UCI MTB World Cup Finale
Pendrel and Iles Capture World Cup Overall Titles
The 2016 UCI MTB World Cup series wrapped up in the thin Pyrenean mountain air of Andorra for cross-country racers and downhillers alike. Catharine Pendrel (CAN, LUNA Pro Team) earned the necessary points in the final round to capture the Elite women's overall XCO series trophy, while Emily Batty (CAN, Trek Factory Racing) continued a consistent season to take third in the series. Canadian junior downhill sensation Finnley Iles (CAN, Specialized Gravity p/b SRAM) sewed up his overall victory on the super-steep and gnarly track.
XC #6 - Vallnord, Andorra – Sept. 4
With the Rio Olympics in the history books, cross-country athletes had to rally their focus and their legs for one more major event of the season – the World Cup finale atop the Vallnord ski station. Venue of the 2015 UCI MTB World Championships, riders were familiar with the challenges offered by the demanding course at a lung-busting 2,000 metres above sea level.
Denied an Olympic medal, Jolanda Neff (SUI, Stöckli Pro Team) was back to her hard-charging ways in Andorra and snagged the win over second-place Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (NOR, Multivan Merida) by 36 seconds, while Pendrel pulled off a third place just ahead of newly crowned Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds (SWE, Odlo-Scott). Batty finished 12th. World champion Annika Langvad (DEN, Specialized), who had been leading the series all season long, had a tough day, crashing multiple times to finish 13th – not good enough to retain the overall.
Like Neff, Julien Absalon (FRA, BMC) was also shut out of the medals in Rio, but he earned a bit of redemption himself, grabbing the Elite men's victory in Andorra, his 33rd World Cup win and seventh series title. Ondrej Cink
(CZE, Multivan Merida) finished second after leading out the start. Olympic champion Nino Schurter (SUI, Odlo-Scott) flatted while in second spot and fell back to eventually finish 13th.
Andrew L'Esperance (CAN, Norco Factory Team) was the only Canuck in the mix. He finished 57th, with an absent Léandre Bouchard (CAN, Cyclone d'Alma) finishing as the top Canadian in the series in 31st.
Sina Frei (SUI, JB Brunex Felt Team) continued her domination of the U23 women's category to secure the race win as well as the series overall. Catherine Fleury (CAN, Cyclone d'Alma) was the lone Canadian, finishing 16th on the day and eighth in the series.
It was a tight battle in the U23 men's competition, as Marcel Guerrini (SUI, Focus XC Team) eked out the victory by only 10 seconds ahead of Simon Andreassen (DEN, Specialized). Overall series champion Titouan Carod (FRA, Scott Creuse Oxygene Gueret) finished third, while Canada's sole entrant, Marc-André Fortier (CAN), earned 19th place and 44th in the final series standings. Peter Disera (CAN, Norco Factory Team) was the top Canadian in the overall series in 34th.
DH #7 - Vallnord, Andorra – Sept. 3
Downhillers were treated to a parched track that deteriorated quickly in practice, developing holes and ruts, turning things treacherous. Rachel Atherton (GBR, Trek Factory Racing) made history by winning seven of seven rounds in the Elite women's series. Tracey Hannah (AUS, Polygon UR) was her closest rival in the final, finishing second at more than six seconds back. Hannah took home third place overall in the series, behind Manon Carpenter (GBR, Madison Saracen Factory Team) in second. Canada's Miranda Miller finished eighth in Vallnord, which moved her up to 10th in the overall. Fellow Canuck Georgia Astle (CAN) finished a strong 10th on the day and 17th overall.
Things got really hairy partway through the Elite men's final as the skies opened up. Danny Hart (GBR, MS Mondraker Team) was already securely installed in the hot seat at the bottom before the rain began, and his time was untouchable once the moisture hit. Series leader Aaron Gwin (USA, The YT Mob) cut his losses and chose to keep his title safe by taking it easy and just finishing his run to land 55th.
He was happy with another World Cup title: “I was really hoping to end my World Cup season with a win, but unfortunately the weather just wasn't on my side today. After dropping into my race run and feeling out the conditions, it was obvious to me that the risk required to ride fast just wasn't worth it.”
Mark Wallace (CAN, Devinci Global Racing) was the fastest Canadian in 33rd, while Canadian champion Kirk McDowall (CAN, Dunbar Cycles) rolled into 50th. Wallace was also the top Canuck in the series in 22nd.
Junior men's world champion Iles clocked the fastest run in qualifying, but the young Canadian would wind up second to Gaetan Vige (FRA, Commencal/Vallnord). Iles retained the series lead to take home title. With another year left in the junior ranks, all eyes will be on this B.C. rider in 2017.
Buoyed by recent success, the rest of the Canadian juniors had strong runs. Magnus Manson (CAN, Devinci) was just off the podium in fourth, while Henry Fitzgerald (CAN, Steve Peat Syndicate/Uberbike Global) was eighth. Manson closed the season in ninth overall and Fitzgerald was 13th.
(clockwise from top left) Finnley Iles captured the Junior men's overall title for a historic Canadian victory. Canada's Catharine Pendrel took home her third career Elite women’s cross-country title. Canadian Emily Batty claim third overall in the...