Canada’s fastest cross country racers are headed to South America this weekend. The 2022 World Cup season is set to kick off at an entirely new venue in Petrópolis, Brazil.
All the elite racing can be viewed free online, for one more year, on Red Bull TV from April 8-10.
Venue: Petrópolis, Brazil
Set just north of Rio de Janeiro, Petrópolis is the home training base of Brazil’s first World Cup winner, Henrique Avancini. In fact, the race course at the São José Bike Club is named after him. The Cannondale Factory Racing rider actually helped build the course with his father.
The 4.5km course, which squeezes in approximately 200m of climbing per lap, has seen upgrades and alterations to make it a true World Cup course for 2022. But it still looks different than a traditional European course. Prominent features include sizeable drops, fast hardpack berms and steep, physical climbing.
Who are the favourites?
Henrique Avancini will be racing at home and on a course named after him. The Brazilian will undoubtedly be looking for the win in Friday’s short track racing, Sunday’s XCO or both. It’s a rare opportunity for the South American to race in front of a home crowd and he won’t want to let it go to waste.
He’ll be challenged by perpetual podium threat Nino Schurter (Scott SRAM), hot off an appearance at the Cape Epic. Look for Mathias Flueckiger (Thomus Maxon), the Tokyo silver medallist, 2021 World Cup overall winner and apparent heir to the Swiss mountain biking throne, to be on the front as well. Other challengers could include the U.S.’s Christopher Blevins (Specialized), who showed great pace at the Cape Epic.
On the women’s side, world champion Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing) will square off against World Cup overall winner Loana Lecomte (Canyon Cllctv), Pauline Ferrand Prevot (BMC) and Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing).
They’ll face a challenge from a trio of fast under-23s that appear to have opted to race 2022 in the elite category. Select u23 riders can race up, but they must stay in the elite category all season. Kata Blank Vas (SD Worx) arrives in elite already having a fourth place at the Tokyo Olympics to her name. Moana Mitterwallner (Cannondale Factory Racing) is the elite marathon world champion and a two-time under-23 XCO world champion. Laura Stigger (Specialized Factory Racing) is also already an Olympian and has numerous junior and under-23 world championship titles to her name.
Canadians to watch in Petropolis
Canada’s XC program is looking fresh for 2022, with new teams and new national champions. Jenn Jackson wears the maple leaf for the elite women, alongside her new Canyon MTB teammates Emily Batty and Laurie Arseneault.
They’ll be joined by Maghalie Rochette. The World Cup cyclocrosser returns to high-level mountain biking for the first time in several years, starting in Petrópolis.
2022 will be the first season in a decade where Catharine Pendrel won’t lead the Canadian contingent at the races. Instead, the Olympic bronze medallist will be on the other side of the tape as one of Cycling Canada’s new coaches.
On the men’s side, Léandre Bouchard wears the national champions jersey in XCO for Canada. The tall Alma, Que.-based rider is also on the new Foresco Holdings Proco RL Pro Team. He’ll be joined in Brazil by the “blue train” of his former Pivot Cycles-OTE squad, including Gunnar Holmgren. Peter Disera (Norco Factory Team) will be back in the mix as well, with his younger brother Quinton Disera moving to Canyon Devo’s squad.
In the under-23 races, which are unfortunately still not televised by Red Bull TV, there are several strong riders. Multiple World Cup winner Carter Woods returns to try to get back on top of the podium. He’ll be joined by new Norco Factory Team teammate, u23 women’s national champion and fellow Comox Valley racer Emilly Johnston. Marianne Théberge (Pivot Cycles OTE) will be back well to continue her climb up the international u23 ranks.
Broadcast Schedule: 2022 World Cup XCO/XCC #1 – Petrópolis, Brazil, April 8-10
Racing in Brazil starts Friday with Short Track XCC. Elite races will be broadcast all weekend live on Red Bull TV.
April 8 – World Cup XCC #1
Elite Women XCC: 12:20 PST / 15:20 EST
Elite Men XCC: 13:15 PST / 16:15 EST
April 10 – World Cup XCO #1
Under-23 Men/Women (Not Televised)
Elite Women XCO: 07:00 PST / 10:00 EST
Elite Men XCO: 10:15 PST / 13:30 EST