Posted by Editoress on 08/9/15
The U.S. stop of the Mountain Bike World Cup concluded on Sunday in Windham, New York, with Round 5 of the Cross-country. Road world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Raboliv) proved that she has not lost any of her mountain bike skills by taking the women's victory, while Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) won his second straight World Cup in the men. Women's World Cup leader Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli Pro Team) held onto her leader's jersey by finishing second in the women, while Schurter added to his lead in the men's standings.
Canada had some strong performances but no podiums in the cross-country events, with Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) scoring a career-high sixth in the Elite Men and Haley Smith (Norco Factory) getting her own personal best of fifth in Under-23 Women. [Note: We have interviews below with Gagne, Emily Batty and Haley Smith]
Road world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Raboliv) returned to mountain biking last weekend with a third place at the Mont Ste Anne World Cup, and followed that up this week with a win at the penultimate round in Windham, New York, on Sunday.
The Windham course is 'old school' with a long grueling climb followed by a fast, technical descent. The very dry conditions meant that riders rode in a cloud of dust, and corners were loose and slippery.
The odds-on favourite was World Cup leader Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli Pro Team), with three wins in four races, however, Neff had not trained all week after fainting and hitting her head, and so she started uncharacteristically slowly, allowing Ferrand-Prevot to take the lead.
World champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna), the defending champion at Windham, chased Ferrand-Prevot for a lap, before succumbing to the pace and drifting backwards out of contention to finish a distant 25th. The top Canadian for the day was Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing), in 14th.
Neff then began to move up, joining Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), Annika Langvad (Specialized) and Lea Davison (Specialized) in the chase. Neff dropped the rest on the fifth of six laps to roll in second and pad her lead in the standings. Langvad just beat team mate Davison for third, with Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools) taking fifth.
"I am really happy, of course," said Ferrand-Prevot. "Last week I felt really good on the uphill and sometimes in the descent. Today I wanted to take a good start and to fight to be the first if possible on the uphill and to relax a bit on the downhill. It worked, so it was perfect."
"It is a good course for me, but I didn't think Catharine Pendrel would be dropped, and when I was alone I said, 'OK I just have to go full gas and don't turn back'."
Neff commented, "It was a really tough race, I think I was really far back in the beginning, like out of top 10 or top 15, really far back. I really fought hard until the finish. I'm so happy to take second place."
"I think today was very important [for the overall]. I didn't feel so good and I really fought hard for the overall. I think second place was the maximum I could do today, Pauline rode really strong."
With one round remaining, Neff now has 1100 points, with Dahle Flesjaa a distant 190 points behind and Pendrel just holding onto third at 726 points, 26 ahead of Davison. Emily Batty remains in fifth.
In the men's race, Nino Schurter took his second World Cup victory in as many weeks, fighting back from a flat to beat usual rival Julien Absalon (BMC) by a slim four seconds.
Schurter took the lead after the start loop, carving out a ten second lead on the first lap over Absalon, Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory) and Dan McConnell (Trek Factory Racing). He was extended his lead in lap two when he flatted, luckily, shortly before the tech zone at the start of the next lap.
After a quick wheel change he had dropped to fifth, and set off in pursuit of Absalon and Fumic, rejoining them a lap later. The trio stayed together until the penultimate lap, when Absalon attacked on the climb, with only Schurter able to respond. The pair started the final lap together and rode up the climb still together, with Absalon managing to get the hole shot into the descent, denying the faster descender Schurter the chance to get away.
The Swiss rider executed a bold move through a rock garden to retake the lead and open a slim four second gap, which he held to the line. Fumic took third, with Trek Factory team mates Sergio Mantecon and McConnell rounding out the podium. Raph Gagne, after a poor start, moved up steadily through the field to finish just off the podium [interview below].
"I was suffering quite a bit up the hill," revealed Schurter. "It was quite a challenge to keep Julien's wheel on the uphill. I had my last chance in the rock garden and tried to pass him. I actually saw that it works three laps before when Fumic passed me there, so I tried the same as him and was really happy that it worked."
"I'm in super great shape, but it is not my course here. Too long a climb for me. At the top I was always suffering. It was great to win at Mont-Sainte Anne and even greater to win here."
"I have quite a lead now [in the overall] Absalon is probably now in second, I don't know what Jaroslov did today, but I would say now I have a good lead. It was two really important races for the overall."
"It was a really hard race," agreed Absalon. "I didn't start really well. I was suffering to catch the leaders. Finally I caught the leaders, but we were all together in front. In the technical section I was not really fast. Last week I was slow in training and more fast in the race, this week was the opposite - fast in training and slow in the race. I was not fast enough compared to Mano or Nino. That is why Nino pass me in the rock garden. I don't know why. The rocks were moving, so it was not the same as yesterday, so it was not possible for me to be as fast as Nino. I was close, closer than last week, but second again."
Schurter now leads the standings with 100 points, with Absalon moving up to second at 910 points and former leader Jaroslav Kulhavy dropping to third at 782 points. gagne jumps from 25th to 18th in the standings.
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