Vlad Dascălu as seen racing at the 2022 UCI XCO World Cup race in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic.
© Bartek Woliński/@wolisphoto
Bike

Chasing success: a World Cup is within Vlad Dascălu's sights

Cross-country mountain bike athlete Vlad Dascălu is currently on a tear of sustained improvement and outstanding race results. This is how he's taken his racing to another level.
Written by Tom Ward
6 min readPublished on
At just 24, Vlad Dascălu is emerging as one of the most exciting names in the sport of men's cross-country mountain biking on the back of some impressive results since the middle-half of 2021. A seventh place at the Olympic race in 2021 was followed by a fourth at the World Championships and then a first-ever Elite podium at the 2021 Mercedes-Benz UCI Cross-country Mountain Bike World Cup season finale in Snowshoe, USA, where he sprinted to a hugely impressive second place finish.
The Romanian has continued to impress during the opening three rounds of the 2022 World Cup season. Two third placings and a second suggests that Dascălu is in currently in a rich vein of form as we go into the fourth round of the World Cup in Leogang, Austria this week.
Vlad Dascălu as seen at Albstadt's after race flower ceremony at the UCI XCO World Cup stop in Germany in 2022.

Dascălu being on the podium has been a familiar sight this season so far

© Bartek Woliński/@wolisphoto

So, with success building behind him, and now riding with factory trade team Trek Factory Racing since the start of 2022, could a first Elite World Cup win be on the horizon?
“Well, my first elite season was a bit challenging because of the pandemic,” Dascălu laughs, recounting that 2020 season. “I think I did maybe five races, which was hard. I’m the kind of rider who needs to race to push my limits. By the time I was starting to feel good, the 2020 season was already over.”
I’m the kind of rider who needs to race to push my limits
Luckily, 2021 allowed Dascălu to really get into the swing of things again, cultimating in that second place in Snowshoe. “It was the first season where I really felt that I had the time to get used to the new category and perform at my best,” he says. “The first part of the season was about improving my shape and boosting my confidence. The first time I really felt like I was performing well again was in Leogang, where I had a top 5 result. I realised then that I could podium.”
Vlad Dascălu as seen racing at the UCI XCO World Cup stop in Petropolis, Brazil, in 2022.

Dascălu is now fighting it out with the world's best regularly

© Bartek Woliński/@wolisphoto

The third place positions in Petropolis and Albstadt and a second place finish in Nove Mesto so far at this year's World Cup has given Dascălu a huge confidence boost, and a hunger to achieve more success.
All this despite this World Cup season starting rather ominously for Dascălu and his Trek Factory Racing team in that opening round in Petrópolis, Brazil. There were some health issues in Petropolis among his team-mates first-off that affected the participation of Evie Richards and Jolanda Neff in the racing there.
“It was a different environment to what we were used to,” Dascălu shrugs when reminded of that first race. “The team wasn’t doing so well, healthwise, but I felt very good on the track.”
Vlad Dascălu as seen at UCI XCO World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy on August 28, 2021

Dascălu has been a World and European Champion at U23 level

© Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

I love racing. I see myself doing this for a long time
At Friday's short track (XCC), disaster struck for Dascălu when his chain broke at the start of the race and he had to retire. He refused to let the retirement or not starting from the first few rows of the full length Olympic race dent his confidence for Sunday's race. A loss of focus – and the lead – on the last lap would see him eventually finish third, a very respectable result given the circumstances of the week in Brazil to that point.
“The last section was just single trail and it was impossible to overtake. I was close to the win, but I was really tired. I could see that I was doing things right, but it was a hard race.”
Vlad Dascălu as seen immediately after the end of the 2022 UCI XCO World Cup race in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic.

No relaxation here, it's Dascălu trying to get his breathing under control

© Bartek Woliński/@wolisphoto

The next two races, in Albstadt and Nové Město, Dascălu describes as tough but fun. Especially, Nové Město in the Czech Republic, where Dascălu battled with British racer Tom Pidcock for first place on the last lap, eventually coming second in a sprint to the line – equalling his highest ever World Cup finish.
“I made it to the front of the group pretty quickly, but I had some mechanical issues with my bike and had to stop to fix them,” Dascălu explains. “I lost some position, so from there on I was just trying to recover that time. The last lap I felt good, so I made it to the front again, but Pidcock was stronger than me in the end.”

2 min

XCO men's winning run – Nové Město

It all came down to a sprint finish in Nové Město at the men's cross-country race.

English

That Dascălu can shrug off this near miss is illustrative of his approach to the sport. If not this time, then next time. Bolstered by his new team he now had the confidence and training to push even harder – as is evidenced by his podiums.
“Joining the team opened more doors for me,” he explains. “Especially in terms of joining the team for training camps. We did one in December and one in January. It was a lot of hours. It really helped push my training. The bike set-up I have now makes things much easier too. When races are so close, everything counts, so it’s been a huge boost.”
Vlad Dascălu as seen racing at the 2022 UCI XCO World Cup race in Albstadt, Germany.

Dascălu battled back from a broken saddle in Albstadt to finish strongly

© Bartek Woliński/@wolisphoto

Vlad Dascălu as seen racing with Tom Pidcock at the 2022 UCI XCO World Cup race in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic.

At Nové Město Dascălu well and truly emptied the tank

© Bartek Woliński/@wolisphoto

Another thing that clicked this year is the impact of his team-mates Trek. Good team-mates can be a major help to an athlete and in Trek Factory Racing, Dascălu has found his tribe.
“I have great team-mates this year,” he says. “I learned a bit from all of them.” In particular he points to Jolanda Neff: the current women's Olympic champion, three-time overall World Cup Champion and the winner of 12 World Cups. “She’s very open,” he says. “She knows the races very well and wants to pass advice on.”
Riding with team-mates Anton Cooper and Riley Amos has also helped Dascălu discover different lines and new approaches, making him a more inventive and innovative rider. “It’s a great team,” he says.
Vlad Dascălu and Anton Cooper as seen at the end of the 2022 UCI XCO World Cup race in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic.

Vlad and Anton Cooper chew the fat after the end of the Nové Město XCO race

© Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

Asked whether the current momentum he's on will see him take that first World Cup win this season, Dascălu is hopeful. He admits that getting a World Cup win is his “biggest motivation.”
“I’m feeling good at the moment, but it’s going to be a long season. I’m trying to be at my best for each race, so hopefully I’ll be in the fight for the overall World Cup title.”
He’s likely to have plenty of chances in the coming years to win that title and many World Cups. In terms of the future, an Olympic podium and becoming World Champion are his two biggest goals. Beyond that? It’s all about enjoying the ride. “I see myself competing for as long as I can,” Dascălu enthuses. “I love racing. I see myself doing this for a long time. If I still enjoy it like I do now, I think I’ll be doing it for many, many years to come.”
See if Dascălu can grab that first World Cup win at the next round of the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Leogang by watching all the action on Red Bull TV.
Download the free Red Bull TV app and catch the MTB action on all your devices! Get the app here

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