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5 of Albstadt's greatest-ever World Cup races
The German venue is a great indicator of the XCO season's runners and riders. Here are some of the best wins on the technical, unpredictable course.
From mechanical catastrophes to extreme weather, breakout performances to massive crashes, the Swabian Jura mountain's bike park always provides riveting action. Its technical course snakes its way up and down steep gradients and throws an abundance of drops, rocks and flat-out turns at riders. And when it rains, it pours – the 2019 elite men’s race being a case in point.
Since its inauguration on the UCI World Cup calendar in 2013, Albstadt has been home to some of the most intense early-season racing in memory. Here are five of its most iconic moments.
1. Dan McConnell soars to the top, 2013
Highlights of the cross-country at Albstadt
Albstadt’s first-ever Cross-Country World Cup punished riders with tough conditions and an even harder course. While several top riders struggled with mechanicals and the grimy mud, Australia’s Dan McConnell rallied. McConnell’s performance was truly outstanding – he had only previously scored a top 20 once, but now, after battling his way through the field, he found himself at the front of the pack on the last lap. Momentum carried him forward and he crossed the finish line in first place – easily cementing Albstadt 2013 as the ride of his life [watch the men's race unfold from 15m 04s in the 26-minute highlights above].
2. Absalon’s record-breaking win, 2015
Cross-country highlights from Albstadt
Julien Absalon’s highly successful career featured record numbers of wins and titles, and included national, European, World Championships and Olympic gold medals. The French phenomenon was still at the forefront of cross-country racing more than a decade after his first World Cup win when, in 2015, he scored his second Albstadt victory in a row and – even more impressively – reached the milestone of 30 World Cup race wins [watch the men's race unfold from 16m 14s in the 26-minute highlights above]. He added another three victories to his tally before hanging up his bike for good at the start of the 2018 season and his haul of 33 total career wins still stands as the all-time record.
3. Belomoina gets on a roll, 2017
Best of women's XCO at Albstadt
Albstadt’s huge crowds were treated to a thrilling race in 2017 as some of the biggest names in the sport battled for the win in dry and dusty conditions. The leading elite women pushed to the limit throughout, upping the pace as the laps were ticked off. But it was Yana Belomoina who ultimately surprised the competition, surging forward to take the lead in the final lap and eventually confirm her first World Cup win. Her victory was a first for a Ukrainian and was the first step towards later winning the 2017 series title.
4. Three in a row for Schurter, 2018
Men's race highlights from Albstadt
Nino Schurter has won everything there is to win in cross-country mountain biking. But until 2016, he’d had to settle for second best (both in 2014 and 2015) in Albstadt. Once the Swiss rider broke his duck though and finally got the better of Julien Absalon in a sprint finish in 2016, there was no stopping him – the German course appeared built to suit his skill and technical prowess. His dominance at Albstadt and hat trick of wins is something very few racers have achieved, and his 2017 and 2018 victories helped contribute to his overall series titles. His most dominant win was also his third in a row, where an explosive fifth lap saw him blow away the leading pack and the margin of victory standing at an impressive 26 seconds.
5. When the going gets tough, 2019
Kate Courtney's winning XCO finish – Albstadt
The 2019 Albstadt event provided gripping action in both the women’s and men’s races. A revamped course saw the introduction of multiple sections of wooden boardwalk. While fast when dry, the features have a tendency to be greasy when wet. And wet it was. Rain before the race left the course slippery and treacherous in places for the women, but Kate Courtney was able to put in an outstanding performance to take her first-ever elite World Cup win – the first in two decades for a woman from the USA.
Mathias Flückiger's winning XCO finish – Albstadt
The weather deteriorated drastically for the men and heavy downpours became absolutely torrential during the race. It was an epic battle with the elements, which Switzerland’s Mathias Flückiger came out on top of after an inspired ride in the very worst of conditions.