Posted by Editoress on 10/10/20
Pauline Ferrand Prevot became the first woman to successfully defend the Elite XCO title since her French compatriot Julie Bresset in 2012-13, with a dominating victory on Saturday in Leogang, Austria. Eva Lechner (Italy) outsprinted Rebecca McConnell (Australia). Emily Batty was the top Canadian finisher, in 27th place, one spot ahead of Jenn Jackson. Haley Smith was 29th and Maghalie Rochette 33rd. Batty was caught in a crash at the start, dropping to the low-40s before working her way back into the top-30.
While the expected rain held off, the course was still extremely wet and muddy, making the uphills slow in the sticky mud and the downhills slick and treacherous, with almost every rider going down at some point.
Ferrand Prevot rode away from the rest of the field on the start loop, never to be seen again. Besides her obvious strength on the climbs, Ferrand Prevot was riding the technical descents better then anyone, increasing her lead by as much as 30 seconds per lap, to beat Lechner and McConnell by a massive three minutes-plus.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot (France) rides away from the competition
The real battle was for silver. McConnell took control of second place on the start loop and looked to have it wrapped up in the early laps, with a significant gap over Lechner, Sina Frei (Switzerland) and Yana Belomoina (Ukraine). Belomoina had a problem with her dropper post and had to have it replaced in the pits, eventually finishing seventh. The 2018 world champion, Kate Courtney (USA) also had mechanical issues, eventually dropping out.
Lechner and Frei fought for the bronze medal position through the first four laps, with Lechner stronger on the climbs and Frei bringing her back in the technical sections. However, Frei began to tire in the last lap and a half, as did McConnell, enabling Lechner to drop the Swiss rider and close in on the Australian. The last lap was a see-saw battle for silver, with McConnell pulling away, only to crash on one of the final descents, allowing Lechner to catch up in the last 100 metres, with the Italian taking silver in a bike throw. McConnell had to settle for bronze, the same position she finished in last year.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot (France) claims the World Champion title for the 2nd year in a row
l tor: Eva Lechner, Pauline Ferrand Prevot, Rebecca McConnell
For Ferrand Prevot, it was the third elite XCO title of her career, putting in her in a select club of Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa of Norway (4 titles), Alison Sydor of Canada (3 titles) and Margarita Fullana of Spain (3).
"I feel great," said Ferrand Prevot. "It was an amazing race. I wanted to have a good start because I knew on the uphills and downhills it would be a bit hectic in a group. I wanted to go solo but didn't expect to have such a big gap. It was good to have a good gap because of the possibility of a mechanical or a crash; something can always happen. I wanted to be safe until the end, and this way I could keep calm and ride a good pace. It's great to be able to defend the jersey, and I'm super happy to ride another year with the world champion's jersey, because I really like it. It's a good day for France, with the Under-23 women's title also for Loana Lecomte."
Jackson, who was the top Canadian for most of the race, commented "It was a monster track in Leogang; always up or down, steep, muddy and bombed out. This was my second Mountain Bike Worlds, and I'm happy to notch my best result and crack the top-30. It was a solid ride, I set out with purpose was engaged, and managing the course well, but then kind of crumbled in the last lap and a half, which leaves a bit of disappointment hanging over me to be honest."
"The past week, the season, of World Cup and Championship racing came and went in a flash, but it still feels like it's been a long year without much direction. I'm glad we got to race at all, but I'm looking forward to putting plans with purpose together, and these competitions are good reminders of things to work on. It's been a great month with the Norco team over here, living together leading up to and through these races makes me even more appreciative of the great people I have fallen in with in these times where our social circles have to be kept tight. I feel like we are all very fortunate to have each other and the opportunities to chase these dreams."
Emily Batty was top Canadian
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