Posted by Editoress on 10/7/20
After a delay, venue change and multiple rounds of COVID testing, the 2020 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships finally got underway on Wednesday in Leogang, Austria, with the E-MTB races. Introduced last year at Mont-Ste-Anne, Canada, for the first time, the electric motor assist races are restricted to pedelec (power assist with no throttle) bikes with the assist cutting out above 25 kilometres per hour.
Thomas Pidcock (Great Britain) and Melanie Pugin (France) took the rainbow jerseys on a cold wet day at a venue devoid of spectators. The men did five laps of the muddy 4.4 kilometre circuit and the women one less. Earlier in the day, the Team Relay took place - for the first time requiring all six XCO categories (women and men for Junior, U23 and Elite). France took the title ahead of Italy and defending champions Switzerland.
Thomas Pidcock wins
Jerome Gilloux was the early leader
After a slow first lap that put him 55 seconds behind leader Jerome Gilloux (France), Pidcock recorded the fastest laps for each of the remaining four laps, moving up to third by the end of Lap 2, second a lap later, and passing the Frenchman early in the last lap, to eventually win by 35 seconds. Pidcock came into the race having won both U23 World Cup XCO races last week. Simon Andreassen (Denmark), winner of an Elite World Cup a week earlier, made a similar surge to take the bronze medal, 14 seconds out of silver.
"The downhill sections were super tricky," said Pidcock, "and it was just a matter of getting down them safely and try not to crash. I tried to make my time on the uphills. This win gives me a lot of confidence [before the U23 XCO on Friday]. Winning here and last week gives me confidence for Friday."
In the women's race, defending champion Nathalie Schneitter (Switzerland) jumped into an early lead on the first lap but Pugin and Kathrin Stirnemann (Switzerland) were only a few seconds back, and both passed her - Pugin on the next lap and Stirnemann a lap later. Pugin was clearly the fastest, recording the fastest lap splits for all but the first lap to beat Stirnemann by 27 seconds and Schneitter at 1:15.
Melanie Pugin wins
"The race began very fast," said Pugin, "and I was very careful in the technical parts. I knew I was in good shape from my Enduro season [two wins and a second place]. These world championships are not my main goal for the season, so this win is more of a bonus. It is very good to have the jersey and I am proud to wear it."
Rochette, the silver medalist last year, was over a minute and a half off the pace on the first lap after crashes, back in seventh place. She began to move up on the next lap, to fifth. She was closing on Sofia Wiedenroth (Germany) in fourth, but ran out of race, finishing 24 seconds behind the German and 4:28 behind the winner.
"The weather conditions were crazy; it's been raining all day and the course deteriorated a lot throughout the race," explained Rochette. "For the women's race [the last of the day] I think it was the most slippery of all. I had a pretty good start and was in second place with Nathalie Schneitter, but when we entered the woods I made a mistake and got passed by a lot of people, as I had a hard time getting back on the bike. Then in the first downhill I crashed and again a lot of people passed me. So after the first four or five minutes I was pretty far back."
"I was feeling really good and pedalling hard on the climbs, and I think I was making up time. But the climbs were pretty short and I wasn't able to make up enough time, for the time I was losing in the downhills; I was not riding well in the downhills. They were super challenging and very, very slippery. In the end, I ended up fifth, so I made up spots compared to where I was at the end of the first half lap."
"It was a fun race, even though I didn't win or finish on the podium, which was what I was aiming for. I had a blast out there and it is cool to be back racing, even though this is not the discipline I'm am used to be doing [XCO and Cyclo-cross]. Once you are on the start line, it feels really good to have the fire of racing back and be super focussed the whole race. So I'm excited for racing the XCO on Saturday, and I think this experience will help me for the XCO. Also getting a few races in before the cyclo-cross season feels good."
"I was riding the Specialized Turbo Levo and we had mud tires and a really cool setup. Everything was running super cool."
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