Posted by Editoress on 05/12/23
The Elite series of the Mountain Bike World Cup opened on Friday with the Short Track (XCC) events. Laura Stigger (Specialized Factory) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) became the first World Cup leaders of the year with their wins. Unfortunately, for the first time in a long time, no Canadians were ranked high enough to race in either the women's or men's races.
Heavy rain just before the start of the women's race sent teams scrambling for tire changes, but did not make much difference in the racing. The circuit is considerably changed from previous years due to construction at the venue, with Pidcock commenting that the course was now "too easy".
Riders sprinted out on a long asphalt start, over a slight rise and then down through some log drop offs before a sharp, bermed left hander gravel corner into the steady paved climb. The course then traversed across to a downhill over some jumps and then a right hander onto pavement, before a final grass u-turn onto the finishing straight; 125 metres of pavement to the finish line. The women did nine laps and the men 11 laps.
Defending XCC World Cup champion Alessandra Keller (Thomus Maxon) and Evie Richards (Trek Factory) spent most of the women's race at the front, setting the pace, with world champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Ineos Grenadiers), Sina Frei (Specialized Factory) and Haley Batten (Specialized Factory) staying in the top-10. At the start of the last lap, Richards attacked hard, but Keller responded, overtaking the Brit on the climb, only to be overtaken herself by Stigger. The Swiss rider re-took the lead before the descent and was at the front out of the final corner, setting the stage for a 5-way sprint with Stigger, Frei, Ferrand Prevot and Richards. Stigger proved to be just that much faster at the line, beating Keller and Frei for the first World Cup leader's jersey.
"It's so hard to stay on the wheels of the fast ladies," admitted Stigger. "I had to really fight for my position during the race; I really had to close the gap always. But to turn out like this is incredible; thanks to the whole team, what a great kickoff for the weekend.
"The first XCC race is so hectic, and you never know what is going to happen. It was so hard to not crash; it's so close and narrow, and you have to fight for every position. I was lucky to get through safely and without any crashes."
The rain had backed off for the mens' race, but it was still muddy and slick in places - especially coming off dirt sections to pavement. Pidcock started right at the back, since he had a low UCI ranking - race number 40 out of 40 starters. He only found out three hours before the start that he was in the race, after a higher ranked rider pulled out. It didn't seem to bother him much, as he moved to mid-field by Lap 4 and then bided his time.
German powerhouse Luca Schwarzbauer (Canyon Collective) set the tempo for most of the race; moving to the front on the climb almost every lap. Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM), Mathias Fluckiger (Thomus Maxon) and world champion Sam Gaze (Alpecin - Deceuninck) were never far from the front, always lurking, but Pidcock did not show his face in the top-10 until three laps to go. A lap later and he was in the top-5, and then as they hit the pavement with 250 metres to go he took the lead, making the left hand u-turn onto the finishing straight in front of Schwarzbauer and powering away to win by a bike length. Gaze overtook Schwarzbauer at the line for second.
"I only found out at 3 o'clock that I was doing this race, after having done a three and a half hour training ride in the morning," explained Pidcock, "so, yeah, it does [make it sweeter]. I've been second here in the Short Track before, so it's nice to win one.
"I wasn't that stressed at the start because I would rather start a bit further back and give myself a bit of space. It's all about being the first guy into the finish straight to win. The course is much easier than it used to be; you don't want it to be a bunch sprint, so they need to make the course a bit harder."
Top-10s for Johnston, Woods & Punchard in Opening MTB World Cup Race
|Return to Canadian Cyclist homepage | Back to Top|