The cross-country elite may be very familiar with Lenzerheide as a race location, but this 2019 experience offered something new. The Swiss venue for Rd 6 of the 2019 World Cup series was hosting its very first XCC short track race. The World Championships took place in Lenzerheide last year, so the XCC course here was very much an unknown quantity, but a long climb and a technical descent would give the riders much to think about. Scroll down for the replay of the racing action.
XC short track – Lenzerheide
The fans had come out in their droves for the evening XCC racing in Lenzerheide, with fan favourite Jolanda Neff getting a big cheer as she approached the start, now wearing the series leader's jersey. This race would be important for the overall World Cup standings, with Neff sitting just 33 points ahead of Kate Courtney.
With the short track racing being so fast and furious, positions were important from the start and Neff showed her intentions by speeding away from the field.
Coming into the climb, a group of five formed at the front, led by Rebecca Mcconnell and featuring Neff, Linda Indergand, Kathrin Stirnemann and Courtney. The frontrunners were soon joined by Jenny Rissveds,who made her way through from the back to a prime position. This was the first time she'd qualified to take part in an XCC race, but the Swede took her only World Cup win at Lenzerheide back in 2016, so the course holds good memories and suits her riding well.
The loose gravel corner right after the start caught out Courtney on Lap 3, as she washed out her front wheel and lost places.
She recovered before the lap was over, joining the leading group of seven riders that had added Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, Anne Terpstra, Anne Tauber and Alessandra Keller into the mix, as Stirenman and Indergand dropped back.
Positions changed quickly at the front, with a number of riders all vying to take the lead. Mcconnell and Keller did a lot of work driving the pace, while further back Neff and Courtney seemed content to sit in the pack.
The leading group gained two new additions who would shake up the standings, as Chloe Woodruff and Elisabeth Brandau made their way forward. Brandau then used the climb on Lap 7 to make an attack, passing Tauber, who'd been briefly leading, to get herself in prime position for the short downhill.
Upping the pace, Brandau began to stretch out the group of 10 and only Ferrand-Prévot, Keller and Neff were able to keep up with her. At the back of the leading group sat Courtney, who looked to be struggling.
Brandau kept the high speed going into Lap 8, with Ferrand-Prévot, Neff, Rissveds and Mcconnell managing to stick with the German's high pace. Brandau began sprinting and as she hit the asphalt towards the finish line she punched the air in jubilation, only for the rest of the field to ride on by. Collapsing next to her bike in exhaustion, she looked both devastated and frustrated as she realised there was still one more lap of the race to go.
Brandau's error handed Ferrand-Prévot the lead of the pack of four into the climb. Side-by-side with Neff, the two battled to be the first to the top, but Neff couldn't match the Frenchwoman's pace. Behind them, Rissveds and Tauber followed closely and even further back an exhausted Brandau climbed back on her bike to finish the race.
Approaching the final straight, Ferrand-Prévot initiated the sprint. Neff responded, but once again the Frenchwoman's power would be too much to match. Neff came home in second, with Rissveds third and Tauber fourth. Exhausted, they collapsed to the floor, trying to recover from such an intense race.
Speaking to the camera after the race, Ferrand-Prévot explained how a crash in the first lap had left her back in the pack and that she'd had to fight really hard to get back to the front of the race.
Courtney crossed the line in ninth place, while Brandau reappeared in 21st. The second place finish for Neff now puts her 83 points ahead of Courtney in the fight for the overall World Cup title, leaving everything to play for as we wait for the finals on Sunday. Ferrand-Prévot's win puts her into third place in the overall.
UCI XCO World Cup Rd 6 Women's XCC results
|1.||Pauline Ferrand-Prévot||21m 38s|
|2.||Jolanda Neff||21m 38s|
|3.||Jenny Rissveds||21m 39s|
|4.||Anne Tauber||21m 40s|
|5.||Chloe Woodruff||21m 47s|
|6.||Rebecca McConnell||21m 48s|
|7.||Anne Terpstra||21m 49s|
|8.||Alessandra Keller||21m 50s|
When Mathieu Van der Poel is on the start of a short track race, he usually wins them. The Dutchman has won every XCC race he's competed in this year and was overwhelming favourite on this fresh, new course.
After an opening start loop that saw Jordan Sarrou making the running, what would be a 10-lap race started in earnest.
Nino Schurter had intimated pre-race that he would take it easy in the short track in order to concentrate on the main race on Sunday, but tested his legs on Lap 2 with an attack on the main field. It was nothing substantial enough to get away completely, though.
The field regrouped by the start of Lap 3, but Schurter, Van der Poel and Henrique Avancini upped the pace on the long climb to create a leading group. Again, though, the gap to those behind them wasn't great. By Lap 5, the pace at the front had slowed and a big group of riders formed.
Midway on this course there's part of the track that's quite wide and in previous laps it was a place where riders could get past others to gain position. Avancini attacked in this area on Lap 6, with Schurter and Van der Poel going with him. The attack was enough to whittle down the field and Sarrou and Maxime Marotte did their best to try and stay in contact with those three.
Schurter used the same area of the course to attack the next lap, but couldn't shake Van der Poel and Avancini. Behind this trio, Marrote had managed to distance Sarrou. Van Der Poel now took to the front of the race, but the pace slowed enough to allow Marotte to join them on Lap 8. An attack by Schurter on the same lap came to nothing, but the continual attacks meant the rest of the field were nowhere to be seen.
The explosive power that Van der Poel possesses was clearly playing on Avancini and Schurter's minds. On Lap 9, the Dutchman put in attack that seemed a mere leg loosener, which had clearly hurt both rivals, but not enough to break them.
Avancini was determined to make sure that he was the first to attack on the last lap, but Van der Poel had the measure of him, countered and rode away. Schurter couldn't respond to the upping of the pace of either man.
Van der Poel knew he had a big enough gap over Avancini behind and rolled across the line to take the win. Schurter took third place, with Marotte coming in fourth and Luca Braidot of Italy in fifth.
UCI XCO World Cup Rd 6 Men's XCC results
|1.||Mathieu Van der Poel||20m 7s|
|2.||Henrique Avancini||20m 8s|
|3.||Nino Schurter||20m 12s|
|4.||Maxime Marotte||20m 15s|
|5.||Luca Braidot||20m 16s|
|6.||Manuel Fumic||20m 17s|
|7.||Victor Koretsky||20m 21s|
|8.||Titouan Carod||20m 22s|