Surprise wins and overall titles sealed at Snowshoe XCO World Cup
© Bartek Woliński
Learn the results, watch the replays and read our report on the racing from the seventh round of the Mercedes-Benz UCI MTB Cross-Country World Cup at the USA's Snowshoe Bike Park in West Virginia.
Snowshoe, West Virginia, was the setting for the final race of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz UCI MTB Cross-Country World Cup. Nino Schurter tied up the series overall with the XCC on Friday but, with the women's overall series title still to be decided, it was going to be a big race on home soil for American Kate Courtney in her battle with Jolanda Neff for those honours.
Women's XCO finals – Snowshoe
It’s been a season-long battle between Jolanda Neff and Kate Courtney for the overall title figth. Friday’s short track racing results saw the points lead by defending title holder Neff come down to a tantalising 20 points, meaning that the final would eventually crown the series leader for 2019. Would Courtney be able to take her first series title in front of a raucous home crowd?
Despite a second row start, Neff charged into an early lead with Courtney and a long string of riders in hot pursuit. A group of eight formed at the front featuring Jenny Rissveds, Annie Last, Anne Terpstra, Rebecca Mcconnell and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot. Courtney slipped into the lead position and Neff began drafting the American rider, sticking as close to her as possible and conserving energy after the quick start.
The group stuck together going into lap 2, but as they started the short climb before entering the forest it looked like Neff was in trouble. She quickly found herself being passed by the group and then uncharacteristically fell away from the leading pack. Furiously pushing a small gear, there appeared to be no power left. Dropping back so early in the race isn't what anyone expected to see from the Swiss rider. Before long a big chasing pack had caught up with her and as more riders passed, it seemed that her hopes of retaining her leader’s jersey were quickly diminishing.
Out in the front Courtney pushed hard, and it seemed that she knew that now was the perfect opportunity to put down space between herself and Neff. The front group worked well together, with everyone doing a bit of work.
British rider Last took to the setting the pace while Courtney preserved energy riding on the back wheel of the others, but as Last began to crank up the speed Courtney struggled to keep touch. The group hit the rough rock garden in unison while a bit further behind Courtney came in on her own. As the lap progressed Courtney struggled to hang on to the frontrunners.
Sweden’s Rissveds took the reins with Last in close proximity, the pace slowed a little and Courtney managed to briefly rejoin the pack but then Last took back over and upped the pace, leaving Courtney to again fall back.
Dutch rider Terpstra decided to take the race into her own hands in lap 5. Splitting away from the others, she pushed hard out the saddle with a trio of Rissveds, Ferrand-Prévot and Last putting in chase. Last struggled with the attack and found herself dropping back with Rissveds as Ferrand-Prévot surged forward trying to bridge the gap.
A flat tyre in lap 6 spelt disaster for Rissveds and as she passed through the centre of Snowshoe, Courtney pulled ahead of her into 5th place buoyed by the home crowd, while Rissveds had to slog her way to the next tech zone to get her wheel changed.
Ahead Terpstra rode unchallenged with the strung-out chasers of Ferrand-Prévot, Last and Mcconnell behind her. Ferrand-Prévot had Terpstra in her sights and slowly managed to close the gap.
As the duo approached the final punchy climb Ferrand-Prévot executed a sharp overtake, cutting Tersptra off and positioning herself in prime position. A sprint finish was evident. With 150m to go to the finish line Ferrand-Prévot was up and out the saddle sprinting away to victory.
Terpstra took second place, Last came in third, Mcconnell fourth. The crowd went wild as Courtney came over the line in fifth place. She’d gained enough points to take the overall title, a massive achievement to solidify a year of consistently strong performances.
