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Season ends as Snowshoe hosts Cross-Country World Cup festival
The finale of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup season in Snowshoe, USA, was full of action. Watch the replays and catch up on the moments that made the racing here.
Snowshoe in West Virginia, USA, was the setting for the final race of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Cup. The women's overall World Cup title had already been decided at the last round in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, but there was still the men's to be settled going into the short track races in Snowshoe.
Watch replays of the XCO action from Snowshoe
Get the results from the cross-country race in Snowshoe and the overall standings for the World Cup here.
Evie Richards enjoyed the perfect weekend
While most of the women’s field seemed to be dropping with fatigue, Evie Richards looked like she was just getting into her stride. Tokyo was an added bonus to her season, not a goal, leaving her free to build up to late-season strength. First came her World Championships win, then a World Cup at Lenzerheide to dispel any thoughts that her Rainbow stripes were a fluke, followed by back-to-back wins at Snowshoe in both the Short Track (XCC) and main cross-country races.
Women's XCC finish – Snowshoe
At Sunday’s cross-country final, Richards took the lead early from lap three after Rebecca McConnell had to pit and change wheels for a front puncture. She then kept it and extended it, finally crossing the line a full minute and 31 seconds ahead of McConnell.
So is she tired? Apparently not – after all, she’s switching into the cyclo-cross race season straightaway now that cross-country has finished for the year.
The battle in women's XCC was all about moving up in the overall standings
The final XCC race of the season wasn’t just a chance for a final podium; it was also an opportunity to gain vital points that could boost one of a number of hopefuls up the overall standings into second and third place behind Loana Lecomte.
With Lecomte choosing not to race in Snowshoe, and a wealth of closely matched racing talent, it was always going to be a close, intense event. Closely bunched together for most of the race were Jenny Rissveds, Richards, McConnell, Linda Indergand and Jolanda Neff. Fate dealt an unfortunate hand to Kate Courtney in the third lap with a hard crash that took her out of contention.
Rissveds, Neff and Richards fought it out at the sharp end of the race going into the final lap, but one herculean effort by Richards on the final steep climb gave her a slight but significant gap, and the others had no answer. Richards jumped from fifth to third in the overall standings. Neff finished two seconds behind the Brit, with Rissveds five seconds behind.
Exhaustion took its toll on the women
The mental and physical fatigue that riders build up over the course of a gruelling season always starts to show by the last race of the year, and 2021 has been especially hard. Many riders will have had to attempt to peak for Tokyo, and then the disruption of 2020 put training cycles out of whack. And of course immediately after that came the World Championships.
Little wonder then that fatigue and injury took riders out of the equation for Snowshoe. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, who won at Snowshoe the last time it featured in the season back in 2019, opted out of traveling to the USA completely. Likewise Loana Lecomte, who through her incredible early season victories had already done enough to secure the World Cup overall title for 2021. Emily Batty also opted out.
Victor Koretzky can't stop winning
What a season this has been for Victor Koretzky. Hot on the heels of his second World Cup win of the season in Lenzerheide, the Frenchman has added a first win in the XCC after winning that race in Snowshoe.
Snowshoe XC short track recap
Koretzky's strong form and confidence was apparent from the start, leading out contenders on the first lap. As he did when he won the main race at Lenzerheide, he waited for his moment to strike on the last lap in a tactical masterclass. Attacking on a small climb, Koretzky got in front of Henrique Avancini and had enough of a gap thereafter to take the win. Will the win be Koretzky's swan song in cross-country? He's rumoured to have signed a deal with French Pro Cycling team B&B HOTELS to race on the road from 2022, so we may see less of him at the World Cup next year.
No drama for Mathias Flückiger in the chase for the overall title
Mathias Flückiger just needed to finish in the top 12 in the men’s XCC race to secure the overall World Cup title, and he delivered a fifth-place finish to wrap up the title without it going to the main race. Flückiger went about his business professionally, just doing enough to be at the front of the race. It was just as well for the Swiss world champion because in the main race he suffered a rear flat tyre that put him right at the back of the field.
How Rebecca McConnell nearly won
If there’s one rider who looked like she could deny Richards the final win of the season, it was Australian Rebecca McConnell. She pulled ahead of Richards in the first lap and was pushing hard from there, upping the pace and tearing the field apart. But while Richards was close behind, a gap was opening up.
Then disaster struck. A front tyre puncture meant a pit stop for McConnell, and while mechanics rushed to swap in a new front wheel, she dropped four places down the pack. Incredibly, she managed to blast back up the field over the course of one incredible lap, starting lap four only 37 seconds behind Richards. But that kind effort comes at a cost, and while she managed to keep second place, over the course of three very lonely laps the gap between Richards and McConnell increased, possibly due to a slow rear puncture further hampering her efforts. The Australian has had her most consistent World Cup season yet and a World up win surely can’t be far off.
Christopher Blevins became a mountain biking hero
Not many people would have known who Christopher Blevins was before this race, even those watching course side in Snowshoe. Plenty will know about him now though after he took an unexpected win in Sunday’s men’s cross-country race.
The American is the new short track World Champion of course but that win in Val di Sole, Italy, a few weeks ago also came as a shock. Blevins, who is in his first year out of the U23s had shown no inkling that he could race with the big boys of men’s cross-country in any previous World Cup round this year. Clearly, he's in good condition and there’s plenty of power in his legs. After winning the short track Worlds in Val di Sole, he jumped on to a road bike and raced the Tour of Britain, an eight-day stage race.
Blevins was part of a big lead front group in this race that formed early on. He sat in the group for most of the race, not going to the front in a bid to conserve energy. Those were his tactics. When attacks came, he followed them easily. The race for the win exploded on the final lap and the six strong lead group buckled under the pace of Nino Schurter at the front. Blevins followed and managed to squeeze in front of Schurter on a turn. Once past he put the power down and never looked back and took victory. In winning he became the first American man since Tinker Juarez in 1994 to win a cross-county World Cup round.
Men's XCO finish – Snowshoe
A best-ever finish for Vlad Dascălu
A bit like Blevins, Vlad Dascălu played a canny game in the men's race. The Romanian was part of the lead group from early on but hid himself away, playing the quiet game. When the action exploded at the front of the lead group on the last lap, Dascălu had the energy to be in the mix, and though he couldn’t live with Blevins pace, he made sure he got past a slowing Nino Schurter, who had a puncture, at the right moment to at least give him a chance of being on Blevins tail.
He didn’t catch the American, but second place builds on the fifth place he scored in Leogang, Austria, and that seventh in Tokyo. That represents steady progress for the 23-year-old who has youth on his side to achieve even better results in years to come.