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World Cup '99

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Pro Racers Gear Up

Alison Sydor
Soon, the snow at ski resorts all over the planet will melt. Soon white will turn to brown, ice to mud, frigid skies to warm. When that happens, mountain bike racing will again return to our favorite mountains where, during the frozen winter, smooth trails hibernated beneath snowy blankets. Winter is over. Itís time for mountain bike racing ‚ÄĒ professional mountain bike racing.

Several hundred well-tuned athletes race all over the world in the hopes of winning a few thousand dollars, a medal and a chance to represent their nation at Worlds. And the travel... heck, weíre gonna log over 60,000 miles just keeping up with them. Add the ever-present risk of injury, inevitable illness, bad hangovers and tiny rental cars and itís enough to make us wonder why they donít just become accountants. What a way to make a living.

World Cup
Cadel Evans
But we love mountain bike racing at the Zone. Where else (besides pro mud wrestling) can you get dirty, naked and paid all on the same weekend? We are proud to offer up another full season of both U.S. National Championship Series racing (NORBA) as well as international World Cup action (Diesel/UCI).

NORBA
Tinker Juarez
The NORBA racing Ė which begins in May - consists of a six-race series all across America, from California to Vermont. These NCS weekends feature cross-country racing on Saturday, dual slalom racing Saturday night and downhill racing on Sunday.

NORBA
Tammy Jaques
The World Cup season, kicking off March 27 in Napa, California, is two separate circuits, each traveling around the world and each featuring eight rounds of racing. Thereís a cross-country circuit (XC) as well as a downhill/dual (DH/DL) tour.

Everything begins in Monterey this week with a pre-season mega-race, the Sea Otter Classic. Then, the end of the season wraps up in September with the World Championships in Are, Sweden. And thatís it, the season all rolled into one big canoli...

World Cup
Laurence Leboucher
These pro racers have trained hard all winter, working diligently for the pending two-wheeled action. For some (like various downhillers), motocross riding in Southern California, lifting weights and scarfing down fish tacos was all it took to maintain the edge necessary for alpine racing.

Others (like most cross-country riders) went anaerobic; racing cyclo-cross and training like the dickens on XC skis and road bikes. But everyone trained because itís tough to get sponsorship these days, and they all want those huge cash prizes. They are, as the kids say, ready to rock.

World Cup
Missy Giove
Who Will Win
And whom, you seem to be asking, will win? Well, we could handicap the players and give them Vegas-style odds on winning, but thatís too easy. All you really need do is look at last seasonís results to see whoís going to be a factor. We will, however, give you some things to consider.

Four Things To Consider:

  • Shorter U.S. season: The NCS has been shortened by one race. This is mainly because Breckenridge bowed out of the finals because they lost $100,000 dollars on last yearís race. The effect of this is increased pressure on U.S. riders to grab top finishes and make their national team.

    World Cup
    Nicolas Vouilloz

  • Changes at NORBA: Cross-Country racing in the U.S. will be different this season. Itís now a two-part event, hopefully making it more telegenic and fun to watch. Plus, downhill has been moved to Sundays as the headlining event. Thereís never been a better reason to visit a race.

  • Low Scores: World cup racing no longer allows low-score dropping. In the past, riders could drop their two low scores from the season, giving them a safety net for bad-luck days. No more ‚ÄĒ now every race counts, and the word is consistency.

  • The Courses: One cross-country world cup track (Sydney) is new, but five downhill courses (Maribor, Seattle, Squaw, Bromont and Kaprun) are new. This means downhillers are in for some surprises, and XC racers are going to very strategic in their pursuit of the overall title.

    NORBA
    Brian Lopes
    Our prediction for 1999? We anticipate a stellar season, full of intense competition, huge crowds, unbelievable endurance and awesome action and thatís just at the bars each night. What happens during the day is anyoneís guess, but we are confident itíll be the best season of racing in years. Check back here at the Zone every week and find out why!

    ‚ÄĒRich Neare, "I have no idea what I'm talking about" for The Mountain Zone

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