Posted by Editoress on 09/5/15
Cross-country competition concluded on Saturday at the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships with the Elite Women and Men. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot of France took the women's title, while Nino Schurter of Switzerland won his fourth Elite title in the men's category.
Canada had strong performances in both the women's and men's races, with defending world champion Catharine Pendrel finishing fifth and Emily Batty seventh in the women's race. and Raphael Gagne 18th in the men's race. Pendrel's fifth place automatically qualifies her for a spot at the Rio Olympics next year.
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot of France accomplished an incredible feat in winning the Elite women's Cross-country world title in Vallnord, Andorra. The young rider now holds, concurrently, four world titles across three cycling disciplines: Team Relay and Cross-country in Mountain Bike, the Elite Road title and the Elite Cyclo-cross title.
After a week of rain, the skies finally cleared for the Elite races, however, the damage had been done, leaving the forested sections heavily soaked, muddy and treacherous. Almost every rider crashed at some point, and the women's race ran to nearly two hours - 20 minutes longer then normal. Based on the women's race, the men's was shortened by a lap.
World Cup champion Jolanda Neff (Switzerland), always a fast starter, jumped into the lead on the first climb, but the steep climbs, combined with almost 2000 metres of altitude, saw her fade quickly and drop out of contention.
Ferrand-Prevot and Pendrel (Canada) moved to the front, initially joined by Yana Belomoina (Ukraine) and Maja Wloszczowska (Poland). Batty was chasing behind in the next group. When Ferrand-Prevot laid down a blistering second lap, she was away on her own, and would stay away until the finish line.
Pendrel moved into second, holding that spot until the end of the fourth lap, when she was joined by Wloszczowska, Irina Kalentyeva (Russia) and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway), with Belomoina coming up quickly from behind. When Kalentyeva attacked, Pendrel tried to follow, but was fading, and caught by Belomoina in the sixth and final lap, leaving the Russian with the silver medal and the Ukrainian with bronze.
"Well, I gave it everything," stated Ferrand-Prevot. "With the altitude, the climb and the slippery downhill it was so hard. I really gave it everything because I wanted this title. I want to say a big thank you to French staff and French Federation because they believed in me and that was a really big help."
She was also asked if she would try track racing, and said with a laugh, "No, for sure not [on the velodrome]. I now have to concentrate to keep my world title on the Road. After I will try to be very good for the Olympics."
Canada's third entrant, Sandra Walter finished 27th, while Mikaela Kofman did not start after falling ill overnight before the race.
Schurter's fourth Elite men's Cross-country world title means he is closing in on the five titles held by his French rival Julien Absalon, who took the silver medal. Ondrej Cink (Czech Republic) took the bronze medal.
Schurter, the World Cup champion, got his usual fast start, and was joined on the opening lap by Absalon and Cink. the Czech rider was dropped by the other two after the first lap, falling back to a chase group containing Manuel Fumic (Germany) and Mathias Fluckiger (Switzerland). Fluckiger flatted late in the third lap, leaving Cink and Fumic to chase, with the Czech rider gapping his German rival on the fourth lap.
The gap between the leaders and Cink hovered around 15 seconds until the fifth lap, when the front two began attacking, each trying to drop the other, without success. Cink was solidly in third, but losing ground to the leaders.
At the front, Absalon was stronger on the climbs but Schurter faster in the descents, and the Swiss rider finally got a slim seven second gap but the start of the final lap. Absalon couldn't close the gap, but neither could Schurter extend it, and it wasn't until the final 150 metres that Absalon finally conceded victory to Schurter.
"It was a tough race, especially here with altitude," commented Schurter. "I was suffering with [my] breathing. Midway through the race I was struggling and starting to think maybe it's not my day. But then I realized I'm a bit faster on the downhill than Absalon and could get a gap there. I am so happy about this victory, but I'm still so exhausted."
"It is very nice to battle with him [Absalon] and it is even better to beat him. I tried to just do my race, not to go too much in the red zone. Tried to race my pace."
"It was an amazing year for me. I focussed on the World Cup and the World Championships, and did just the important races. So, the strategy went well. I am so happy about this season. Every World Championship is a nice achievement. It is the best feeling to ride in the World Champion's jersey."
Gagne had a strong start, moving as high as tenth by lap three, and still in 11th with two laps remaining. However, the effort began to tell in the final two laps, and Gagne slipped back to 18th; still his best performance at the Elite Worlds. In other Canadian results, Geoff kabush was 42nd, after starting 81st on the line, while Derek Zandstra, after a good start that saw him in the top-30, had to drop out after a crash damaged his shifter and he lost most of his gears. Leandre Bouchard also did not finish.
Race note: Shimano was broken into at top of mountain in Expo last night. Lots of stuff stolen, including 10 demo bikes, XTR Di2, etc. Andorra checking all vehicles at border.