The XC form guide: Who’s going fast as the 2022 World Cup season approaches

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The XC season kicks off this weekend in Brazil with XCO and XCC races on the new technical track in Petrópolis. After a shortened 2020 season and the Olympics in 2021, we’re back with a massive nine races in 2022. With plenty of races ahead of them, we can’t wait to see the riders between the boards again this weekend.

Before we get a first look at speed in the XCC, here’s who showed good early form in the biggest races of the offseason.


Elite women
The biggest rider to watch in the elite women’s peloton is last year’s winner, Loana Lecomte. With a new team this year after joining the newly formed Canyon Collective XC team, they will be looking for a big result at the season opener in Petrópolis. We expect a fast start to the season from the young French rider as already this year she has scored big wins at races in France and Switzerland despite returning from a collarbone injury. Also, last year we saw a blistering pace from Lecomte in the opening rounds with four straight wins leading to his dominance of the overall standings at the end of the year.
Hot on her back wheel will be last year’s Olympic champion Jolanda Neff. After a tough 2021 season that didn’t see the World Cup performances she would have liked, Neff will be chasing a few podiums this year and has the confidence of Olympic gold behind her. Already in 2022 she won the Internacionales XCO Chelva and she won the World Cup warm-up race last weekend on a very similar track that the riders will face this week with an incredible six minutes. Neff won’t be the only Team Trek rider battling for a win, as Evie Richards also showed excellent form early in the season with a victory at the Catalana Internacional race in Banyoles. Although she has pulled out of a few races due to back pain, when she is fit she is aiming for victory. It also helps to have the rainbow jersey to push the extra watts needed for a win, as we saw Richards pick up back-to-back victories late last season.
Haley Batten is another woman who could be in contention for a better result this weekend after picking up a big win alongside Sofia Gomez Villafane at Cape Epic. Although the grueling eight-day race isn’t exactly the same as the brutal hour-and-a-half races of the World Cup, Batten clearly showed that his off-season training provided him with plenty of power and stamina to 2022. This year also makes a new team for Batten as we see her join the Specialized Factory Racing team alongside Sina Frei, Christopher Blevins and Jordan Sarrou.

Honorable mentions:

Also worth mentioning are a few other fast runners to watch out for as Rebecca McConnell continues to chase the elusive World Cup victory, will this weekend finally be her time on the top step of the podium? Although McConnell hasn’t competed in many races so far, she earned her ninth consecutive Elite victory at the Australian Nationals, a feat that we believe has not been repeated by any other rider. Mona Mitterwallner has absolutely dominated U23 racing for the past few years and she will move up to Elite level this year. With previous lap times that rivaled the Elite, she could cause quite the upheaval.

Finally there is Kate Courtney who is another rider who has struggled to find speed over the last year but a great finish in the XCC warm-up at Petrópolis last weekend and a fourth place in the XCO race will have given him a lot of confidence. enter the first World Cup. Plus, based on early footage from training at the venue, she seems very confident about the drops and jumps that litter the new Brazilian course.


Elite Men
One of the most consistent riders so far in the first races of this season has been the new face of the Trek Factory Racing team, Vlad Dascalu. After a seventh place overall last year, Dascalu will be looking to build on that with a few podiums and maybe even a first ever win for Romania this year. Heading into the 2022 World Cup series, Dascalu has plenty of podium results, the most recent being a runner-up finish in the World Cup warm-up in Petrópolis last weekend. This could be a sign of things to come in the first round.
With two victories to his name this year, Titouan Carod has had an excellent start to the year after taking the top step of the podium in the Catalana Internacional race in Banyoles and the first round of the Coupe de France. Carod also managed a seventh-place finish in the Internacionales XCO Chelva stacked race. Another fast French rider in search of a World Cup victory will be Maxime Marotte who has so far won two fourth places and a 3rd in the first round of the Internazional d’Italia series. Farsighted Alan Hatherly took a win at the Internacionales XCO Chelva race and a fourth place finish at the Catalana Internacional race at Banyoles. Although Hatherly will have stiff competition from team-mate Henrique Avancini this weekend who is sure to want to win his World Cup on home soil.

Honorable mentions:

It’s been an interesting start to the Elite Men’s XC season this year with some of the biggest names jumping on the early season races, so it’s pretty hard to see exactly who is looking really fast ahead of the season opener at Brazil. Nino Schurter is a rider everyone will be watching as he tries to break Julien Absalon’s World Cup winning record again this year. With the return of the rainbow jersey for 2022, he would have been a safe bet for a better result, but a tough week at the Cape Epic could be a sign that his fitness isn’t where it needs to be. opening of the World Cup.

Another Swiss rider that will be interesting to watch this weekend is Mathias Flückiger who dominated in 2021 nearly winning both the overall World Cup title and the World Championships. We haven’t seen much from Flückiger so far, but it’s very hard to rule him out of a win, especially as the weather forecast is calling for some pretty awful conditions. Last year’s wet and wild Les Gets race showed that Flückiger is a master of the mud, so he could be tough to beat at the weekend.

One name that will be on everyone’s mind for the first World Cup race in Brazil since 2005 will be the legendary Henrique Avancini. Avancini will be tough to beat in his home run and we think he will put everything on the line for the win this weekend. Not only is the race taking place in his home country, Avancini is originally from Petrópolis and he still lives and rides at São José Bike Club, the venue for this weekend’s race. The course was also helped to be brought up to UCI standards by the Brazilian rider and he was part of the original construction team for the track with his father.


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