2000 Mountain Biking World Cup 2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup 2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup 2000 Mountain Biking World Cup
2000 Mountain Biking World Cup

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World Cup Mountain Bike Season Begins
Cross-country Series Launches in California

Napa, California: March 26, 2000

Change, as they say, is good. And if that's true, then the 2000 season should be more than any of us could have hoped for. The new cross-country season, which kicks off with round one in Napa Valley on Sunday, March 26, should be fun to follow for the spectators, though not so much fun for the competitors.

As we know, the World Cup of mountain bike racing is run and owned by cycling's governing body, the UCI (Union Cycliste International). Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the UCI makes a schedule each year of 16 events; eight cross-country (XC) and eight downhill/dual (DH/DL) races around the world. With the exception of one double race at Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada, (where both XC and DH/DL will be held), the two tours are totally separate.

Then there is the one-event World Championships, typically held at the end of the season. Last but not least are the Olympic Games, which include cross-country only which was added for the first time in 1996. Since the Games aren't being held until September (because of Australia's wacky weather down under), the World Championships have been rescheduled to June.

That's what makes this season (at least for XC racers) so unique. The World Championships are early, the Olympics late. So everyone is trying to figure out how to train, when to peak and, in many cases, whether or not they'll even be on their nation's Olympic squad.

The first races this spring will give a good indication of who is in shape, but will be useless in indicating who to watch for come September. Almost useless, as it already seems clear that defending gold medalist Bart Brentjens (NED, Subaru-Specialized) is back in form and rarin' to go this season. Otherwise, we have no idea, because the season is still 48 hours away from this writing.

There are hundreds of men and women racing the World Cup on any given weekend, but only a couple dozen women and a passel of men campaign the entire eight rounds and can actually make the podium. And the number of competitors who are capable of winning is even smaller, so it's not too hard to highlight the people you should be watching. Go ahead, mark our words.

Women to watch in 2000:
Alison Sydor (CAN, Volvo-Cannondale), the current World Cup champion, is hungry for her deserved Olympic gold and has an unequalled work ethic.

Marga Fullana (ESP, Subaru-Specialized) is the World Champion and can seemingly win any race she enters. Problem is, she doesn't like to travel without her boyfriend (who hates to travel period), so it limits her racing.

Gunn-Rita Dahle (NOR, DBS) almost won the overall last year, and just gets stronger every season. She'll probably pick her races and be all over the podium.

Annabella Stropparo (ITA, Volvo-Cannondale) was 3rd overall in '99 and did well in the '96 Olympics. Expect to see her on the World Cup podium this season.

Alison Dunlap (USA, Team GT) is America's sweetheart and the country's best mountain biker. She likes this year's schedule and already has a road and MTB win under her belt.

Wild Card: Hedda Zu Puttlitz (GER, Be-One) has quietly been speeding up the past few seasons, and looked strong at Sea Otter, while Mary Grigson (AUS, Gary Fisher/Saab) is rejuvenated with a new team and hometown Olympic dreams.

Men to watch in 2000:
Cadel Evans (AUS, Volvo-Cannondale), if only to see if he can return from a broken collarbone to last year's stellar form. Lost some wind with '99 Worlds loss, but will be the local hero slated for Olympic Gold. Should concentrate solely on that.

Bas Van Dooren (NED, Be-One) is always a threat, but looks white-hot this year. He hasn't proven he has the longevity for a World Cup title, but if he peaks in June and again in September... watch out.

Christoph Sauser (SUI, Volvo-Cannondale) is the hot young gun, the next Evans/Martinez. He's also a cool-headed, nice guy who is fun to root for.

Michael Rasmussen (DEN, Haro/Lee Dungarees) won the '99 Worlds with authority, and hasn't slowed down. If he doesn't go out too hard too early this season, could be the upset star of '00.

Filip Meirhaeghe (BEL, Subaru-Specialized) is an unknown at this point in the season, but knows how to peak at just the right time. Has the experience and strength to step it up to a new level in 2000.

Wild Card(s): The French. We're not sure what Christophe Dupouey and Jerome Chiotti were doing off the back in pre-season, and Miguel Martinez has been inconsistent lately. But they're wiley, smart and dead serious about winning.

The Schedule:

March 26th: Napa Valley, California
New course at Domain Chandon is tough, with little passing room. Always a great start to the season, with lots of champagne for the winners.

April 2nd: Mazatlan, Mexico
First time the World Cup's headed south of the border. Should be a big sunbake (for the journalists) and a distraction for the competitors.

April 30th: Houffalize, Belgium
Longtime location is a fast, wide-open course that the Euros (and 50,000 fans) love. Bonus points for all the breweries nearby.

May 7th: St. Wendel, Germany
Another fast, open course, at an excellent venue. You have to love a race that goes through a beer tent and can be covered only by motor scooter.

May 14th: Sarentino, Italy
A new venue for the World Cup, but tried and true for Italian national races. First XC World Cup in Italy since Rome finals debacle, so organizers will be working hard. Course is an unknown at this point.

June 11th: World Championships, Granada, Spain
OK, they're not part of the World Cup, but everyone will be there. We've never raced a XC event in Sierra Nevada, but the DH course is good. Should be hot, dry and dusty.

July 2nd: Mont Sainte-Anne, Canada
Best venue and organizers, holding the season's only double-event in scenic (and tres French) Quebec. Will resemble Worlds, part deux. After-party is always legendary.

July 9th: Canmore, Canada
Surprisingly, several big teams are going to pass on this great course. If the weather's good it's epic, with tons of enthusiastic fans and our favorite track. Bonus points for excellent fly fishing and golfing.

September 3rd: Lausanne, Switzerland
A month and a half after Canmore, these finals should be a good indicator of Olympic results. Location is new for World Cup, city is UCI's home turf. We expect a very nice VIP area and lots of course marshals.

September 24th: Olympic Games, Sydney, Australia
Biggest prize in XC mountain biking, the Sydney course is a good one and will mark the passing of an era for the sport. Expect big changes after this event, with regards to teams, riders and sponsors. We're just not sure if it will be for the better or worse.

Ari Cheren, not feelin' the transition for MountainZone.com

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