UCI MTB World Cup Sea­son Wrap

Canada’s Batty 3rd Over­all

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - by San­dra Wal­ter

CROSS-COUN­TRY Elite Women

Things heated up quickly and early on the World Cup MTB cir­cuit with the open­ing XCO round play­ing out un­der a late-sum­mer South African sun in Stellenbosch on March 10, where An­nika Lang­vad (DEN, Spe­cial­ized Rac­ing) came out swing­ing on a brand-new track to take the Elite women’s vic­tory. As the hotly con­tested sea­son con­tin­ued, sev­eral dif­fer­ent faces graced the podium un­til the last round, when the World Cup tro­phy fi­nally be­longed to speed­ster Jolanda Neff (SUI, Kross Rac­ing).

Round two in Alb­stadt, Ger­many al­most felt like the sea­son was start­ing again with the de­but of new World Cup dis­ci­pline XC Short Track (XCC) – an off-road Cri­terium 20 to 30 min­utes in length on a com­pact course. If rid­ers wished to com­pete for the over­all World Cup ti­tle, earn­ing points in the Short Track was es­sen­tial. Lang­vad cap­i­tal­ized on her in­fa­mous horse­power and ac­cel­er­ated to the front of the women’s field to take the his­toric first win on the Fri­day evening. Sun­day’s Alb­stadt XCO threw ev­ery­one for a muddy loop on a course that be­came nearly un­ride­able for all but Neff. Clearly back on form after a win­ter in­jury, she thrived in the con­di­tions while the rest of her ri­vals strug­gled. She dom­i­nated the day, fin­ish­ing more than two min­utes ahead of sec­ond-place Yana Belo­moina (UKR, CST Sandd Amer­i­can Ea­gle MTB Rac­ing Team).

Neff charged off the front again in round three in Nove Mesto Na Mo­rava, Czech Repub­lic, but couldn’t keep away from back-to-back

Short Track win­ner Lang­vad, and the Great Dane took it in a sprint. Emily Batty (CAN, Trek Fac­tory Rac­ing) fi­nally re­turned to her com­pet­i­tive self to fin­ish fourth after a cou­ple of dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mances in the first two rounds. This trend con­tin­ued for the rest of the sea­son and saw the On­tario na­tive on the podium at every fol­low­ing XCO round, which she wrapped up with a stel­lar third in the over­all stand­ings.

The XCO in Val di Sole, Italy went swim­m­ingly for Maja Wloszc­zowska (POL, Kross Rac­ing Team), who bagged her first World Cup win since 2012, while Batty took sec­ond. Lang­vad, who main­tained her per­fect record in the XCC dis­ci­pline by win­ning the event two days ear­lier, did not fin­ish the XCO after a start crash cut her race short.

The fol­low­ing week­end in Vall­nord, An­dorra saw an­other leg­endary racer re­gain the top step after a few years of chas­ing – 45-year-old Gunn-Rita Dahle Fles­jaa (NOR, Team Merida-Gunn Rita) logged her 30th World Cup vic­tory and her first since 2015. Batty was third. The XCC saw a first-time win­ner in young­ster Alessan­dra Keller (SUI, Thö­mus-RN Rac­ing Team).

The fi­nal two XCO rounds be­longed to Neff. She landed a de­ci­sive win in Mont-Ste-Anne, Que., with Batty third in front of a home crowd and Ha­ley Smith (CAN, Norco Fac­tory Team) hurtling to her first-ever top-10 re­sult with an eighth place in a break­out sea­son. Neff’s win in La Bresse, France did not come eas­ily, as she was forced to bat­tle back from two sep­a­rate flat tires. But fight she did in a most un­yield­ing style, while Batty, who could al­most taste the win, had to set­tle for sec­ond.

While the last two XCO’s were Neff’s, the XCC’s were Lang­vad’s. Of the sea­son’s six events, the pow­er­house only missed one win.

Catharine Pen­drel’s (CAN, Clif Pro Team) sea­son seemed off to a de­cent start when she logged the top Cana­dian re­sult – a solid sev­enth – after chas­ing the podium for most of the day in Stellenbosch, but she would head back to Canada with un­der­whelm­ing re­sults in the first two Euro­pean rounds in May. Dis­as­ter struck in June on her first week­end home when she crashed hard dur­ing train­ing and broke her humerus – a large weight-bear­ing bone in her arm that would take months to heal. She re­turned to com­pe­ti­tion in Au­gust just in time for the fi­nal two World Cups.

