The 2017 World Cup season concluded with the cross-country racers taking to the valley of the sun. The World Cup overall titles had already been decided in Mont-Sainte-Anne at the start of August, but there was plenty to race for as riders search for form with the World Championships just two weeks away.
Men’s XCO finals
With the World Cup series overall already tied up by Nino Schurter the question at Val di Sole was whether the Swiss rider could complete the perfect season by winning all six World Cup races in a season.
If there was any pressure on Schurter he wasn’t showing it as he took to the front along with Titouan Carod and Manuel Fumic after a fast and furious start to the race's opening loop. Fumic and Schurter pulled away during lap one, only for disaster to strike Fumic as the chain came off his bike. Schurter took full advantage and pulled away, with many riders then passing Fumic.
By the second lap, there was a chasing group that contained Carod, Stéphane Tempier, Jordan Sarrou, Thomas Litscher, Florian Vogel and Jaroslav Kulhavý, with Schurter just up ahead. Sensing an opportunity to join Schurter, Tempier upped his pace to reach the current World Champion up front.
Tempier and Schurter soon settled into a rhythm with their pace distancing the chasing group behind them. Litscher briefly made a break from the chasing group on lap three, but couldn’t maintain the pace and soon settled back into the group during the following lap.
The make-up of the chasing group was ever-changing with riders joining, while others were dropped. Lap four saw that that group whittled down to just five riders. Litscher, Kulhavý and Vogel had been joined by Lars Förster and Julien Absalon. The Frenchman had quietly but effectively made his way up the field.
Up front on lap four there was momentary drama as Schurter’s front wheel slipped away from him on a descent which saw him down and off his bike, but Tempier failed to take any proper advantage and Schurter soon caught up with the Frenchman.
There was no danger of the chasing group catching Schurter and Tempier and these two continued to put time into that group. On lap seven, the last of the race, Tempier tried as hard as he could to break away from Schurter, but it was Nino who in the end put the hurt on Tempier on the final climb to break away and roll in as the winner. Tempier followed soon after, only four seconds down.
Behind them the race for third also took a decisive turn on the last lap, with Absalon breaking away from the chasing group along with Förster. His BMC team-mate couldn’t hold Absalon’s wheel however and the Frenchman crossed the line third. Kulhavý caught Förster on the finish line to take fourth.
However, this race was all about Nino Schurter and his perfect World Cup season of six wins out of six races. The first time this has been done in World Cup Cross-Country racing and a feat that's unlikely to be repeated. With his second here, Tempier jumped to into second place in the overall World Cup series with Maxime Marotte in third place.
Men's XCO results Val di Sole
1h 24m 30s
1h 24m 34s
1h 25m 17s
1h 25m 23s
1h 25m 24s
Men's overall standings 2017
David Valero Serrano
Women's XCO finals
There were ice vests and umbrellas aplenty as the women lined up in Val di Sole, Italy, ahead of the cross-country finals. Despite rain overnight, the venue was living up to its name as 'the valley of the sun' with hot weather potentially going to be a hinderance for some riders today. However, with the track now more packed after days of dusty practice, there was no doubt that it would be a fast and furious finals.
Returning to the lineup were Kross team-mates Jolanda Neff and Maja Włoszczowska, both sporting injuries - Neff recovering from a shoulder injury, while Włoszczowska had a broken wrist strapped up with a support.
Neff's shoulder didn't appear to give her many issues and in her typical race style she sprinted out front for the start lap, securing the lead and setting the pace for the field.
Riders were closely bunched for the initial laps with a string of experienced contenders all vying for Neff's position. The leading group made up of Catharine Pendrel, Gunn-Rita Dahle, Annika Langvad, Yana Belomoina and Irina Kalentyeva were keeping the pressure on the Swiss rider as she attempted to pull away.
By the third lap, Neff's relentless pace had spread out the frontrunners, with only Belomoina able to keep up.
As the race progressed and the duel between Belomoina and Neff continued, the pressure was on for the chasing pack. With the overall standings in the women's field being so close, every point was going to affect positions on the overall standings.
Kalentyeva, Włoszczowska and Langvad formed the main chasing group as Pendrel dropped back and Dahle was joined by Adelheid Morath.
Neff kept taking advantage of the descents and began to open up a gap between herself and Belomoina – the Ukrainian fought hard to claw back the time on the climbs, but Neff's relentless pace became untouchable in the Italian heat.
Neff crossed the line with a 12-second advantage and took her first win of 2017, which will be a welcome boost to her confidence ahead of the World Championships.
Belomoina came in second place and, having already secured the overall title in Mont Sainte-Anne, was clearly happy with her result. Włoszczowska and her broken wrist miraculously managed to place third and secured the points she needed to claim second in the overall title.
Women's XCO results Val di Sole
1h 26m 58s
1h 27m 19s
1h 28m 07s
1h 28m 18s
1h 28m 41s
Women's overall standings 2017
Focus now turns to the World Championships in Cairns where Nino Schurter and Yana Belomoina be looking for just one more win to add to their great seasons so far.