On an incredibly muddy and slick World Cup track in Albstadt, Germany, Jolanda Neff took advantage of the treacherous conditions to stamp her authority on the race with a winning margin of over two full minutes over her next closest competitor. After struggling off the start, European champion Yana Belomoina mounted an impressive comeback to finish second, with her CST-American Eagle teammate Anne Tauber joining her on the podium in third.
Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) was the top Canadian finisher in the Elite Women’s race, crossing the line in 13th, with Sandra Walter (Liv Cycling) finishing in 15th and Catharine Pendrel finishing 19th to make three Canadian women in the top 20 in Albstadt. Cindy Montambault (Trek) finished in 42nd and, after a good start, Haley Smith ended up 50th, with Catharine Fleury (Team Canada) rounding out the Canadians in Germany to place 64th.
Off the start Jolanda Neff (Kross Racing) went to the front on the left, but it was Eva Lechner (Clif Pro Team) who charged up the inside from further back in the start to take the hole shot corner. Lechner had won Albstadt before in 2013, when conditions were similar, and looked like she was hoping to repeat that victory. American national champion Kate Courtney had followed Lechner’s wheel and was sitting in second, with Neff behind in third. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Caynon-SRAM) was making quick work of moving up, and was into fifth position by the first descent.
Behind the front few riders, slick conditions still wet from the day before were causing problems on the steep climbs, with Annika Langvad (Specialized) and last year’s World Cup winner Yana Belomoina (CST-American Eagle) both stepping off at points as the group bunched and traction disappeared.
As the group turned onto the incredibly slick descent Haley Smith (Norco Factory Racing), narrowly avoided an American rider that had slid out, and then Sabine Spitz, who had slid into a protective hay bale.
Heading into the end of the start loop, Neff attacked off the front, opening a gap to Kate Courtney in second, and Gunn-rita Flesjaa Dahle sliding around in the slick conditions in third. Muddy roots were wreaking havoc on the descents.
Catharine Pendrel (Clif Pro) left the short start loop in seventh, with Ferrand-Prevot on her wheel, but Neff had opened up nearly a minute gap over the short start loop, a good portion of that gap being gained on the descent.
Annie Last (KMC-Ekoi-SR Suntour) was making excellent work of the technical conditions, and had moved up to third by the end point of the first long climb, after Alexandra Keller took a big fall after stalling at the top of a steep drop, falling off and, luckily, landing on the safety bale’s of hay lining the side of the course.
Going out on the second lap, Neff had built up a massive minute twenty lead over Alexandra Tauber (CST – American Eagle) in second, who had recovered from her big crash, and Kate Courtney right behind her in third. Annika Langvad’s streak of form was looking like it had some to an end, as the Danish rider crossed the lap marker well back of the top 15 with her World Cup leaders jersey showing signs of a crash.
Conditions remained slick, making for constant changes in in the race order in the pack. The only constant was Neff continuing to increase her lead at the front, which as 2:12 by the end of the second lap. After her fast start, Kate Courtney had faded back just outside the top 10. Catharine Pendrel and Emily Batty were just off camera, sitting in 12th and 13th respectively.
At the end of lap three of five, Neff was looking untouchable, but the race for podium positions remained dynamic. Keller was still holding on to second, while Tauber was hunting her down in third. European champion Yana Belomoina had quietly moved up through the pack after a slow start, and was now sitting just behind Tauber in fourth with two laps of racing remaining. Tacking onto the back of the chasing group was Elisabeth Brandau of Germany.
On the final lap, Neff remained far off the front, while Keller was pushing out in second with Tauber chasing close behind. Tauber attacked up the “A” line on the climb to move into second, and started moving away from Tauber, who had Belomoina closing in rapidly behind her.
Belomoina attacked going into the final big climb of the race moving past Keller, who had been in second most of the race, and Tauber to sit in second position.
In an impressive display of skill and fitness Neff crossed the line for the win, unchallenged since the half way through the short start loop. Belomoina held onto the gap she opened on final climb, returning from a slow start to fight all the way back into second place in Albstadt. Belomoina’s CST-American Eagle teammate Anne Tauber had opened a gap on Tauber to claim third, Keller fourth, and Brandau fifth.