Posted by Editor on 07/5/15
Swiss hopes of victory on home soil were dashed on Sunday, at Round 3 of the Cross-country series of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano in Lenzerheide, when Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) took wins in the Elite women and men categories. Catharine Pendrel (Luna) took her third consecutive podium, finishing third in the women's race, with Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) working her way up from the mid-teens to finish seventh. Leandre Bouchard (Cyclone d'Alma) was the only Canadian in the men's race, finishing 56th.
Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli) continues to lead the women's overall standings, tied on points with Dahle Flesjaa, while Kulhavy regains the men's lead with his second win of the series.
The hot weather that has blanketed Lenzerheide all week continued for the cross-country, surpassing 30 degrees Celcius and making for dry, dusty conditions. Combined with the 1500 metre altitude and the technical track, riders faced some of the toughest conditions of the season.
Neff, who uses Lenzerheide as a training base, was the favourite for the women after two consecutive wins in the opening rounds, and she did not disappoint the thousands of Swiss fans, by attacking on the first climb and opening a gap on newly crowned Marathon world champion Dahle Flesjaa and world champion Catharine Pendrel.
However, within half a lap the two chasers had caught and dropped her, with Neff dropping back out of the top-10 and clearly struggling with the conditions. The European Games champion admitted afterwards that she may have gone out too hard and paid the price.
At the front, Dahle Flesjaa and Pendrel rode together until the fourth lap of the six lap race, when Pendrel slid out in a loose corner, enabling the Norwegian to open a gap. Dahle Flesjaa rode away to win her 29th World Cup; a record number for women and moving her ahead of American star of the 1990's Juliana Furtado.
"I went down on a loose corner," explained Pendrel. "I was feeling really comfortable with the pace but lost focus and then struggled to get my rhythm back. The course was really good to race. I don't think altitude (1500m) is a big factor but it was hot for sure."
Pendrel was eventually overtaken for second by American champion Lea Davison (Specialized). Neff managed to recover to take fourth behind Pendrel.
"This win means a lot," revealed Dahle Flesjaa. "I dedicate this 29th victory to my coach, my best friend and my husband, Kenneth. Today we both had an amazing day, we knew I was in good shape after a tough week recovering from the [Marathon] Worlds. This is just an unbelievable day for both of us."
"Normally, I'm not too much affected by the heat and I tried to drink as much as possible, but today it was not so much my legs as my lungs that had the pain. So I had to watch my pace and not overdo it, because the legs wanted more then the head and the lungs could give."
Neff and Dahle Flesjaa are tied atop the overall standings with 650 points each, but Neff retains the jersey by virtue of more wins. Pendrel remains in third with 470 points, followed by Davison, who jumps to fourth from eighth with 420 points.
The men's race was expected to be a three-way battle between Kulhavy, winner of the opening round, World Cup leader and Round 2 winner Julien Absalon (BMC) and Swiss favourite Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo).
That was the way it initially played out, with Schurter getting his usual fast start and the other two bridging up to him. Florian Vogel (Focus XC) and Mathias Fluckiger (Stoeckli) were also in the front group after the first lap, but then Schurter attacked again, dropping Fluckiger from the group, and Vogel crashed, leaving just three at the front.
Kulhavy and Schurter were doing the pacemaking, with Absalon losing ground on the descents but making much of it back on the climbs. However, the World Cup leader and world champion was gradually losing a few seconds every lap, and it looked like he would have to settle for third, until Lap 6, when both Absalon and Schurter had rear wheel flats.
Absalon suffered his puncture at the far end of the course from the tech zone, dropping him to 12th before he was able to get a wheel change. Schurter's flat was just before the tech zone, and he was 17 seconds down by the end of the lap after a quick change, but he could not make up ground on the 2012 Olympic champion and, in fact, lost time over the remaining two laps to finish 33 seconds back for his third consecutive second place result.
Ondrej Cink (Multivan Merida), the 2012 Under-23 world champion, had caught Absalon just as he flatted and took third, ahead of Fluckiger and Maxime Marotte (BH-SR Suntour-KMC). Absalon managed to recover to ninth.
"When Nino flatted I just kept my own tempo," explained Kulhavy. "It wasn't so good for the spectators, with Nino being at home here, so that was too bad, but I'm really satisfied with my performance here, because it was a really hard race with nowhere to rest. I had a really bad year last season, but I'm at the top again, I'm healthy, and it's really great."
With his second victory, Kulhavy moves back into the leader's jersey with 660 points. Schurter remains in second with 600 points and Absalon drops to third with 510 points.
The only Swiss victory of the day was in the Under-23 men's race, by Lars Forster (Wheeler-IXS), who took his second win of the year and regains the lead in the overall standings from Spaniard Pablo Rodriguez with 240 points to 200. The competition concluded with the Under-23 women's race, won by Swedish champion Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo), who took her third consecutive victory. Rissveds has a perfect score of 270 points, 110 in front of second placed Alessandra Keller (Strueby-Bixs).
The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented now moves to North America for two rounds, beginning with Mont-Ste-Anne, Canada, in four weeks.