Posted by Editoress on 08/3/15
The 25th anniversary edition of the Mont Ste Anne World Cup concluded with the event that started things back in 1991 - the Cross-country. Joland Neff (Stoeckli Pro Team) took her third win of the season in the women's race, while Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) ended a rare drought after three consecutive second places. Canada's Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) finished second and fourth respectively.
The cross-country at MSA is always demanding, with steep climbs, rocks and roots. The XC racers were spared the rain that hit the Downhill event, but forested sections were still muddy and slippery.
Neff, the defending champion here, got her usual fast start, opening a gap of 34 seconds on Round 3 winner Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) on the first lap. World champion Catharine Pendrel, after a bit of a slow start, caught up to Dahle Flesjaa on the second lap, and then headed off in pursuit of Neff on her own for the rest of the race.
Neff's lead maxed out at 1:25 by the end of the third lap, but Pendrel was relentless in her pursuit, posting the fastest times for the final three laps. However, Neff was simply too far in front, and cruised across the line 34 seconds ahead of the Canadian. Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Raboliv) took third after an impressive ride through the field from 31st on the start line.
"It was maybe the craziest race of my life," commented Neff, "because this morning when I got up I fainted, and I hit the floor with my head and I lost consciousness for a few seconds, and I wasn't sure if I would race today."
"I crashed every lap, which is not so normal for me. So it is unbelievable to win. I just wanted to win here. I love this track, I won here last year and I just really wanted to win, it's amazing. It is really cool I can keep the lead overall so I can wear this [leader's] jersey again, which I like a lot."
Emily Batty had a strong start and moved up to join Dahle Flesjaa after she was dropped by Pendrel. the Pan Am Games champion dropped Dahle Flesjaa in the final lap to solo in for fourth.
Neff now leads with 900 points, followed by Dahle Flesjaa at 790 and Pendrel at 670, with Batty in fifth at 505 points.
The men's race became the latest of an ongoing series of battles between the two top men in the world - Nino Schurter and Julien Absalon (BMC). Both have won here, with Schurter taking the latest victory last year.
Schurter attacked on the opening lap and Absalon was part of a group that bridged across to him, including Florian Vogel (Focus XC), Ralph Naef (BMC), Andrea Tiberi (FRM Factory), Ondrej Cink (Multivan Merida) and Mathias Fluckiger (Stoeckli Pro Team). Missing from the front group was Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized), winner of the first and third rounds, and World Cup leader heading into MSA.
When Schurter surged again, Absalon was the only one who could go with him, and the pair steadily pulled away for the remainder of the race. Entering the final lap they were still together, despite attacks and counterattacks, but when Schurter went again on one of the climbs Absalon was unable to respond, finishing 14 seconds down on his rival. Vogel took third, just ahead of Naef.
"Yah, I knew I had good legs," revealed Schurter, "but I didn't know how strong he [Absalon] was. I took my chance and I got away a bit, and now I have my first win of the season."
"I am really happy [to get the first win of the season]. I worked hard this season but always got second, but now everything came together and also a bit of luck, you need it to win. I'm really happy to win this race and also to take the overall lead."
"It is a really important results now. You need to win races if you want to win the overall. I saw that Jaroslav finished 13th, so I won a bit of points over him, so it was probably quite an important race for the overall."
Absalon said "Yes I am happy [with second place]. It was not possible to do better than this. It was a really nice fight with Nino, but in the last lap when he attacked, my legs were already really hard and it was not possible to follow him. I am really happy because I was tired during this week and I did not really good training the last two days, with the storm; with the wet conditions I had some trouble on the track. Today the feeling was really good, even in the technical sections I was good, I was able to follow Nino."
"It is always a pleasure to be here. I won my first World title here in 1998; I won as Junior at 18 years old, so lots of souvenirs and memories, and it is always a pleasure to be here."
Canadian champion and Pan Am Games champion Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain) had a strong start and moved up to a chase group in the mid-teens, eventually finishing 14th.
Schurter takes the overall lead from Kulhavy with 850 points to Kulhavy's 740. Absalon is just behind at 710 points. Gagne has moved into 25th in the standings, with 194 points.
In the Under 23 races, Titouan Carod (Scott Creuse Oxygene Gueret) won the men's race ahead of American Howard Grotts (Specialized), with Canadian champion Alexandre Vialle (Local Ride/Espresso Sports) the top Canadian in 13th place. Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo) won the Under 23 women's race, despite flatting. Catherine Fleury (Cyclones d'Alma) was the top Canadian in ninth place, one spot ahead of Frederique Trudel (Specialized Canada) in tenth.