Mathieu van der Poel may have missed out on the high-altitude Vallnord World Cup last weekend, but he wasted no time picking up where he left off.
Kate Courtney also made a return to her winning ways, taking the XCC win in Les Gets after missing out on the victory in Andorra.
Canadians in France
Canadians were up in the mix in both men’s and women’s Short Track XC races. Peter Disera (Norco Factory Racing) was the top man, in 9th, and Catharine Pendrel (Clif Pro Team) 10th in the women’s. Both earn second row starts Sunday’s Olympic distance race.
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Disera sat in a solid group just behind the leaders for much of Friday’s race. Steadily moving up as racers dropped off the pace, the Canadian was jut far enough forward to occasionally escape the worst of a massive dust cloud that followed the leaders around Les Gets. For Léandre Bouchard (Pivot Cycles-OTE), it was an entirely different race. Starting from the back row, Bouchard spent the entire 20 minutes working his way up through the field, and through the dust. By the end of the short race, Bouchard had moved up to 18th.
Catharine Pendrel led the effort for the Canadian women, but a resurgent Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) was just one second behind in 13th. Batty finished on the same second as Linda Indergand (Superior XCO) and last week’s second place finisher, Alessandra Keller (Thömus RN).
After a fast start, Haley Smith (Norco Factory Racing) ended up 30th, two spots behind Sandra Walter (Liv International) in 28th.
Back in business: Van der Poel picks up where he left off
The multi-talented Dutch rider took short breather after winning the Nove Mesto World Cup to recover from the cumulative effort of cyclocross, Spring Classics on the road and early season World Cup XC. On Friday, he was right back to his winning ways. The rest seemed to have paid off, and he out sprinted last weeks XCC winner Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) and Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) to take the win in France.
“I was searching for a place to start my sprint two laps before,” van der Poel said of his race tactic. “I saw the 100m sign in the corner and thought, ‘that’s not so far, I can take that distance in the sprint.’”
The trio of Avancini, Schurter, and van der Poel were never far from the front on Friday. In the later laps, Schurter and Avancini traded attacks, with van der Poel never doing more than responding. Brazil’s first World Cup winner looked to have made the winning move, getting a gap on Schurter with van der Poel in his wheel, but with little room to pass. A bobble from Avancini, however, let the big Dutch rider past with open road to claim the win.
“I made a silly mistake, and let van der Poel by,” Avancini said after the race. “I’m not happy to lose this one, but he is fresh off a training block.” It’s hard not to be disappointed after winning last weekends XCC in Andorra, but second isn’t too bad. “I’m not so happy, but I can’t be sad, either,” said Avancini concluded, with a big smile.
With his Short Track win, van der Poel moves back to within 100 points of the World Cup overall. He now trails Schurter’s 910 with 825 of his own.
Kate Courtney back to winning ways
On the women’s side, Kate Courtney was also making a return. After missing out on XCC and XCO wins in Andorra, the American world champion wasn’t letting another race slip away. Courtney attacked with two laps to go in a ultra-short and dusty Les Gets Short Track. The gamble paid off.
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Canyon-SRAM) led the chase, intent on winning at home in France. Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing) followed, with Elisabeth Brandau of Germany holding on.
None of the three could make up the distance to the hard-charging American, and Courtney crossed the line alone in front.
“We have so many strong riders, so many girls up at the front that its unpredictable,” Courtney said after the race. “My plan was to embrace the moment, let go of perfection. You have to be willing to risk big to win big, and I’m happy to come away with the win today.”
While Courtney was able to capitalize on the chaos, Neff was having less luck. Ferrand-Prevot led out the sprint to take second, and Brandau squeezed by Neff on the line to steal third. With her fourth in XCC, the Swiss star concedes valuable points in the World Cup overall to her American counterpart, and now trails Courtney 1015 to 890.