Posted by Editoress on 08/27/17
Both the men's and women's overall Cross-country World Cup titles had been decided coming into the final round on Sunday at Val di Sole, Italy, however, that did not affect the level of racing at this final major event before the world championships in Cairns, Australia.
The current edition of the Val di Sole circuit is four kilometres in length and consists of two loops, each with sizable climbs and technical descent. The men and women would race seven and six laps, respectively, plus a start loop.
Yana Belomoina (CST Sandd American Eagle) had already won the overall title going into the final race, with three wins in the previous five rounds.
Jolanda Neff (Kross Racing), a two-time overall World Cup champion, has struggled this season, but showed she is returning to form with her victory on Sunday. Neff showed her form of old with a fast start that put her into the lead by the end of the start loop.
The Swiss rider was initially joined at the front by defending overall World Cup champion Catharine Pendrel (Clif Bar), Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Merida Gunn-Rita) and world champion Annika Langvad, but as those riders fell off the pace, Belomoina moved up to join Neff. The duo rode away from the chasers by Lap 2, and stayed together until Lap 5, when Neff attacked on a climb to solo away for the ninth World Cup win of her career, with Belomoina finishing 21 seconds back.
The chase group was whittled down to Maja Wloszczowska (Kross Racing) and Irina Kalentyeva (Moebel Maerki) by Lap 4, with Wloszczowska attacking on the final lap to finish third. Pendrel, after a strong start faded to finish 12th, while Canadian champion Emily Batty (Trek Factory) was 17th.
"I'm so happy about this," said Neff, "to be back racing at the top. I'm thankful to my team, who gave me the time I needed and had the faith that I would come back. I wasn't that confident of beating Yana, because she has won three World Cups this year and is so strong. It was perfect and I'm so happy."
Belomoina wins her first World Cup title with 1250 points, followed by Wloszczowska, jumping from third to second in the standings at 770 points. Langvad, after finishing fifth, moved up from fourth to third, with 744 points, while Neff jumped from 12th to fourth with her win. Batty dropped two spots to finish ninth overall, with Pendrel dropping from 11th to 12th.
In the Elite men's category, Olympic and world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) came into the final round having already assured himself of the World Cup title with five straight wins - a record for the cross-country World Cup. However, winning the final round would further cement his status as the top male mountain biker in the world.
Schurter immediately went to the front, joined by Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory). The duo had opened a gap on the chasers by the start of the first lap, however, Fumic suffered a drivetrain problem on the opening lap and fell out of contention.
Stephane Tempier (Bianchi Countervail) bridged up from the chase group to join Schurter at the front on the second lap, and the pair rode away from the rest of the field. Schurter was content to ride on Tempier's wheel for most of the race, before attacking on the final climb of the last lap to open a four second gap and take the title.
The chase group began with 11 riders and was gradually whittled down over the laps. 2012 Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) did much of the work at the front of the group, before he was joined by two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon (BMC), who bridged up to the group on the fourth lap. Absalon, the defending World Cup champion, was out of contention for the overall title after breaking his collarbone and missing two rounds, however, he showed that he is rapidly returning to form with a strong third place finish, just ahead of Kulhavy.
Canada had only two riders in the men's race, with Raphael Gagne (Cannondale-3Rox) finishing 54th and Alexandre Vialle 75th.
"It's amazing and unbelievable," admitted Schurter. "I have an awesome team around me and that's a big part of this success. It's impossible to get through the whole season without them. I wasn't too fresh this race; I'm starting to feel the long season, so I couldn't get away [from Tempier]. I just tried to stay with him. So I did the same as two years ago when I attacked [Julien] Absalon on that section before the downhill and it worked."
In the overall standings, Schurter won the title with a perfect 1500 points. Tempier jumped ahead of fellow Frenchman Maxime Marotte (Cannondale Factory) to take second in the final standings with 850 points, followed by Marotte at 772. Absalon jumped from 14th to eighth, despite missing two rounds. Leandre Bouchard (BH SR Suntour KMC), who did not attend Val di Sole, remains the highest ranked Canadian, in 37th place, followed by Derek Zandstra in 57th and Gagne in 65th.
In the Under-23 men, Peter Disera (Norco Factory), who did not attend Val di Sole, dropped from fourth to seventh in the final standings.
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