Everything is set fair for the opening round of the Mercedes Benz MTB World Cup in Stellenbosch tomorrow, March 10. Much has gone on during the XCO off-season. There's been the introduction of the Cross-country Short Track race (XCC) to the World Cup programme, while there's also been changes amongst team personnel, and some significant rider injuries to report.
Watch all these subjects and many more being discussed in our season-opening preview show presented by Rob Warner, and featuring a panel that includes Nino Schurter, Maja Włoszczowska and Bart Brentjens, in the video below.
World Cup Chatter – Stellenbosch
With South Africa's Stellenbosch course a new one, it's unfamiliar to many of those racing so every moment the riders have had chance, they've been on the course, finding the superior lines and testing bike setup.
Check below for the best photographs from practice over the last few days:
Jolanda Neff will take her place at the start in the Women's race, even though a week ago she wasn't considering participating due to breaking a collarbone in a cyclo-cross race in January.
Specialized's Simon Andreassen suffered a massive crash while out riding in Stellenbosch last week, but he's not letting being very bruised and sore stop him from racing, and he took part in practice.
Had a great feeling on track today. Regarding myself, I really don't know what to expect, but I am just happy to be able to race
Another man in the wars during the week was Julien Absalon. A fall on the track resulted in a wrist injury that will need to be strapped up for the race.
Last training is done, the wrist is ok, I will be on the start line
Nino Schurter is the overwhelming favourite to win the men's race. Schurter has trained and ridden in Stellenbosch during the winter for nearly 10 years. His main challengers, Mathieu van der Poel and Jaroslav Kulhavý, will have their work cut out to keep up with the Swiss man's pace.