Team relay (XCR)
The mountain bike world championships were held at the end of June and at the beginning of July 2016 in Nové Město, Czech Republic. It was an important race in preparation of the Rio Olympics in August 2016 to see where everyone is standing.
During the Team Relay (XCR) on the 30th of June the French team consisting of Victor Koretzsky, Benjamin le Ny, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Jordan Sarrou appeared to be unbeatable. On their way to their 3rd consecutive title, they led from start to finish. The French finished in 59 minutes and 49 seconds. With this result, they were the only team to finish the competition in less than an hour.
In front of their home crowd, the Czech Republic grabbed the silver medal after a difficult start. After two laps the Czech Republic was in ninth place but a stunning ride from Katerina Nash took them up to the second place. Jaroslav Kulhavy managed to hold on to that position. The bronze medal was for Team Switzerland whose members also experienced a difficult start but steadily climbed up after being ninth after the first lap. In the final lap Lars Foster made the final step to the podium climbing from fourth to third.
A fun fact was that the three medal winning teams used the same starting order, starting with an U23 man, followed by a junior man and elite woman before concluding with an elite man.
Elite women (XCO)
On Saturday July 2nd the arena was for the elite women XCO race. With Danish Annika Langvad being victorious in the end. At the end of the first lap the race seemed to be decided already as a small group eight riders broke free from the rest of the bunch. Catharine Pendrel, Jolanda Neff, Linda Indergard, Katerina Nash, Emily Batty, Sabine Spitz, Maja Wloszczowska and Annika Langvad pulled away. This group quickly lost Spitz, Indergard and Neff later.
Langvad then showed off her climbing skills by dropping the others in the leading group. Wloszczowska moved into second after Pendrel could not follow her pace. 45 year old Spitz made an incredible recovery to move into third. Lea Davison bridged up to fourth followed by Batty and Pendrel. Moments after the start the race had already lost one of its favourites when Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa crashed together with Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. Dahle-Flesjaa broke her handlebars and had to drop out. Ferrand-Prevot who has had a difficult season recovering from injuries, managed to fight back, suffered a second crash but still finished in a respectable 18th place.
In the final lap disaster struck for the women riding in second and third. Both Wloszczowka and Spitz flatted, allowing the American Davison to take the silver medal. Batty climbed up to third but Wloszczowka came back into the final 400 metres setting the stage for a bronze medal sprint where Batty grabbed the third place with a bike throw on the line.
Batty: “I knew on this course you have to be at the front because there are so many places you can’t overtake,” Langvad said after winning her gold medal. “This year I feel so good. I arrived [at the Worlds] with lots of confidence and I kept everything together. I knew I didn’t have to overdo things, because I knew I was strong. When you’re at the front you can ride your own race and you can also make a few mistakes, because nobody rides this race on this course without making a few mistakes.”
Elite men (XCO)
One day later the men XCO race took place. With more than 23.000 spectators cheering for 2012 Olympic champion and home favourite Jaroslav Kulhavy the world championships week came to an exciting end. Switzerland’s Nino Schurter took the win, putting himself into an illustrious list of five time winners, joining in between others, bronze medallist Julien Absalon. However, as Schurter pointed out to the press: “There is still the matter of the two Olympic gold medals that Julien has, so I have some catching up to do.”
Jaroslav Kulhavy gave his home crowd a nice ending by grabbing the silver medal. In the beginning of the race Kulhavy was the first to attack followed by Schurter and countryman Ondrej Cink. Absalon had an easier start, gradually bridging up and joining the leading group halfway the race. One lap later Schurter placed his decisive attack, Kulhavy and Absalon tried to follow but couldn’t make it. Cink dropped to fourth quickly losing some time on the other two. Kulhavy and Absalon stayed together until the last lap. In the final Kulhavy managed to attack on one of the climbs on the lap finishing 17 seconds behind Schurter, with Absalon finishing 30 seconds behind Schurter.
“I’m super happy about this race, it was a nice win,” commented Schurter after the race. “It was a nearly perfect race for me. Jaroslav went fast out from the start and I was able to go with him and draft quite nicely behind him. When Absalon joined us I thought: ‘well, now it’s better to attack and see if the others could respond’. It is amazing, the crowd went wild when he [Kulhavy] came by. That’s really great atmosphere here. It is always nice to battle with Absalon, and the best feeling is to beat those two.”
All photos courtesy of MTBCROSSCOUNTRY.COM