Nino Schurter in the record hunt
Less than a month after the world's cross-country and downhill mountain biking elite did the honours at the World Cup in Saalfelden Leogang, the best of the best will now meet again in Lenzerheide when the next UCI Mountain Bike World Cup takes place as part of the Bike Kingdom Games. From 8 to 10 July 2022, the next decisions in the disciplines Short Track (XCC), Cross-Country Olympic (XCO) and Downhill (DHI) will be made there. The World Cup Sunday will be of particular importance for local hero and XCO World Cup leader Nino Schurter, as he can become the sole record holder for the most individual World Cup victories with a win at his home race.
Swiss duel for victory? Record for eternity?
Nino Schurter (SUI) has already proven several times in World Cup races and also at the 2018 World Championships that he knows how to win in Lenzerheide. Now the man who has won almost everything is missing exactly one victory to become the sole record holder for the most individual World Cup victories. He currently shares the record of 33 victories with Frenchman Julien Absalon. Cracking number 34 at his home race of all places would certainly make it even more special.
«The home World Cup is always something very special for me. When you race in front of your home crowd, friends and family, the motivation is always even higher. Especially because after the Covid 19 crisis, we can finally fight in front of full crowds again. It would be a dream to achieve the record in Lenzerheide. But a lot of things have to fit together and luck has to be on my side. If not now, I am confident that sooner or later it will happen somewhere else. A great race on my part without a win would be absolutely fine. I think Lenzerheide offers the best World Cup course. There is a bit of everything. Only an absolutely complete rider can win here. It's quite possible that the biggest competition will come from your own country again. After all, I'm not the only Swiss who wants to win there.» - Nino Schurter
Another Swiss rider, of all people, could actually thwart the record chase. Mathias Flückiger, reigning Swiss champion and overall World Cup winner in 2021, has found his form just in time for the World Cup in Graubünden after a weak start to the season and, along with Schurter, is considered the hottest contender for victory. Thanks to his hard-fought victory at the World Cup in Leogang, he has meanwhile moved up to third place in the overall World Cup.
«I really like the course in Lenzerheide. It is technical and varied. This year it's always the same five or six riders you have to reckon with. And with Nino in Lenzerheide anyway. But that's what makes it exciting and cool. I'm actually hoping for a duel between the two of us like in Leogang. There are many others who are also very keen on a World Cup victory, but I could imagine that the top places will ultimately be decided between the two of us. A home World Cup is always something special. I have been on the podium there two or three times, but not yet at the top. There are two important races for me this year: One is of course the World Championships and the other is the World Cup in Lenzerheide. That's why I'm really looking forward to it.» - Mathias Flückiger
McConnell or Lecomte? Is that the dominant question this season?
In the elite women's race, too, a favourite has made a strong comeback after a weak start to the season: The reigning overall World Cup winner Loana Lecomte (FRA) impressively showed with her World Cup victory in Saalfelden Leogang that she is on her way to top form. Not only did the Australian Rebecca McConnell, current overall World Cup leader and runner-up at last year's World Cup in Lenzerheide, lose out, but also some other top racers. Only Lenzerheide favourite Jenny Rissveds (SWE) managed to keep up with the Frenchwoman. The Swiss riders Jolanda Neff, Alessandra Keller and Sina Frei, who were particularly convincing in the newly created Cross-Country Short Track Overall World Cup, should also start with an extra portion of motivation.
First decisions on Friday evening
Rebecca McConnell is also currently leading the elite women's field over the sprint distance, followed by a consistently strong Alessandra Keller and the steadily improving Loana Lecomte. In the men's race, Luca Schwarzbauer (GER) currently has a razor-thin lead over Mathias Flückiger, who is within three points of the German after his XCC and XCO double victory in Saalfelden Leogang. Last year in Lenzerheide, the Swiss only had to admit defeat to Henrique Avancini (BRA).
Will Balanche and Pierron extend their lead? Will more riders enter the 2022 winners' lists?
The Downhill World Cup seems to be firmly in Swiss and French hands at the moment. With two wins from three races, Camille Balanche (SUI) and Amaury Pierron (FRA) have both been at the top of the overall World Cup standings since the start of the season. While the Swiss only had to give way to Nina Hoffmann (GER) in Fort William, but found her way back to victory in the race in Leogang, Pierron had to settle for fifth place for the first time in Austria after a perfect start to the season, while Briton Matt Walker won his first World Cup race.
The competition is fierce in both elite competitions. In the women's competition, World Champion and Lenzerheide defending champion Myriam Nicole (FRA) and reigning overall World Cup winner Valentina Höll (AUT) are waiting for their first victory of the season. In the men's competition, Matt Walker and several other riders are in the running. Danny Hart (GBR), Benoit Coulanges (FRA) and Laurie Greenland (GBR) as well as Loic Bruni (FRA), who has returned from injury, are eager to make their mark on the 2022 winners' list.
Bike Kingdom Games and 10 years of Bike Kingdom Park in Lenzerheide = party galore!
When the Bike Kingdom Games coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Bike Kingdom Park in Lenzerheide, there is of course plenty of action away from the cross-country and downhill courses. Immediately after the XCC races on Friday evening, the «Send It Jump Show» will take place, where the riders will show via ramp and landing bag that mountain bikes do not only provide excitement and spectacle with the tyres on the ground.
The Saturday «Whip Off» contest is also all about letting the bikes fly. The contest is open to everyone - registration is possible in advance and on site. A jury consisting of Emilie Siegenthaler, Tarek Rasouli and Claudio Caluori will choose the «Best Trick», «Best Whip» and «Fans Favourite».
But it's not just the grown-ups who will get their money's worth from the party atmosphere with various live bands and DJs. The Steinböckli Cup and the Kids Area will also cater for the little ones.
The detailed programme and tickets are available online at bikekingdomgames.ch.