UCI XCO World Cup Rd 7 Snowshoe Women's results
|1.||Pauline Ferrand-Prévot||1h 17m 51s|
|2.||Anne Terpstra||1h 17m 55s|
|3.||Annie Last||1h 18m 18s|
|4.||Rebecca McConnell||1h 18m 48s|
|5.||Kate Courtney||1h 19m 28s|
Men's XCO finals – Snowshoe
Nino Schurter may have wrapped up the men’s overall title already at Friday’s short track race but there was still a motivation for the Swiss eight-time World Champion in that if he won this race he would equal Frenchman Julien Absalon’s World Cup win record of 33 victories. Elsewhere, Brazil’s Henrique Avancini could move up to second overall if he won the race.
The nine-lap race got away cleanly with riders eager to get a good entry into the tight corner at the end of the start straight. Bottlenecks going into singletrack on the course did allow a group of eight riders to get away briefly. This group contained the likes of Schurter, Avancini, Titouan Carod, Lars Forster and Jordan Sarrou but also a few unfamiliar names like Brazil’s Henrique Cocuzzi and Norway’s Erik Hagestad.
The group’s pace slowed considerably on Lap 2 to allow the main field to catch them. For the next few laps the race lacked any real pace at the front of it; riders were happy to follow wheels and everyone seemed comfortable riding within their limits. The lead group numbered around 30 with the gap between the lead rider to the last man only about 17 seconds. It seemed riders were saving energy for later in the race.
On Lap 4, the race finally exploded. Avancini lost patience with the status quo of the big group and attacked off a corner out of small wooded climb on the course. Schurter predictably covered the move but others weren’t in the pack weren’t able to go with these two. Schurter and Avancini then gradually distanced themselves from the pack as the lap went on and then into Lap 5.
The old foes looked to have made the decisive move of this race but then Schurter indicated towards the end of Lap 5 that his rear tyre was going soft and would require a wheel change in the tech zone. That tyre change was duly done early on in Lap 6, leaving Avancini out at the front of his race on his own. Schurter dropped back into a big chasing group to Avancini, when he rejoined the race.
Avancini had a sizeable gap of 27 seconds on the chasing pack on Lap 7, though this was beginning to reduce. Schurter was injecting pace at the head of that pack and it was shortening the gap to the Brazilian.
The World Champion’s pace was whittling down the numbers of the chasing pack as well. By Lap 7, it now numbered a core of six: Schurter, Forster, French riders Victor Koretsky, Stéphane Tempier and Maxime Marrotte, and Germany's Manuel Fumic were part of the pack. By the end of this lap Schurter had got back on Avancini’s wheel, Forster and Fumic weren’t far behind them and by Lap 8 they'd joined Schurter and Avancini at the head of the race.
The pace slowed sufficiently that as the race started Lap 9, the final lap of the race, the lead pack had swelled to 7. Marotte, Tempier and Nadir Colledani of Italy were the riders to join the front four.
Fumic and Marotte are Avancini’s Cannondale teammates, while Forster is Schurter’s Scott-SRAM teammate. There seemed to be an air of teammates working together throughout this race and this was evident on this final lap. Fumic tried to take on the pace for Avancini and Marotte but crashed into the barriers on the first corner on the lap.
The confusion of the crash may have sidetracked Avancini and Marotte. Both were unable to respond to an attack by Schurter shortly after. Only Forster could get on Schurter’s wheel and the race was now a battle of the two teammates.
Schurter continued to control the race ahead of Forster during the finishing stages of the race. However, on a punchy climb before the finish, Forster nipped in front of his Swiss countryman to lead the climb. A perfect descent on the rock garden that followed saw Forster put seconds into Schurter.
The gap was enough for Forster to speed away from the World Champion. Forster crossed the finish line first to win by six seconds from Schurter. Despite not being able to match Absalon’s World Cup win record, Schurter seemed happy for Forster when he crossed the finish line.
Behind them, Avancini and Marotte battled for third place with Avancini slowing his pace to allow the Frenchman to finish third and allow Marotte to qualify for next year’s Olympics. Tempier came in fifth.