Posted by Editoress on 05/26/14
Schurter Takes Third Win at Nove Mesto, While Ferrand Prevot Takes First
Nove Mesto, in the Czech Republic, always produces exciting racing, and this year was no different for the third round of the 2014 Cross-country World Cup, held under almost perfect weather conditions, in front of almost 20,000 spectators. Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Liv Pro XC) took the first Elite victory of her career in the women's race, while Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) finally ended the unusual dry spell that had kept him off the top step of the podium this year. Catharine Pendrel (Luna) showed that her early season injury hasn't affected her by taking second in the women's race.
Blue skies and sun greeted the riders on race day, with just a bit of a breeze to stop the heat from becoming overwhelming. The weather in the 24 hours leading up to the final day of racing had dried out the course from previous torrential rains, leaving the circuit in perfect shape.
Ferrand Prevot, an Under-23 rider who is competing in the Elite category, charged to the front on the opening start loop from back on the fifth row in the start order, and had a slight gap on Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), World Cup leader Jolanda Neff (Liv Pro XC) and Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory) as they started the first of five laps. Her gap steadily increased through the race, as she consistently laid down the fastest lap times on every lap.
The race for second came down to Dahle Flesjaa, Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing XC) and Pendrel. Former World Cup champion Pendrel, who was just returning to the World Cup from an early season injury (broken collarbone), made an impressive ride from the third row of the start to join the other two early in the third lap, before pulling away to solo in for second place. Dahle Flesjaa hung on for third. Neff, who struggled mid-race, recovered in the final lap to move into fifth and protect her overall series lead. Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing), after a poor start that put her back in the 20s, recovered mid-race to finish 18th. Mikaela Kofman (Scott-3Rox) finished 36th.
"Yes, I felt very good today and I have been in good shape since the beginning of the season," revealed Ferrand Prevot. "So I tried to get as big a gap as I could at the beginning of the race, and then tried to keep it."
"I was surprised [by the gap]. I started in the fifth row, so I didn't expect to be at the front at the beginning [of the race]. So, yes, it was a bit of a surprise. I felt good and I say okay, I will set my own tempo. I think my road training is paying off!"
After three rounds, Neff leads the standings with 490 points, 60 ahead of Irina Kalentieva (Russian National), with Eva Lechner (Colnago Sudtirol) 82 points back. Batty dropped from third to fifth in the standings, with Pendrel 19th and Kofman 31st.
The men's race was expected to be a showdown between Julien Absalon (BMC), winner of the first two rounds, and world champion Schurter, who flatted in the first round and skipped the second for a stint on the road. Schurter threw the gauntlet down by attacking immediately, and was in the lead by the first lap. A chase group containing Absalon, Martin Fanger (BMC), Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing XC), Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), Florian Vogel (Scott-Odlo) and Andrea Tiberi (Tropix-FRM).
The group gradually thinned, with local favourite Kulhavy well in the mix until he flatted, only to run into chain problems after getting a fresh wheel in the pits, and eventually dropping out. Only Fanger was able to bridge across to Schurter, with the two riding together until Fanger flatted on the fifth lap, leaving Schurter alone in the lead, which he held to the finish. Stephane Tempier (BH-Suntour-KMC) steadily worked his way up to claim second, with German champion Moritz Milatz (BMC) taking third. Australian champion Dan McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) outsprinted Absalon to take fourth.
"Nove Mesto is an awesome place," commented Shurter. "The spectators are so cool here. It is a really nice atmosphere to race here. I always come with a good feeling to this race."
"My plan was to start fast because Absalon is always struggling a bit at the start. I had a good start, I went from the beginning in the front. Mid-race I was not feeling that good, but then Martin Fanger flatted and I was again alone in the lead, and I just gave my best . Luckily I made it to the finish. I'm very happy abut my third victory here."
Raphael Gagne (Team Canada), followed up his 14th place in Round 1 with 23rd here, against a much stronger field. Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox), after moving into the high 30s early in the race, faded to 49th, while the other Canadians in the race were lapped.
Absalon continues to hold a commanding lead, with 640 points after three rounds. Hermida moves up from fourth to second in the standings with 410 points, with Dan MConnell (Trek Factory Racing) jumping from seventh to third at 400 points, after finishing fourth here. Gagne moves from 31st to 24th in the standings.
In the Under-23 category, Michiel van der Heijden (Giant Pro XC) took the men's win, with Jordan Sarrou (BH-Suntour-KMC) holding onto the leader's jersey after finishing second. Margo Moschetti (Scott-La Clusaz) won the women's race, while Helen Grobert (Focus XC) took the overall lead from Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo), after the latter suffered a mechanical and finished well back in eighth.
Team Canada's Leandre Bouchard finished fifth.
"I am very thrilled about the fifth place," said Bouchard. "I raced an impeccable race. The long and large start loop allowed me to position myself in the Top 10. Then, the legs kicked in and I was able to gain some positions, almost one per lap. That race had to be the best in my life. The fact that it is in Europe makes me even happier."
"We were 141 (of us) on the start line, and for me that was the largest number of riders I had to face in a race. I was starting from way back, but I knew I had the time to better position myself before the narrow stretch because the start loop is well done here in Czech Republic."