historically stayed pretty dry for the Czech round and so far the weather looks like it'll be dry for the race weekend.
Crucially, even the briefest of showers can shine up the roots in the woods a treat and turn things into a real battle.
Who won last time?
As far as Nové Město is concerned, the big winners last year were Nino Schurter and Annika Langvad, who both roared to World Champs victories and some rather fetching rainbow stripes. Langvad’s win was Denmark’s first Worlds title since the 1990s.
Langvad’s tactics that day were similar to those we saw her deploy earlier in that season; get to the front and ride your own race. Schurter’s title saw him draw level with great rival Julien Absalon on five World Champs wins and the two will no doubt be doing battle again this year. Many are widely tipping this to be the French racer's last year in the top flight.
Who else could do well?
The women’s field remains arguably the most wide open of UCI World Cup contests, however with last year's UCI World Cup champ, Katharine Pendrel leading the charge from Olympic gold medalist Jenny Rissveds and the darling of the sport, Jolanda Neff, the talent pool is deep in this one.
In the men’s race there's a rather large, rather Czech potential fly in the ointment and that is Jaroslav Kulhavy. The big man from Specialized is virtually a local and is a firm favourite with the 23,000 or so who pack into the Vysočina Arena. He openly admits that his win here in 2015 is one of the highlights of his career. We wouldn’t advise betting against him being right back at the sharp end again this time out.
Where can I watch it?
Racing at this round is split over the two days of the weekend with the women's race on May 20 and the men's on May 21.
Watch the live broadcast from Nové Město on Red Bull TV or on Red Bull Bike at these times across the world:
May 20 – Women’s XCO
- CEST: 1pm
- USA: 4am (PDT) 7am (EDT)
- BST: 12pm
- Azerbaijan: 3pm
- Australia: 9pm (Sydney)
- New Zealand: 11pm
May 21 – Men’s XCO
- CEST: 2pm
- USA: 5am (PDT) 8am (EDT)
- BST: 1pm
- Azerbaijan: 4pm
- Australia: 10pm (Sydney)
- New Zealand: 12am on May 22