I’ve been following Nino’s preseason and it looks to me like he’s back in pretty good form. I have to agree that I think he’s definitely on the back nine, as you say. Part of that is that there is a crop of young guys who have a huge amount of horsepower, and part of that may be a loss of top end. I think/hope he’ll get another World Cup.
I haven’t seen Podcock race XC except for in highlights, but based on his CX racing and E-Bike XC wins i thought he had enough technical nous to be competitive. Remember when MVdP first started the World Cups and had to start from the back of the field. By memory it took him three or four races to get a high enough call up for the front row and to feature on the podium. He only has to get into the top 40 to get into the XCC for Nove Mesto.
Anton Cooper has been doing some great training down here over summer. It’ll be interesting to see how that translates early on. I was speaking to a rider that rode the elite national road race that thought Cooper had great legs and was unlucky to miss the break.