On 29 June 2014 the best marathon mountain biking racers in the world will gather at the CascadesMTBPark in Pietermaritzburg for the UCI XCM World Championships. It’s the discipline that most South African riders compete in and arguably our best hope for a major international cross country medal. Kevin Evans made no bones about listing the 2014 XCM Worlds as his major goal on returning from injury and his FedGroup teammate Max Knox has been in strong form in the midseason and will be looking to improve drastically on his showing in Kirchberg, Austria last year. RECM’s Nico Bell held off Karl Platt to take victory in the last UCI sanctioned XCM event to be held in South Africa, the Clarensleg of the MTN National series, and he’ll probably be the SAFFA to watch. His RECM teammate and Full Sus columnist Erik Kleinhans could prove to be the dark horses of the local men. Having had to undergo a shoulder operation after crashing out of the Sani2c in May, Kleinhans will be very familiar with the indoor trainer come June 29, but how that will translate to MTB performance we can only wait and see.
Our best chance of a World Champs medal might well rest with South Africa’s adopted daughter and her riding partner (who we’re also claiming as a temporary South African). Ariane Kleinhans placed seventh in 2013 while Annika Langvad was fourth. Local fans will be hoping that Kleinhans and Langvad continue the dominance they showed at the CapeEpic over their main rivals for World Champs medals Sally Bigham and Esther Süss. Defending champion, Gunn-Rita DahleFlesjå, is always competitive, but the 41 year old Norwegian has been flying low under the radar so far this season picking her races selectively. Her form could well have shown at the Czech Republic leg of the UCI XCO World Cup in Nove Mesto Na Morave, where she placed third, three places ahead of Langvad.
The battle for the Men’s XCM rainbow jersey could well come down to the Epic contenders again. Christoph Sauser will be steely in his determination to hold onto it, Urs Huber has been notching up race wins in European XCM events throughout their Spring, Karl Platt is looking strong after his knee injury and Kristian Hynek will be looking to improve on his fourth place last year and perhaps add to the Cape Epic winners medal in his trophy cabinet.
Follow the action live on Twitter @XCMWorlds2014.
And remember to cheer for Cape Town local lass, Diana Carolin. She’s taking on the big names having qualified by placing in the top twenty at a couple of the UCI accredited MTN National series races.