Last week we looked at the Nove Mesto World Cup course. A fast affair with high speeds and tactical racing. One week before the Nove Mesto World Cup was something very different. A beautiful muddy mess of steep climbs, steep chutes and an ice-like surface that made the best riders look like they were Bambi trying to walk for the first time! That was one of the classic World Cup courses of this generation, Albstadt.
I first raced Albstadt the year before it became a World Cup in 2012 when it was a German National round. It rained, a lot, which seems typical whenever there is a race held in the area. Back then the course had one main climb and descent with thick mud everywhere. After that mess, the race organisers decided to switch things up by creating a clover leaf course with crushed gravel on the climbs, to aid in grip …
Of course, 2013 was a mud race, pretty good for Dan McConnell, and it was the first time we witnessed what happens when limestone rocksand clay mix, ice! I remember watching the live stream as most of the top riders went down the first descent on their bums! Good times. Fast forward to 2018 and not much has changed. It rained, a lot, in the lead up to the race and once again it turned the course into a beautiful and challenging mess.
The course starts with an opening grass section that coats your wheels and bike in grass and mud. Making it about 10 kg heavier than it was, just in time for the first climb! This is where that crushed rock they laid on the climbs gets fun. Sure, you do get reasonable grip, more so than you would otherwise, but now the rock gets flicked up onto your bike and adds another 10 kg! So, with 20 kg extra, it’s time to climb for about four minutes on a seriously steep climb.
One new addition for this year was the drop halfway up the first climb. If you watched the live stream, you would remember the carnage that it created. The women’s race had it worst with rain making the entry and exit both super slick, which caused a lot of crashes. Even the B-line was tough! One thing that made the course tough was the rain during the week. This made the course muddy through practice, which meant most of the top soil got pushed to the sides, leaving the slippery concrete like limestone underlay surface exposed. Riding on this normally was tough, dropping onto it off a drop into a corner was pretty crazy. Compounding this was the mud and stones clogging the tyre tread further decreasing traction.
The lack of top soil made tyre choice a key decision. As it was muddy, you would expect a mud tyre to work best, but the mud spikes on the hard concrete like surface made things very squirmy. I only had the choice between a full mud tyre and my Maxxis Ikon dry tyre in 2.0. I choose the Ikon with slightly lower pressure than usual to keep a consistent feel on the hard surface. Nino Schurter did run an intermediate front with the Maxxis Ardent Race and a semi-slick Rekon Race most likely in 2.25. This would mean the front could dig through any thick mud still left around and the rear could spread out over the hard surface to give a wide and useable contact patch for grip. Shocking the World Champ knows what he is doing! You can read about his set up on MarathonMTB here.
Another tough section was the climb immediately after the new drop. Most of it was on the icy hard surface up a steep gradient, which made a wide and consistent rear tyre patch very important to keep traction. Especially if you didn’t hold momentum from the drop just prior. It’s funny, that we are only
about ¼ of the way around the course, yet already it sounds like one of the most technical tracks. Though in the dry, Albstadt is often called the easiest track. This massive difference in technicality from being dry or wet makes the Albstadt course tough to work out tyre and suspension set up in practice.
Hopefully, this has given you a little glimpse into the course that will host the World Championships in 2020. It will be an important race being just before the Olympic Games, Surely the riders who are good in slippery conditions will be hoping for rain to get a confidence boost before the big one!
You can watch the race replays on Redbull.TV below!
Bike – Norco Revolver FS 2 Custom
Suspension – Fox
Gearing – Shimano 11-46/36t
Components – Shimano/Pro/Mt Zoom
Wheels – Stans Podium SRD
Tyres – Maxxis Ikon 2.0
Power meter – Stages + Stages Dash computer
Made shiny by – Krush