Posted by Editor on 09/2/15
Cross-country riders had their first opportunity on Wednesday at the Mountain Bike world championships in Vallnord, Andorra, to test out the race course with the Team Relay competition. France retained the title they had won last year, but were put under pressure by a surprisingly strong team from Denmark. Italy finished third. Canada finished eighth, 1:20 out of the medals.
[Note: We have interviews with all members of the Canadian squad, plus national coach Dan Proulx. Watch the interviews Here]
Twenty three countries lined up for the Team Relay, with each country entering four riders - Elite man, Elite woman, Under 23 man and Junior man - who would each do a lap of the 4.2 kilometre cross-country circuit. countries can send the riders off in whichever order they desire, but the majority of top teams start with their faster riders (Elite or Under 23 man), and run their female competitor in the third slot.
Italy, Switzerland and France immediately opened a gap on the rest of the field, with Florian Vogel giving Switzerland a seven second lead over Italy and nine seconds over France. Denmark was sitting fourth at this point, with a remarkable ride from the reigning Junior world champion for cross-country and cyclo-cross, Simon Andreassen. Canada's Raphael Gagne finished his lap in sixth, 45 seconds back.
On the second lap France took the lead with Elite man Jordan Sarrou overtaking Swiss woman Jolanda Neff. France would keep the lead to the finish, while Neff would fall back to 13th, racing mostly among Elite and Under 23 men. Denmark moved up to third on this lap, behind Italy. Canada went with Under 23 man Alexandre Vialle for their second rider, dropping to eighth in the standings, among a group of riders with similar times.
Lap 3 saw France's Pauline Ferrand-Prevot manage to hold off a strong challenge by Denmark's Annika Langvad to hand off to Junior man Antoine Philipp, who came in 24 seconds ahead of Denmark's Sebastian Carstensen Fini. Italy, who had dropped to fourth after the third lap, recovered to take bronze.
Canada's world champion Catharine Pendrel rode the third lap, moving Canada back up one spot to seventh, and riding only ten seconds slower then Langvad; the third fastest women's split [Ferrand-Prevot was second fastest, two seconds slower then Langvad].
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot had a scare before her lap, explaining "During my warm up I crashed [she had a bandage on her chin when she raced], so I was kind of panicked to start. I just tried to calm and not risk our medal. At the start I tried not to overpace myself, so I felt good [later in the lap] and could go harder. I am pleased to keep the jersey."
Canada finished with Junior Raphael Auclair, who recorded the fourth fastest Junior split.