Find out everything you need to know about the XCO World Cup in Albstadt
© Bartek Woliński
It's almost time to kick-off the new Mercedes-Benz UCI XCO World Cup race season at the long-standing German venue that always seems to serve up thrillers. Get ready for Albstadt right here.
Germany's Albstadt is one of those quiet, unassuming places that once a year has a penchant for fireworks. In 2019, it's set to roar into life once again as the proud host of the opening round of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz UCI XCO World Cup.
The German course is a fast-flowing affair complete with a raucous crowd and a natural amphitheatre where the fans can crowd in to see their heroes ascend and plummet back down the infamous Bullentäle.
Where are we?
Mining and textiles have traditionally been the economic lifeblood of the city of Albstadt, located in the hills of the southwest of Germany.
Albstadt is home to some 44,000 people and a sizeable percentage of them come out to watch Germany's only Mercedes-Benz UCI World Cup stop. Germany represents one of the biggest international cycling markets and, as a result, come race day the crowds are huge.
For many of the big German brands and distributors it's a great opportunity to showcase their latest wares, so there's a real mini-festival feel at the event's core.
What's the track like?
Resolutely old-fashioned in its ways, the track's technicality is relatively low compared to some of the later rounds. Correspondingly, though, the average speed is brutally high, so close racing is guaranteed.
Watch this preview for an idea of what the track's got in store:
The 4.2km-long course starts and finishes on the asphalt of the town itself and then climbs up into the woods behind it. The asphalt start/finish straight is a feature often deployed to great effect, as it represents the perfect launch platform for that one last roll of the dice; the sprint finish.
Last year, heavy rain produced tricky conditions in practice, and rain is forecast again for this weekend, so the race could be an extremely tricky kick-off for the XCO elite.
Albstadt organisers look to have responded to some of the course issues in the wet this year with gravel hard-packing in some areas of the track but it hasn't met with the approval of everyone.
Albstadt has seen Dan McConnell win his only UCI World Cup and also saw one of the closest finishes in history, when Nino Schurter pipped Julien Absalon back in 2016. The Swiss great has since won the last two races in Albstadt. The German venue also hosted the first ever XCC Short Track race last year and was the scene of Absalon's landmark 30th World Cup win back in 2015. Check out the full list of winners since 2013 below.
|Year||Elite Women||Elite Men|
|2013||Eva Lechner||Dan McConnell|
|2014||Pauline Ferrand-Prévot||Julien Absalon|
|2015||Jolanda Neff||Julien Absalon|
|2016||Annika Langvad||Nino Schurter|
|2017||Yana Belomoina||Nino Schurter|
|2018||Jolanda Neff||Nino Schurter|
The return of Cross-Country Short Track
You can get an early weekend hit of racing action once again this year, when XCC returns in Albstadt on Friday evening.
What is it? Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin in most respects – it's an cross-country race held on a shorter track with a 20–25 minute time limit. It's a road crit meets off-road demolition derby and proved to be a big hit with the fans last year. There's vital World Cup points to be won and the top 16 starting places on the grid to play for, so any racer who has an eye on winning the overall World Cup title would be wise to take part
Who's going to win?
As mentioned, Albstadt has a habit of producing ferociously close racing, so picking a winner is always going to be difficult.
Yet again, the Elite Women's XCO ranks are looking set to provide possibly the tightest racing of the whole Mercedes-Benz UCI World Cup. Annika Langvad, Yana Belomoina, Jolanda Neff, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Catharine Pendrel are all previous winners in Albstadt and will all be in the mix for the win again.