Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup: McConnell and Pidcock win in Albstadt

Rebecca McConnell (AUS) and Thomas Pidcock (GBR) won the Elite races of the second round of the 2022 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Albstadt, Germany, after Line Burquier (FRA) and Martin Vidaurre Kossmann (CHI) had claimed the Under-23 races, just as they did in the first round.

In the familiar setting of Albstadt, a newly worked course provided high level climbing and descending challenges for all riders, with the final races all in dry, fast conditions after rain earlier in the week.

“It’s just incredible,” said Rebecca McConnell. “This time I had a little bit of time to think about what’s going on… but there are no words for this. The plan was to enjoy every moment of today, to enjoy this time wearing the leader’s jersey with number 1 on the bike.”

“We set off really fast in the first few laps, Nino was pushing really hard,” said Tom Pidcock. “I thought I’d test the water and see where everyone was really at… and pulled a gap.”

XCC: Antipodean advantage

Albstadt saw a quickfire Antipodean attack as New Zealand’s Sam Gaze and Australia’s Rebecca McConnell took the XC Short Track wins.

Wearing the no 1 plate McConnell’s pride wasn’t misplaced as she looked every inch the world’s best form rider, outsprinting multiple XCO UCI World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA), ahead of former Olympic Champion Jenny Rissveds (SWE), Alessandra Keller (SUI) and reigning Olympic Champion Jolanda Neff (SUI).

Gaze made an impressive and welcome comeback from injury and illness to take the win from 2020 UCI World Champion Jordan Sarrou (FRA), nine-time XCO UCI World Champion Nino Schurter, with Luca Schwarzbauer (GER) taking a brilliant fourth place on his home course, and Henrique Avancini freed from the pressure of his home race in round one, rounding out the top five.

U23: Vidaurre Kossmann and Burquier dominate

Saturday’s Under-23 XCO races saw repeat victories for the class acts Line Burquier and Martin Vidaurre Kossmann, following their victories at the first round in Petropolis, Brazil.

In Albstadt, Burquier looked dominant, stretching out a lead, and ending the four-lap race with a 1-minute advantage over Puck Pieterse (NED). Sofie Pedersen (NED) finished a further 39sec back, and there were similar gaps out to the fourth and fifth placed riders, Olivia Onesti (FRA) and Giada Specia (ITA).

The U23 men’s race was a little closer but still a dominant lead became a dominant winning margin for the Chilean Vidaurre Kossmann who finished the five-lap race 37sec ahead of Brazil’s Gustavo Xavier De Oliveira Pereira, who has just arrived at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle (Switzerland), where he will train until the end of the season. The Brazilian finished just in front of Switzerland’s Dario Lillo, who was followed by his compatriots Luca Schatti, Simon Walter and Luke Wiedmann.

Elite Women XCO: McConnell’s perfect result

Rebecca McConnell – in the white of the UCI XCO World Cup leader after her win in Brazil’s XCO, and this week’s XCC – pushed on the first of four laps, eking out a couple of seconds from Sweden’s Jenny Rissveds and a bigger gap to Anna Terpstra (NED) and the French pair of Loana Lecomte in the National Champion colours and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot in the European Champion’s jersey, along with Alessandra Keller (SUI), Mona Mitterwallner (Austria’s reigning U23 XCO and Elite XCM UCI World Champion) and Hungarian champion Kata Blanka Vas coming through with the chasing pack.

Rissveds (who missed the season’s first UCI World Cup in Brazil) caught the Australian, and the pair developed a greater advantage of up to 50 sec over the chasing group, now joined by Sina Frei, with her Swiss compatriots Jolanda Neff and Linda Indergand also in contention along with Caroline Bohé (DEN).

By lap three Lecomte, Ferrand-Prévot, Mitterwallner and Keller formed the reduced chasing group, with the 21-year-old Austrian pushing to reduce the gap to 37sec. An attack on a climb and different choices through the Shimano Dual Line section saw the Swede take the front, the duo’s battle stretching their lead as Mitterwallner continued to respond, bringing Lecomte with her. Keller closed in after the Frenchwoman slipped on a boardwalk section.

McConnell repaid the favour, attacking Rissveds in the same place on the penultimate lap, and she didn’t look back! As Keller tired, the gap from the leading pair to the chasing pair went out again to almost 1min. While Rissveds had the fastest first lap, McConnell was fastest on the fourth, starting the final circuit leading the Swede by 38sec and 1.05 to Mitterwallner, who still had Lecomte for company. And that was the final top four, with Keller happy to round out the top five, and Austria’s Laura Stigger just stealing into 6th place from Ferrand Prévot in a photo-finish sprint.

Following victory in the first round in Petropolis, the confidence, tactics, form and execution were all perfect for Rebecca McConnell as she won the XCO in a time of 1.19.39, making a ‘perfect weekend’ after her XCC victory, only the fifth woman to achieve this.

Elite Men XCO: Pidcock packs a punch

After Nino Schurter led late in the start lap, Henrique Avancini pushed to the front on a climb during the first full lap of six. For company they had Romanian Vlad Dascalu (who had already been on the podium this season in Brazil), Olympic Champion Tom Pidcock, the French pair of Titouan Carod and 2020 UCI XCO World Champion Jordan Sarrou and the Swiss trio: Mathias Flückiger, Filippo Colombo and Thomas Litscher.

After a threat of rain late in the first lap and a mechanical issue for Dascalu on lap two, it was the Swiss rivals of 2021 UCI World Cup overall winner Flückiger and Schurter (on a joint record 33 XCO Elite UCI Worlds Cup wins) who pushed the pace, before Pidcock, ‘road fit’ from his illness-affected Classics campaigns with Ineos Grenadiers attacked early on lap three, gaining a 10sec advantage over the Swiss duo on the big climb which he doubled by the end of the lap. Only Carod and South Africa’s Alan Hatherly were in touch with them, regrouping to work together as a quartet.

Pidcock doubled his advantage again to 40 sec as Flückiger punctured late on lap four, reducing the chasing group to three. On the penultimate lap, Dascalu reeled the trio in, Spain’s Davis Valero trying to go with him, but not quite able to hold the pace. Carod reacted, pulling away, with Schurter sticking to his wheel, and early in the final lap Dascalu dragged Hatherly back to briefly return the chasing group of four before the South African faded.

As the Yorkshireman enjoyed the final climb in the Swabian Jura mountains, Schurter attacked, Dascalu shadowed him and Carod was dropped. Pidcock wheelied over the line for his second UCI Mountain Bike World Cup win with a 20-sec gap to Schurter and Dascalu. In the battle for fifth Valero and Sarrou both passed Hatherly. Wearing no 13, unlucky Flückiger rolled in 13th.