As the second day of the 2020 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz started in Leogang, Austria, the welcome sun came out, but the course underneath the tyres was still muddy, sapping and slippery to challenge the 17-18-year-old Junior cross-country riders on their four 3.4km-lap races. And as the afternoon closed the sun was shining for Mona Mitterwallner (AUT) and Lennart-Jan Krayer (GER) in the Junior Women’s and Men’s Cross-country finals.
Junior Women: home win
Mona Mitterwallner was Junior Women silver medalist at the 2019 UCI World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, and was determined to go one better on home soil, as triple and reigning National Champion.
Mitterwallner demonstrated her current form, winning the Junior competition at last week’s Nové Město na Moravě (Czech Republic) UCI World Cup event. And from the first lap at Leogang she showed her strength, pushing hard and pulling out a gap.
A group was initially in close contention, including Luisa Daubermann (GER), UCI ranked no 4 Puck Pieterse (NED), Aneta Novotna and her Czech Republic compatriot Karolina Bedrnikova, and Olivia Onesti – part of the successful French relay team from Wednesday, still buzzing with adrenaline.
But the 18-year-old Austrian soon looked the strongest in the 47-rider field. UCI world ranked no 20 Daubermann gave a good chase, at first shadowing her counterpart, before dropping back as the gap grew.
By the start of lap 3 of 4 her advantage had extended beyond a minute and it looked like only a crash or mechanical could prevent the first home win of the UCI World Championships. Into the final circuit, the lead of around 2 minutes was unassailable, as the field became strung out towards the end of a frenetic race.
With a strong team spirit at this home event, Mitterwallner was channeling the energies of her friends Laura Stigger (so impressive at the recent XCO World Cup in Nové Město na Moravě) and Valentina Höll, who started her first Elite year with a win at Crankworx Innsbruck as a warm-up to Friday’s UCI World Championships downhill qualifying.
In the Junior Women XCO race, the final 1, 2, 3 were Mitterwallner, Daubermann and Novotna.
Junior Men: Krayer claims gold
The Junior Men’s race started with 84 riders representing 30 nations. And the competitive international field was shown by the early pace-setters: UCI no 1 ranked Riley Amos (USA), World no 2 ranked Janis Bauman, and forming the top three, Luca Martin, part of the winning French relay sextet from Wednesday.
They were joined by Luke Moir (RSA) – who was 5th at the 2019 UCI World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne – Alex Junior Malacarne of Brazil and the Czech Republic’s Jan Zatloukal.
The early lead swapped between Amos and Martin as the pair pulled away from the pack heading into lap 2, with Baumann, Lennart-Jan Krayer of Germany (7th and 12th in 2019 respectively), and Zatloukal looking the most likely of the chasers. But then as the Durango-based Amos dropped back after suffering a mechanical, the Swiss and German pair pushed on and caught the 18-year-old Frenchman, the new front three remaining tightly bunched.
It was Martin’s turn to suffer, falling back into the American’s grasp as Krayer and Baumann pulled clear in the mud. Going into the final circuit it was the German Junior Champion who kept ahead of the Swiss rider – who had finished runner-up in his National Championships to Dario Lillo, the rider circulating in 5th position today at Leogang, some 3 minutes down.
And the gruelling final lap saw no changes in the top five positions. Lennart Krayer pulled out a 40-second advantage to take the rainbow jersey and earn Germany’s first gold medal of the Championships, from Baumann, as the duo lapped half the field. Martin just held off Amos to contribute to the French medal charge.
The action is coming thick and fast at Leogang: Friday 9th sees the Men U23 ’s XC final.