UCI MTB World Cup #2 Preview: Houfflize, Belgium

It will be another big weekend for potential Olympic hopefuls when the UCI World Cup makes its second stop in Houffalize, Belgium this weekend. 

After the fireworks in South Africa last month, it’s time for the best mountain bikers in the world the head to Europe for the second leg of the 2012 World Cup. The Elite Men and Women races both take place Sunday, and for those riders jockeying for the Olympic spots, early season success is absolutely crucial.

Emily Batty, fresh off her second place in South Africa, will be under the gun by compatriot and current World Champion Catherine Pendrel. For Pendrel, wearing the champ’s stripes is added pressure to be at the head of the race, adding an extra dash of Maple Syrup Power along with Batty against the very tough and on-form Maja Wloszczowska of Poland.

One woman that won’t be on the start line is Willow Rockwell, who announced her retirement earlier this week. The 34 year old neo-mother called it a career after missing last season to give birth to her daughter, Raven. The TREK World Racing rider won’t finish her two planned races, skipping Houfflize and the Sea Otter Classic.

Nino Schurter will defend his series lead with special attention on Burry Stander. Stander, who started well back in the start line at his home race, will now be right up front and able to stick to wheels rather than chasing the first few laps in Belgium. The form of reigning World Champ Jaroslav Kulhavy (The Czech King) will be especially intriguing at the second stop of the series. Kulhavy was able to keep pace early but gave way after a few fast laps. The Specialized rider was disappointed, but vowed to be back on top very soon.

Coverage of the race will be courtesy of Red Bull once again, here. Coverage will begin very, very early in the morning, so check back here Saturday night for the exact start time.

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