Elite Men

After reign­ing Olympic and world cham­pion Nino Schurter’s (SUI, Scott-SRAM MTB Rac­ing) per­fect 2017 sea­son, the ques­tion was whether he could go un­de­feated again in 2018. The an­swer came in the tough­est way for the Swiss rider at the end of the first World Cup in Stellenbosch, where he was out­sprinted by pow­er­ful young­ster Sam Gaze (NZL, Spe­cial­ized Rac­ing) at the line. Gaze bested a frus­trated Schurter, who blew out of his pedal with me­tres to go.

Round two in Alb­stadt saw Schurter take an­other hard hit in the de­but Short-Track event. Suf­fer­ing a me­chan­i­cal, he was out of the run­ning and rel­e­gated to a third-row start in the XCO race, while cy­clocross star Mathieu Van der Poel (NED, Coren­don-Cir­cus) snatched the win and the pole po­si­tion for Sun­day’s event. Gaze fin­ished sec­ond. Things didn’t go Gaze’s way in the XCO, how­ever. Un­able to hold the pace at the front, he then fell vic­tim to a flat tire, as Schurter re­asserted his place at the top.

Schurter was forced into a sprint again at the end of round three in Nove Mesto Na Mo­rava, but this time he came out the win­ner in a photo fin­ish over An­ton Cooper (NZL, Trek Fac­tory Team). After win­ning the Short Track, Gaze did not fin­ish Sun­day’s XCO when a hard fall took him out.

Schurter went on to win round four in Val di Sole, but did not go un­chal­lenged, as XCC win­ner Van der Poel took the early lead and climb­ing-ma­chine Ger­hard Ker­schbaumer (ITA, Tor­pado Gabo­gas) closed the gap to Schurter. It looked like they would have to sprint it out, but Schurter at­tacked on the fi­nal de­scent to en­sure it wouldn’t come to that.

Ker­schbaumer’s strong ride in Italy was a sign of things to come, as he went on to crush the com­pe­ti­tion in the thin air of Vall­nord the fol­low­ing week­end, rid­ing away from Schurter. Hen­rique Avancini (BRA, Can­non­dale Fac­tory Rac­ing), who won the XCC two days be­fore, fin­ished a strong fourth in the XCO.

Next up was ruth­less Mont-Ste-Anne, who took her share of vic­tims. After Gaze won Fri­day’s XCC, he crashed in train­ing and broke his wrist, end­ing his sea­son early. In the XCO, favourite Schurter, who suf­fered a bro­ken chain to wind up sev­enth, yet still man­aged to se­cure the over­all ti­tle with one round to go. With Schurter out of the run­ning, fel­low coun­try­man Mathias Flueck­iger (SUI, Thö­mus-RN Rac­ing Team) picked up the slack to cap­ture his first World Cup vic­tory.

Van der Poel threw down the watts in the La Bresse XCC to grab his third win in the new dis­ci­pline. The XCO be­longed to Schurter, how­ever, as he found re­demp­tion on a very slick track to take his 30th ca­reer World Cup win over a charg­ing Ker­schbaumer.

It was a tough sea­son for the Cana­dian men, with Raphael Gagné (CAN, Sil­ver­back OMX Pro Team) earn­ing the coun­try’s best re­sult on home soil with a 25th place in Mont-Ste-Anne. Peter Dis­era (CAN, Norco Fac­tory Team) pow­ered to Canada’s strong­est Euro­pean re­sult in Alb­stadt with a 28th-place fin­ish.

U-23 Men

Sean Fin­cham (CAN, For­ward Rac­ing-Norco) was con­sis­tently Canada’s top U-23 men’s per­former on the cir­cuit. After sit­ting out the first round, where Quin­ton Dis­era (CAN, Norco Fac­tory Team) earned the top Canuck hon­ours with a 24th, Fin­cham went on to fin­ish best Cana­dian in all of the sub­se­quent rounds, high­lighted by a 17th in Nove Mesto Na Mo­rava and a 10th in Mont-Ste-Anne to wind up 26th in the over­all stand­ings. With three wins, the se­ries ti­tle went to Pet­ter Fager­haug (NOR, Nor­we­gian Na­tional Team).

U-23 Women

The Ghost Fac­tory XC Team dom­i­nated the U23 women’s se­ries, with Ma­lene Degn (DEN, Ghost Fac­tory Rac­ing) grab­bing her first World Cup win in the Stellenbosch. After that, team­mate Sina Frei (SUI, Ghost Fac­tory Rac­ing) took over to win all of the re­main­ing rounds in dom­i­nant fash­ion. In the end, Frei and Degn fin­ished first and sec­ond in the se­ries, re­spec­tively. Top Cana­dian over­all was Sophi­anne Samson (CAN, CVM Sigma As­sur­ance) in 31st after an im­pres­sive 11th-place ride on home turf in Mont-Ste-Anne, with Macken­zie My­att (CAN, Team Canada) earn­ing Canada’s best Euro­pean re­sult with a 19th in An­dorra.

