The two riders rode to victory on the cobbled streets of Haderslev, Denmark, after hard, fast racing.
Ferrand-Prévot’s XCM UCI World title comes after those recently won for cross-country Olympic (XCO) and cross-country short track (XCC).
Gaze, adds his XCM title to his XCC rainbow jersey and the XCO Commonwealth title he defended this summer in Birmingham, Great Britain.
How things started
With early autumnal sunshine welcoming the world’s best riders, the 120km men’s race started at 8.30am with the women setting off 20 minutes later for their 87km route.
142 men from 33 nations and 50 women from 21 countries lined up to compete for the rainbow jerseys in Denmark. Those countries were as diverse as Lesotho, Costa Rica, Namibia and New Zealand, along with many European nations represented in both men’s and women’s races.
The fields in both races were of high quality, including riders with UCI World, Olympic and Commonwealth titles as well as many XCM and XCO National Champions.
The course, around Haderslev, was designed to be as natural as possible, with flowing singletrack sections and few man-made technical interventions. The organisers had promised a fast pace and the athletes duly delivered.
Pauline makes history
An hour into the women’s race, Denmark’s Ann-Dorthe Lisbygd was setting the pace, leading her compatriots Caroline Bohé, Sofie Heby Pedersen and Malene Degn in a group that also included defending UCI World Champion Mona Mitterwallner (AUT), favourites Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA), Jolanda Neff (SUI) and Giada Specia (ITA), along with Britain’s Annie Last, the USA’s Lea Davison and Namibia’s Vera Looser.
It was Pedersen leading out a Danish 1-2-3, taking the bell to start the final 40km lap. Annie Last was the next jersey to show, along with Mitterwallner, 2019 UCI World Champion Ferrand-Prévot and Katazina Sosna of Lithuania joining the lead group as they came through the cobbled streets lined with fans.
Approaching the 3-hour mark, the selection was made with four leaders: Olympic XCO Champion Neff, the first British woman to medal at an XCM World Championships Last, 2022 UCI XCO and XCC World Champion Ferrand-Prévot and Under-23 World Championships medalist Pedersen flying the flag for Denmark. Mitterwallner, Bohé and Degn had been gapped by around 1 min.
Ultimately it was Ferrand-Prévot who won comfortable on the sprint in 03:36:58 with Last taking silver and Neff the bronze. Pedersen and Bohé finished fourth and fifth.
Sam shows his class
As the men’s race progressed, 2hrs in Mārtiņš Blūms of Latvia hit the front, leading the Danish pair of Simon Andreassen and Sebastian Fini Carstensen, who has shown such good form in the UCI XCO World Cup this season. They had company from an international group including UCI World ranked number 6 Hans Becking (NED), Hugo Drechou (FRA), Marc Stutzmann (SUI) and New Zealand’s Sam Gaze, who recently defended his Commonwealth XCO title. With them were members of the German team working together: Sascha Weber, Lukas Baum, Simon Stiebjahn and XCM UCI World ranked no 3 Martin Frey.
More riders were looking to join the lead group, such as Denmark’s Tobias Lillelund, who fought his way up from a 17th-row start, Italy’s Fabian Rabensteiner and ultimately defending UCI World Champion Andreas Seewald (GER).
As the men took the bell for the final lap, the pace increased, and the group started to thin. Into the last 30km, 2022 XCC UCI World Champion Sam Gaze made the break, going 16 sec clear of Fini Carstensen, Andreassen, Weber, Baum and Becking. The New Zealander – known for his fast sprint finish – extended his advantage before Seewald bridged across to join him, and the pair pulled away almost a minute clear of the chasers.
In the last 2km, Gaze (an Alpecin-Deceuninck team-mate of Mathieu Van der Poel on the road) pulled away from the German and soloed across the line in 04:16:51, 16-sec clear of Seewald in silver. The biggest cheer came for 24-year-old Andreassen (a double Junior XCO UCI World Champion) winning the sprint for bronze ahead of a German trio and ensuring a Danish medal on a day the nation was well represented throughout.
But the day belonged to Sam Gaze and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot showing their strength and versatility to make history.