• Jolanda Neff returns to the UCI MTB World Cup after missing the opening round in Cairns, Australia (Rob Jones)Source: Rob Jones
The second round of the cross-country World Cup takes place this weekend in Albstadt, Germany, beginning with the Under-23 women on Saturday. The Under-23 Men, Elite Women and Elite Men will all race on Sunday.
Rob Jones

Cycling Central
21 May 2016 - 8:03 AM  UPDATED 21 May 2016 - 8:05 AM

Albstadt is very much a climbing course, with the 4.2km circuit beginning with a long two-part climb up into forest. After a sharp and technical descent the riders make a short climb again before dropping back down almost to the base of the first climb before tackling a third climb and then descending to the finish line.

This year, the organisers have made a significant change to the opening lap, taking out much of the first climb, where a bottleneck formed. All categories will do a shortened first lap of less than 3.6km (the official length, but really closer to 3km), then five full laps for the under 23 Women, six full laps for the under 23 Men and Elite Women, and seven full laps for the Elite Men.

Rain has made Albstadt slick and treacherous in some previous races, but the forecast calling for sun during the days, and a chance of rain only in the evenings.

The Elite Women's race will have much greater depth then the first round in Cairns, Australia, which a number of riders skipped.  Defending World Cup champion Jolanda Neff (Stockli), world champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo Liv), Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), Maja Wloszczowska (Kross) and Irina Kalentyeva (Moebel Maerki) are all in attendance, albeit with higher start numbers then usual. 

Australian national champion Rebecca Henderson (Trek Factory Racing) will try to follow up her career-high third in Cairns with another podium performance. Albstadt is the site of past strong performances by Henderson, who won here as an Under 23 rider in 2013.

The Elite Men were only missing Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) in Cairns, and he is in Albstadt. The big battle should be between Cairns winner and world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) and Julien Absalon (BMC). Absalon flatted early in Cairns and then had an incredible ride back through the field to finish third. He has since won the European Championships and is clearly showing strong form coming into a course he has won on the last two years.

Australian champion Dan McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) will be looking to erase the bad luck that saw him lose a potential podium result in Cairns after puncturing, and eventually finish 31st. Albstadt is the site of his only World Cup victory, in 2013, so he knows he can do well here.