Canadian cyclists head to Czech Republic for mountain bike World Cup

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Canada’s top cross-country mountain bikers are in the Czech Republic this weekend as the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series kick starts in Nove Mesto Na Morave.

The athletes to watch include the four mountain bikers who represented Canada at Rio 2016.

Headlining the women’s event, which will take place on Saturday, are Catharine Pendrel and Emily Batty.

Three-time Olympian Pendrel saw much success last summer, winning bronze in Rio for her first Olympic medal. She also finished first in the overall World Cup standings and posted a fifth-place finish at the UCI World Championships. Most recently, she came in first at the first stop of the 2017 Canada Cup mountain bike series in Victoria, British Colombia.

Always pushing her is teammate Batty, who won her first career medal at the world championships last year when she took bronze. She then finished just behind Pendrel in Rio, placing fourth. Third in last year’s overall World Cup standings, she came in a close second at the Canada Cup event.

Among the Canadian men who will be racing on Sunday are Raphaël Gagné and Léandre Bouchard.

Gagné recently came in first in the Canada Cup event. He had a career year in 2015 when he earned himself a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto and finished 18th at the world championships, making him the finisher from outside of Europe.

Alongside him will be 24-year-old Bouchard, who made his Olympic debut last year in Rio after he was the top non-European at the world championships with his 20th place finish.

This weekend’s race will take place on 4.1 km track that is filled with uphill obstacles and fast descents along a wide forest road. It is the first of six cross-country mountain bike World Cup events that will take place over the course of the summer.

The riders will next head to Albstadt, Germany (May 27-28), followed by Vallnord, Andorra (July 1-2) and Lenzerheide, Switzerland (July 8-9). They’ll then come back home for the event in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec (August 5-6) before the finale in Val Di Sole, Italy (August 26-27). They’ll cap the season with the world championships in Cairns, Australia in early September.

Here is the complete list of Canadians competing this weekend:

Women:

Catharine Pendrel

Emily Batty

Sandra Walter

Haley Smith

Cindy Montambault

Catherine Fleury

Men:

Raphaël Gagné

Léandre Bouchard

Derek Zandstra

Andrew L’Esperance

Evan McNeely

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