Posted by Editoress on 06/2/14
The Mountain Bike World Cup concluded the spring campaign in Albstadt, Germany, with a record setting win by French legend Julien Absalon (BMC), who became the first rider - male or female - to win 29 cross-country World Cups in his career. In the women's race, his young compatriot, Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Liv Pro XC), showed that her win last weekend in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, was no fluke, by recording her second victory in a row. Catharine Pendrel (Luna) had the top Canadian performance of the day, finishing fifth in the Elite women's race. Leandre Bouchard (Team Canada) also had a strong day, with sixth in the Under-23 men.
Although only in its second year, the Albstadt course has become well known for its multiple steep climbs and fast, narrow descents. Favouring the climbers on the World Cup circuit, it has seen more than one rider start out too hard in the early going, only to crack in the final laps.
The women's seven lap race saw Ferrand Prevot shoot into the lead on the first lap, never to relinquish it. By the end of lap one she was almost 30 seconds ahead, and continued to set the fastest lap times through the race, to win by nearly three minutes.
Behind, Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) moved into second place on lap two, but her lead over a chase group containing World Cup leader Jolanda Neff (Liv Pro XC), Pendrel, Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools), Adelheid Morath (Sabine Spitz Haibike) and Maja Wloszczowska (Liv Pro XC) was never more than 30 seconds.
Dahle Flesjaa managed to hold on for second, while Neff made a last lap surge to take third and pad her lead in the overall standings.
"I felt a little pressure before the start," admitted Ferrand Prevot, "so I tried to relax. I started fast and I felt good. I am very, very happy to take my second win. I had a small crash before the finish, but it was nothing really. I was not so fresh and just lost some concentration."
Ferrand Prevot will now return to the road, and will not mountain bike again until Worlds.
Behind, Pendrel commented that she felt like she was "stuck in a Liv Giant sandwich". With Ferrand Prevot's team mates Neff and Wloszczowska in the chase group but not contributing to the chase, it was left to Pendrel and Morath to do the work. Canadian champion Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) finished 13th, with Mikaela Kofman (Scott-3Rox) 33rd.
Neff now leads the overall World Cup standings after four of seven races with 650 points. Dahle Flesjaa jumped to second from sixth, and now has 560 points, with Ferrand Prevot moving into third with 500 points. Batty dropped from fifth to sixth in the standings, while Pendrel improved from 19th to 14th, after missing the first two rounds due to injury. Kofman is 28th with 148 points.
Julien Absalon had said earlier in the season that Albstadt was one of his favourite courses, and a priority for him this season, after dropping out last year due to a mechanical while holding a commanding lead. He also was one of three riders using the new Shimano XTR Di2 electronic drivetrain in the first race situation.
He certainly delivered, with a dominating performance for his third win of the season. World champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) attacked hard on the opening lap, opening a gap that only Absalon could close. The two were joined at the front by Fabian Giger (Giant Pro XC) and Maxime Marotte (BH-Suntour-KMC) on lap two, but Absalon continued to push the pace and Schurter and Marotte were dropped first, with Giger falling off a lap later.
Absalon continued to pull away through the remainder of the race to win by over a minute, but behind Schurter had recovered to move into second with Stephane Tempier (BH-Suntour-KMC). Schurter managed to drop Tempier in the final kilometres to take second, by just five seconds.
"To win here was one of my main goals for the season," explained Absalon. "I like very much this track, I like the long steep climb. I was focused on this race and not very happy last week in Nove Mesto because I crashed. The legs felt good (today) and I am in good shape. I did my own ride, but it was not easy. Nino always starts fast and I sometimes don't. I keep my own rhythm, no need to go to the red zone, that makes it too hard to finish the race. I did my own race. Even if I was alone in front, it is really steep here, and I was pushing hard all the race to have a good gap. I was thinking all the time about my technical flame out last year, which motivated me."
Raphael Gagne (Team Canada) continues to be Canada's top performer, finishing 25th. Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) rode as high as the 20s before a front flat on lap four pushed him back into the 50s; he recovered to finish 42nd, four spots behind team mate Derek Zandstra.
With three wins in four races, Absalon has a strong lead in the overall standings, with 890 points to second placed Shurter at 580. Daniel McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) is third with 530 points. Gagne remains 24th in the standings with 194 points. Kabush is 62nd with 45 points and Zandstra is 74th with 30 points.
In the Under-23 races, Bouchard followed up last week's cross-country fifth with an equally strong sixth. He was in fourth place in the early laps before backing off to ride his own pace with a chase group behind leaders Jordan Sarrou (BH-Suntour-KMC) and Michiel van der Heijden (Giant Pro XC). Canadian champion Mitch Bailey (Team Canada) was 19th. Despite missing the first two rounds, Bouchard is now ninth in the overall standings.
- Shimano pulled out all the stops for the XTR Di2 intro. With Absalon winning, Giger fourth and McConnell sixth, the Shimano crew were literally jumping up and down with joy on the finish line. During the podium presentation they brought out three XTR podium girls to pose with Absalon, who looked distinctly uncomfortable.
- Albstadt had a 30% increase in fans this year, to an estimated 15,000. This is likely partially due to the much better weather this year.
- The Cross-country World Cup now has a hiatus until the end of July, when it moves to North America for Mont Ste Anne and Windham. Until then, the European riders have the European championships next weekend, plus nationals and other local series, while the North Americans have some U.S. series events, BC Bike Race (Pendrel and Rochette are two that are entered), Canada Cups and nationals.
Albstadt World Cup May 30/14 - June 1/14, Albstadt, Germany
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