There are those who say that winning the overall World Cup series is a more significant achievement than winning the single-race World Championships, and while that may be true on a purely objective level, the do-or-die nature of World Champs coupled with the fact that racing for one's country makes this the one race that everybody wants to win.
Looking back through the years, the World Championships consistently produce incredible racing and story lines that can define a career. From Nicolas Vouilloz's insurmountable 10 titles to Danny Hart's legendary 2011 Champery run, never forgetting Peaty's crowning glory in Canberra in 2009, the yearly hunt for the elusive rainbow stripes is without a doubt one of the absolute highlights of the mountain bike racing season.
For the 2018 edition, the qualifying riders head to Lenzerheide, Switzerland to compete for the coveted jersey in a variety of disciplines. Win Worlds and you get to wear the Rainbow Stripe jersey in every qualifying and race run of the following season. It is an honor bestowed upon the chosen few, and for the very best in the sport, it is a must-have addition to the trophy room.
The women's XCO race should prove another epic clash of the titans as the world best female riders line up for that rainbow jersey. If you take a look at the previous winners, a few names have taken the crown on more than one occasion and seem poised to perhaps repeat their success in 2018.
UCI World Championships, Cross-Country, Women:
2006: Gunn-Rita Dahle
2007: Irina Kalentieva
2008: Marie-Hélène Prémont
2009: Elisabeth Osl
2010: Catharine Pendrel
2011: Julie Bresset
2012: Catharine Pendrel
2013: Tanja Žakelj
2014: Jolanda Neff
2015: Jolanda Neff
2016: Catharine Pendrel
2017: Jolanda Neff
This years event takes place in Switzerland. The mountain resort of Lenzerheide in the canton of Graubünden, to be precise. The canton's capital is Chur, located just down the hill from Lenzerheide. The track is considered a "fast" one with a modern layout and not too many short steep inclines and vastly technical terrain. The XCO brigade will by and large be familiar with the track that awaits them in Switzerland. No modifications have been made to the track from the World Cup race here in 2017.
In the XCO it’s going to be hard to look beyond the Swiss contingent. With home support on their side XCO-superstars Nino Schurter and Jolanda Neff are going into the world champs as almost clear favourites. Jolanda dominated at Mont Sainte Anne leading from start to finish, putting her rivals on the back foot. So far, reigning World Champion Jolanda Neff’s season is going according to plan as she has secured the lead in the World Cup standings. However, the 25-year-old has been pushed to the limit before by her opposition Annika Langvad (DEN), Maja Wloszczowska (POL), Anne Tauber (NED), Yana Belomoina (UKR) and Pauline Ferrand Prevot (FRA) and will have to keep fighting to distance herself from her competition.
The Downhill racing should provide another exciting battle amongst the women.
UCI World Championships, Downhill, Women:
2006: Tracy Mosely (GBr)
2007: Sabrina Jonnier
2008: Rachel Atherton (GBr)
2009: Sabrina Jonnier
2010: Sabrina Jonnier
2011: Tracey Moseley (GBr)
2012: Rachel Atherton (GBr)
2013: Rachel Atherton (GBr)
2014: Rachel Atherton (GBr)
2015: Rachel Atherton (GBr)
2016: Rachel Atherton (GBr)
2017: Miranda Miller
The athletes have just two weeks to recover from the World Cup season before heading to the start gate of the Downhill World Championships. Miranda Miller (CAN) will be looking to defend her rainbow stripes from last year, but the competition will be very tough.
French flyer Myriam Nicole (FRA) will have her eyes set firmly on the rainbow jersey for the remainder of the season. Leading the World Cup, her hopes to defend that title went up in smoke after a crash and the resulting back injury kept her from collecting essential points in both Val Di Sole and Vallnord. A crash at Mont Sainte Anne further hampered her return to racing, will Nicole be able to put the disappointment behind her after recovering and challenge her competition? After the last couple of World Cup rounds it’s possibly starting to look more like a two-horse race between the British pairing of Rachel Atherton and Tahnee Seagrave. And don’t discount Australia’s Tracey Hannah who has been consistently on the podium this season.
Exciting racing and epic battles for the rainbow jerseys are guaranteed from Thursday 6 September 2018.
Follow the action https://lenzerheide2018.ch/en
Photos Courtesy of: Bartek Woliński