This week, 629 athletes from 46 countries have descended on Mont Sainte Anne to try and prove that they are the best mountain biker in the world. Unlike a normal World Cup weekend, riders’ travel and accommodation will probably be funded by their national federation so we’ll see a different field to what we’re used to week in, week out. There are probably fewer athletes than at a normal doubleheader weekend but they come from a greater spread of countries and with a greater spread of abilities too.
We looked through the entry lists to find out where the riders are coming from and work out what that tells us about the state of competitive mountain biking.
This year every continent but Antarctica is represented in the entry lists but Europe still dominates the entry numbers with more than half the athletes at the World Championships (326) coming from there. North America takes the next spot followed by Oceania and South America. Asian and African athletes are in the minority, with fewer than 20 athletes each.
If we break it down by discipline, we can see that Europe still dominates in every field. Downhill seems to have the smallest gap though, especially in the juniors where Europe doesn’t seem to have as dominating a presence. Maybe in the future we won’t see such a big gulf between Europe and the other continents as this generation comes up.
But what about the individual countries? Well, that’s a total change with Canada, on home soil, managing to summon 73 athletes to represent it and the USA just behind it with 56 competitors. There are some surprises here though, who would have expected New Zealand to bring a bigger squad than Australia, or Germany to have a bigger squad than Great Britain?
At the other end of the scale, there are five nations that have brought only one competitor – Ukraine, Sweden, Luxembourg, Iceland, El Salvador – and two countries that have just a pair of athletes – Namibia, Romania.
Below is the breakdown of the top five biggest nations in each discipline. With Canada maxing out their quota in almost every category, they come out as the biggest nation in cross country and in downhill followed by the USA. The only exception is the e-mtb race where France brought over the most athletes.
1. Canada – 42
2. USA – 31
3. Switzerland – 25
4. Germany – 24
5. France – 19
1. Canada – 21
2. USA – 19
3. Australia – 18
4= New Zealand – 16
5= France – 16
1. France – 11
2. Canada – 10
3= USA – 6
3= Switzerland – 6
5= Brazil – 3
5= Great Britain – 3
Time to look at who is racing what. XCO dominates the rider numbers with 94 riders in the men’s field, 68 in the women’s field and then a further four categories of junior riders and two ebike categories to pick from. In total that gives 404 XC riders compared to just 174 DH riders.
These fields are also much smaller than you would typically find at a World Cup. At the last round in Lenzerheide, 115 elite men entered the XC and 141 entered the downhill. European events typically attract more riders than North American ones but the gulf here is still significant regardless, especially in the downhill.
XC attracts riders from the greatest spread of nations, which makes sense as it also has the biggest number of riders. Downhill seems to be a lot less diverse with only 23 different nations racing in the men’s field and 15 in the women’s.
The biggest gender split comes in EXC, where only 8 women entered compared to 45 men. In fact, the women’s field was so small that the UCI had to change the running order of the day and allowed the women to train with the men and moved forward their start time to 1 minute after the men.