XCO report & highlights from Val di Sole

Relive the men's and women's cross-country races from Val di Sole.

© Sven Martin

The World Cup season opener could most definitely have been described as shaky for two of the big guns in the men’s, Julien Absalon and Nino Schurter.

But at the second round they put on a display that stamped their authority on the series, making it obvious that they are going to be big contenders in 2013. In the women’s competition there are a few more unknowns. Eva Lechner is returning to form, taking the win at the first round whilst Tanja Zakelj has found a whole new level, claiming her first podium followed by her first win.

The Val di Sole course is a test to all that ride it, with its short sharp climbs and tricky descents. A challenge that was made harder by temperatures of around 30˚C which saw riders donning ice vests before the start of the races.

In the women's race, Catharine Pendrel went off strong but was unable to hold onto to the lead as Zakelj, Nash and Gunn-Rita Dahle closed her down at the end of lap two. Zakelj and Nash then battled it out for the rest of the race, swapping the lead until the final lap where it was Zakelj who pushed on to take her second World Cup win in a row.

Emily Batty put in a strong solo ride to move up from fifth at the end of lap one into third by the end of the race. Adelheid Morath also moved up to take fourth ahead of a tiring Dahle and Pendrel.

© Sven Martin

The men’s race was far more focussed on two individuals. Finishing the start loop in tenth, it wasn’t long before Julien Absalon moved up to take the lead with Nino Schurter.

Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy realised that the intensity of the pace at the front was going to be too much for him in the heat and settled into a rhythm that would see him comfortably control and maintain third place. Schurter and Absalon then set about a game of chess, each testing the other to try and break each other’s resolve.

Behind them and Kulhavy, the Flückiger brothers worked together to reel in and overtake Marco Fontana in fourth place. Coming into the last lap, Schurter and Absalon had built up a substantial lead of about two minutes.

With the last straight approaching there was nothing between them but Schurter went for an early sprint 150 metres from the line. With such a turn of pace so early on, Absalon couldn’t respond. Having power like that left after such a gruelling race, Nino Schurter demonstrated just what impeccable form he is in and why he is now leading the series.

Men’s

1. Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower) 1:32:47
2. Absalon Julien (BMC) +0:03
3. Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing) +1:57
4. Mathias Flückiger (Stöckli Pro Team) +2:28
5. Lukas Flückiger (BMC) +2:28
6. Daniel McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) +2:32
7. Marco Fontana (Cannondale) +3:31
8. José Hermida (Multivan Merida) +3:31
9. Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida) +4:19
10. Ondrej Cink (Multivan Merida) +4:40

Women’s

1. Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools Team) 1:36:37
2. Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) +0:20
3. Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) +0:50
4. Adelheid Morath (Sabine Spitz Haibike) +1:34
5. Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) +1:59
6. Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team) +2:58
7. Esther SüssWheeler (IXS) +3:08
8. Lea Davison (Specialized) +3:14
9. Katrin Leumann (Ghost) +3:26
10. Alexandra Engen (Ghost) +4:04