Kona Endurance Team rider Spencer Paxson is on site for the 2016 XC World Championships in Nové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic. This year marks the 27th edition of the annual championship race, and Paxson’s 6th time being named to the US National Team since 2006. Normally held at the very end of the season in early September, this year’s World Champs comes early due to the timing of the Olympic Games in Rio, which will take place in late August.
“In an Olympic year, the Games tend to overshadow everything, but the World Championships still represent one of the greatest pinnacles of the sport,” says Paxson. “In fact, they may be even more representative of the true “champions” of the world. The Olympic qualification process raises the level of competition from high to stratospheric, but in the end, only 30 elite women and 50 elite men can compete in the Olympics. At the World Championships, everyone will be there…this year more than 70 women and over 100 men…and 43 nations represented!”
As with a any World Championships, it has taken lots of hard work to get to this big race. From the States, only four elite men and seven elite women qualified for the team. And big it will be, with allegedly over 50,000 tickets sold. The rowdy Euro fans will make the trees shake during the elite races this weekend. The track has been heralded as one of the best on the circuit since it was introduced in 2011.
“That was the year that the XCO format really took shape,” says Paxson. “Everything had to be compressed down from over two hours into 90 minutes or less. Short, fast races, with six, seven, maybe even eight laps packed into the race. In some ways it’s crazy to think that the World Championships of XC is only a 15 mile race! And that’s for the men! The women’s race will be 13 miles!” says Paxson
Racers will start and finish in the impressive Vysocina Arena, completing multiple laps on the punchy 2.5 miles (4.1km) wooded track. Complete with loamy soil, plenty of roots, jagged rock gardens, and a sawtooth elevation profile, the race will take every tool in the bag.
“It might sound short, but in a way that’s what makes it more difficult. It’s just a long sprint! An endurance sprint! If you know track and field, it’s like packing a few 800 meter races into a 90 minute window. We’ll do 3,700 feet of climbing in 15 miles with no ’settling in’.”
Sounds fun, eh? Paxson will be looking to make a strong conclusion to his XCO campaign for 2016, which has seen him competing around the world since April in the quest for an Olympic berth. He came up short on the Olympic chase, but will still look to improve on his impressive performance from Worlds in 2015, where he rode from 114th on the start loop to finish 40th, putting in top-25 lap times along the way.
“I’m ready to send it. It’s been a very memorable year with the Olympic pursuit. Of course I’m disappointed that I was unable to do a better job of rising to the occasion, but as they say, I’m better for the chase, and I’ve got some good form to put to use here at World Champs. I’ll be doing my best to make it shine through on Sunday.”
You can follow the live race coverage on RedBull.tv at 3:00 PM CET on July 2nd (elite women) and July 3rd (elite men). Stay tuned for more!