Hot on the heels of the high-speed, high altitude racing last weekend in Andorra’s Vallnord –Pal Arinsal, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup double-header continues at the classic Alpine destination of Les Gets, 12-14 July. Reaching halfway in both competitions, with French riders dominant in DH on home soil and just a few miles from the border with Switzerland – land of the leading XCO protagonists – we’re at the epicentre of 2019 MTB action.
The third round of the World Cup was undoubtedly tough; heat and altitude pushing the athletes to their limits in the XCO.
XCO Men Elite
With series leader and winner of the previous round, Mathieu Van der Poel, choosing not to race, it was Swiss one-two in the Men Elite XCO as Nino Schurter beat Mathias Flückiger (who hit a fence early on) by just two seconds. The Brazilian Henrique Avancini, who won the XCC to qualify first for the XCO, finished a close third. Italy’s Gerhard Kerschbaumer took fourth with Frenchman Jordan Sarrou fifth.
Some riders suffered from altitude combined with the heat, including early leader Ondrej Cink: the Czech pitting in distress, and falling back before recovering to finish tenth.
"It was a super tough one," said Schurter. "I had a stupid mistake on the first descent; I crashed, and then it took me a while to get into my rhythm again. I think this is the hardest race.”
Six-time UCI World Cup overall winner Schurter leads the Men Elite standings with 835 points from Flückiger on 755. Staying on 700 points, Van der Poel drops to third, with Avancini (655) closing in and Sarrou solid on 553 points.
XCO Women Elite
We celebrate a new winner in the Women Elite XCO, and a less familiar first five. A dry, dusty Vallnord was the backdrop for Anne Terpstra’s first UCI World Cup win – and the first ever for a Dutch woman – elevating the 28-year-old to third overall.
“I didn't expect this, but I wanted to take a risk, so I'm very, very happy... I gave everything I had," said Terpstra.
Altitude seemed played a part again, with the early leaders fading, including Kate Courtney (winner in Germany and Czech Republic) who finished eighth. Her chief rival, 2018 overall UCI World Cup winner Jolanda Neff, finished second, 38 seconds back, after winning the XCC ahead of Alessandra Keller and Courtney. With Ukraine’s Yana Belomoina claiming her second podium of 2019, 32-year-old Mexican Olympian Daniela Campuzano Chavez Peon took fourth. Many were happy to see Jenny Rissveds in fifth, the Olympic Champion bouncing back after a break with mental health issues: "If you believe in yourself, you can go so far,” said the Swede.
In the XCO Women Elite UCI World Cup overall standings, Courtney remains top with 890 points, her advantage over Neff reduced to 75 points. Terpstra’s victory takes her to 645 points meaning she leapfrogs her compatriot Anne Tauber (seventh in Andorra, on 499) into third place. Former U23 UCI World Cup overall winner Belomoina is up to fifth from ninth, with 486.
The Vallnord – Pal Arinsal DHI track is steep – that’s part of its appeal for fans and riders – but the speed and gradient coupled with the fine, dusty, moving surface resulted in a lot of thrills and spills this year as riders pushed for their best possible times. Some hit them, others hit the deck. Some, incredibly, seemed to manage both!
DHI Men Elite
After four DHI rounds, triple UCI World Champion Loïc Bruni is starting to look masterful – but the Men Elite is anyone’s game with half the points still up for grabs.
Frenchman Bruni took his third win of the season in Andorra: “It was super scary,” he admitted afterwards. He reversed last year’s positions with his compatriot Loris Vergier whose storming run looked hard to better. Troy Brosnan ( winner in Vallnord Pal Arinsal in 2017) maintained his record of finishing in the top three this year despite a big crash in practice. Amaury Pierron took fourth and Danny Hart (2016 winner) fifth. American Aaron Gwin also crashed, injuring his shoulder and unable to start.
Going into Les Gets it’s the top five from Andorra, including three Frenchmen, who lead the Men Elite overall standings: Bruni has 765 points, Australian Brosnan is on 700 while in third is Pierron with 605. Great Britain’s Hart has 565, while Vergier maintains a threat in fifth place with 482 points.
DHI Women Elite
With 2018 Women Elite winner Tahnee Seagrave sidelined through injury, the experienced Rachel Atherton, despite slips and slides, dealt best with the conditions to repeat her 2015 and 2013 victories. As the Britton’s 39th win was her 74th podium finish she now tops the all-time podium leaderboard. At the other end of the scale, 22-year-old Marine Cabirou’s raw talent saw her come second. Even with a fall, Tracey Hannah took third, almost 5 seconds back. The impressive Nina Hoffmann got sufficiently snarled up to lose a shoe halfway down, yet still crossed the line fourth.
After four rounds the Women Elite is led by Australia’s consistent Hannah on 790 points from Atherton (730). Cabirou lies in third with 640 points; the emerging German talent Hoffmann is closing in (585), with Italy’s Veronika Widmann rounding out the top five on 407.
The temperature may drop for Les Gets next weekend, but the competition will be as intense as ever at the French venue in the heart of mountain biking.