Well, I don’t ever recall in years past racers all flocking to smaller xco races the way they have this Spring. Italy, Austria, wherever they’ve been. I’ve watched 4 or 5 of them already, and since so many of the top racers have participated, it’s become no different than real Wold Cups. One takeaway is for certain, at least on the women’s side, the young ones are hungry. The old guard it seems has some serious competition to worry about. Loana Lecomte, Laura Stigger, Isla Short, Mona Mitterwallner, Lena Gerault, Evie Richards? Up until the weird 2020 season, these names were nowhere to be seen, as they were all killing it at the U23 level. Sina Frei and Kate Courtney feel like the old veterans already, and they’ve only been on the front lines for a few years.
Of all of them, I have to say Loana Lecomte really seems to have something extra. She seems fearless, and even the mighty Pauline Ferrand-Prevot is of no worry to her. I recall seeing the odd race in France last year, if I recall, and Loana beat Pauline, and it caught everyone’s eye. It was early in the year, it was knee-deep-in-the-covid era, and more of a local race. But still, PFP doesn’t seem like the kind of woman who doesn’t want to win, always and every time. Then young Evie Richards blasts to the front during the short tracks in 2020, and didn’t do too bad at the XCO either. All of a sudden, the regular top 10 are seemingly off the back.
Of course, this is nothing new. I recall back in the mid to late 90’s – the old guard I came up with, Ned, Tinker, Tomac, Wiens, Furtado, DeMettai, were retiring, quitting, and no longer winning everything. The Euro’s were moving in, even the Canadian racers started rising to the top. And of course it just keeps happening – Absalon and his generation slowly hung up the number plates.
So here we go again. But this time, the youth has thrown out the gameplan I think. No more moving up to the Elite class, and over the course of 2-3 years slowly improving until the podium is within reach. Nope. These young ones move up early, and go for the win immediately. I honestly think it’s taken the more seasoned pros as much by surprise as us fans. One year Nino can’t lose, next year, 4 new guys can and will win.
It’s the best part of XC racing in my opinion. Constant change, constant turnover, and gives me hope the sport as a whole will be okay for the next decade or two.
Here’s hoping the 2021 World Cup races go off as planned, and this is the last year we have to watch them without the usual crowds screaming at the finish line and along the tape.