DOWN­HILL Elite Women

The Down­hill World Cup kicked off with a new Short Track on the rocky is­land of Los­inj, Croa­tia. The 2017 Elite women’s se­ries cham­pion Myr­iam Nicole (FRA, Com­men­cal/Vall­nord) rose to the oc­ca­sion, win­ning de­ci­sively by 3.5 sec­onds over Rachel Ather­ton (GBR, Trek Fac­tory Rac­ing), who strug­gled last year with in­juries. Ather­ton wasn’t far off, how­ever, and found her way to the top of the podium in four of seven rounds to cap­ture the ti­tle with her con­sis­tency. Tah­nee Sea­grave (GBR, Tran­si­tion Bikes/Muc-Off Fac­tory Rac­ing) quickly be­came Ather­ton’s clos­est ri­val, snap­ping up two wins and three top-three’s, but dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion at the third round in Leogang, Aus­tria haunted her when the fi­nal points were tal­lied, and she had to set­tle for sec­ond over­all.

The 2017 world cham­pion Mi­randa Miller (CAN, Spe­cial­ized) was the best-ranked Cana­dian, but she strug­gled to find her mojo all sea­son, scor­ing only two top-10’s in the fi­nal two rounds – eighth in Mont-Ste-Anne and 10th in La Bresse – to fin­ish the se­ries in

14th over­all.

Elite Men

The Elite men’s bat­tle for the Cup was one of the most ex­cit­ing of all time, with leg­end Aaron Gwin (USA, The YT Mob) charg­ing out of the gate to take the sea­son’s first vic­tory in Los­inj. After that, it was all about Amaury Pier­ron (FRA, Com­men­cal Vall­nord), who took the in­au­gu­ral World Cup win of his ca­reer at round two in Fort Wil­liam, Scot­land and fol­lowed it up with two more in Leogang and Val di Sole. At round five in An­dorra, an­other French­man earned his de­but World Cup win, Loris Vergier (FRA, Santa Cruz Syn­di­cate). Then in Mon­tSte-Anne, world cham­pion Loic Bruni (FRA, Spe­cial­ized) fi­nally found his way back to the top. After such a tu­mul­tuous sea­son, it was no sur­prise when En­duro spe­cial­ist Martin Maes (BEL, GT Fac­tory Rac­ing) turned ev­ery­thing on its ear to win the fi­nale in La Bresse. The fi­nal points tally awarded Pier­ron the crys­tal tro­phy for his amaz­ing sea­son. Mean­while, Finn Iles (CAN, Spe­cial­ized) had a break­out sea­son, punc­tu­ated by his first-ever Elite podium with a fifth place in An­dorra. He also cap­tured eighth in Val di Sole, be­hind fel­low Canuck Mark Wal­lace (CAN, Canyon) in sixth.

Ju­nior Women

Valentina Holl (AUT, SRAM Rock­Shox Fac­tory Rac­ing) com­pletely dom­i­nated the ju­nior women’s field, win­ning every sin­gle race by mas­sive mar­gins and post­ing times com­pet­i­tive with the Elites. Piper All­man (CAN, Ko­varik Rac­ing Magura Rider De­vel­op­ment) was the only Cana­dian to race a sin­gle World Cup, fin­ish­ing fourth in Mont-SteAnne and earn­ing enough points for 10th in the se­ries.

Ju­nior Men

The ju­nior men’s com­pe­ti­tion saw Thibaut Daprela (FRA, Com­men­cal Vall­nord) win five of seven races, with Kye A’Hern (AUS, Canyon) tak­ing two vic­to­ries. Daprela earned the se­ries ti­tle, while Canada’s Lu­cas Cruz (CAN, Santa Cruz Syn­di­cate) took the top Canuck spot in sev­enth over­all. He landed four top-10’s dur­ing his stel­lar sea­son, high­lighted by a fourth place in round one. Fel­low Canucks Ben Wal­lace (CAN, Ko­varik Rac­ing Magura Rider De­vel­op­ment), El­liot Jamieson (CAN, Norco) and Ken­dall McLean (CAN, Ko­varik Rac­ing Magura Rider De­vel­op­ment) also cracked the top-10 at points dur­ing the sea­son, show­ing strong po­ten­tial in the de­vel­op­ment ranks.

Emily Batty took home five con­sec­u­tive XCO podi­ums to claim third over­all.

Ha­ley Smith had a break­through sea­son with two top-10 re­sults.

Sean Fin­cham was 26th over­all in the U-23 men’s se­ries.

Finn­ley Iles earned his first Elite men’s podium in An­dorra.

Mi­randa Miller fin­ished 14th over­all.

Raphael Gagné: best re­sult on home soil in 25th at Mont-Ste-Anne

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