2017 MTB World Championships
SCHURTER TAKES HISTORIC VICTORY
Canada’s Holden Jones from Squamish, B.C. debuted with a gutsy bronze medal in the junior men’s XCO race at the MTB World Championships in Cairns, Australia on Sept. 5-10. Fellow Canuck
Emily Batty of Brooklin, Ont. brought home a strong seventh in the Elite women’s competition.
Swiss star Nino Schurter made history defending his title in the Elite men’s XCO race for the perfect season. Schurter also won all six World Cup races to claim the 2017 UCI MTB World Cup XCO title. Switzerland dominated the Championships, as Jolanda Neff took the Elite women’s title, while Sina Frei captured the Under-23 women’s gold medal.
Batty and Catharine Pendrel were part of the initial lead group in the 27.4km Elite women’s race spearheaded by Neff and Annie
Last of Great Britain. Neff attacked on third lap of six, establishing a 20+-second gap that she extended to more than two minutes at the finish, claiming her first Elite title.
Last took the silver, with 2015 champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot of France recovering from a flat to win the bronze. Batty settled into seventh, which she held to the finish, although a crash on the final descent led to a sprint finish with Corina Gantenbein of Switzerland.
Haley Smith continued her strong season since joining the Elite ranks, with a steady climb from the mid-30s to finish 16th for her best-ever international result. Pendrel was 27th, Sandra Walter was 30th, Cindy Montambault 37th and Rebecca Beaumont 41st.
“I don’t know what to think,” admitted Smith. “I’ve never been
inside the top-20 before, and to do a top20… I know it’s not a podium result, but it’s absolutely huge for me, so I don’t know how to process it. But I’m really happy! I had a crappy start loop and actually crashed in the first couple of laps, but I just stayed focused and moved through people. I couldn’t have hoped for a season this good; this is a big jump for me, and I’m very happy to end the year on this note.”
In the Elite men’s 31.7km race, Schurter and 2012 Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic took an early lead, but were soon joined by Thomas Litscher of Switzerland and Brazil’s Henrique Avancini.
Avancini was dropped and a cat-andmouse battle raged until the final half-lap of the seven-lap race, when Schurter attacked and gapped Kulhavy, taking the ultimate prize for a perfect season. Kulhavy secured the silver and Litscher the bronze.
“It was a tough race, as Jaroslav was super-strong, but Thomas was there to help. It’s been an incredible year, and it all came together with such an amazing team around me,” commented Schurter.
Léandre Bouchard was Canada’s top performer in the Elite men’s race, finishing 24th. Andrew L’Esperance was 44th, Derek Zandstra 45th, Evan McNeely 46th and Raphael Gagné 52nd.
“I was pretty lucky on the start,” said Bouchard. “I had some space to move up, and the start was really important. So I was able to move up quickly and then protect my place. I’m really happy with this race because I had almost no errors; it was the most dusty race of my life!
“You are just eating dust by the first lap. I did my first top-20 in the World Cup here last year, so I knew I could do well, and so I was looking for a top-25. It’s good to end the season like this.”
Marc-André Fortier of Victoriaville, Que. finished a strong 12th and Quinton Disera of Horseshoe Valley, Ont. was 17th for two Canadians in the top-20 in the U23 men’s 25.8km cross-country race.
A group of 14 riders had split from the main field by the end of the start loop, as the riders headed out for six laps of the 4.3km circuit through the rainforest at Smithfield Park. The group included Quinton Disera, with Fortier eight seconds behind, along with Peter Disera.
Quinton Disera, a first-year Under-23 rider, held onto a top-12 place throughout the first four laps before fading slightly in the final two laps. Fortier worked his way up from a start position on the sixth row to top-20 by the end of the start loop and into the top-15 by the end of the third lap. For the final two laps, he was in a three-way battle for 10th.
“It was amazing; I didn’t have any problems all race,” said Fortier. “I started 48th, and by the end of the start loop, I had moved up a lot; an amazing day for me. Usually I prefer courses with shorter punchy climbs like Mont-Ste-Anne, and here it was a long climb. So it was not the perfect course for me, but today it was perfect! It’s a good way to end the season, so for the winter, I will have lots of motivation to train.”
Peter Disera was in the top-15 as the race entered the third lap, but suffered a flat, dropping him back to the mid-20s, where he finished in 24th place.
Canadian Under-23 champion Sean Fincham of Squamish, B.C., who started near the back of the field, moved up steadily in the first half of the race to finish 33rd. Raphael Auclair of La Haute-Saint-Charles, Que. had moved up to the mid-30s before a twisted chain forced him into the pits on the second lap, and he finished 60th.
In the Under-23 women’s 23.1 km race, Soren Meeuwisse moved up steadily to finish as the top Canadian in 16th place. Anne-Julie Tremblay suffered mechanical problems on the start loop and finished 23rd.
Frei, the European champion, was in charge from the start, with Anna Tauber
(NED) joining her, but she suffered a
mechanical. The U.S.A.’s Kate Courtney recovered from an early crash to take the silver, while Alessandra Keller gave Switzerland another medal, claiming the bronze.
At his debut Worlds, B.C.’s Jones was in a hot battle for the silver in the 23.1km junior men’s XCO race. Jones was neck and neck with Joel Roth (SUI) for much of the latter part of the competition until the final half-lap, when Roth was able to gain a gap. Jones claimed a gutsy bronze for his stellar ride, bringing home Canada’s first and only medal from the 2017 MTB Worlds.
Cameron Wright (AUS) took the win after jumping to comfortable lead in the race that consisted of a start loop plus five laps and crossed the finish line with a 35-second margin over Roth. Canada’s Tyler Clark was 27th, Gunnar Holmgren was 29th and Brody Sanderson did not finish following a crash.
Roxane Vermette led the Canadians, finishing 16th in the junior women’s XCO 18.8km race that consisted of a start loop plus four laps. Laura Stigger (AUT) took the win over Loana Lecomte (FRA) in second, with Nadia Grod (SUI) in third. Dana Gilligan was 20th and Leya Masson placed 23rd, while Sidney McGill did not start the competition due to a strained wrist sustained during training.
Team Canada’s head coach, Dan Proulx, summarized the project positively: “We had a great Worlds team this year – new energy and enthusiasm! The highlight was Holden Jones’ bronze medal! The team really impressed me with their effort level. They gave everything. Amongst our team, there were several massive improvements in performance – Haley Smith, Marc-André Fortier, Quinton Disera, Soren Meeuwisse, Andrew L’Esperance. Overall, it was a race where at least one Canadian in every category was strong and competitive. That bodes well for the future. The ones who performed best are just getting started in their careers as high-performance athletes.”
Canada’s Holden Jones won a gutsy junior men’sXCO bronze medal at his MTB Worlds debut inCairns, Australia.
Marc-André Fortier finished a strong 12th in the U23 men’s race.
Elite men’s start
Catharine Pendrel was part of the initial lead group, but ended up27th in the Elite women’s race.
Swiss star Nino Schurter made history defending his title in the Elite men’s XCO race for the perfect season.
Emily Batty brought home a strong 7th in the Elite women’s competition.
Léandre Bouchard was the top Canadian Elite man, finishing 24th.
Soren Meeuwisse finished 16th, the top Canadian in the U23 women’s race.
Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff took the Elite women’s title.
Ontario’s Quinton Disera was 17th in theU23 men’s race.
Junior woman Roxane Vermette led the Canucks in 16th.
Dana Gilligan en route to 20th in the junior women’s race.
The junior men’s XCO podium (l-r): Joel Roth, Cameron Wright, Holden Jones