It was a fantastic day for Canada’s Elite Women cross country racers at the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup on Sunday. Emily Batty extended her podium streak, finishing third behind race winner Jolanda Neff, and Haley Smith had her best ever World Cup finish in eighth. In her first race back from a broken arm, Canadian Olympic medallist Catharine Pendrel finished 16th.
Scorching hot weather and the famously challenging Mont-Sainte-Anne course made for exciting racing. It’s a testament to the quality of the Quebec venue that even after hosting international events for 28 years, it can still deliver one of the hardest World Cup races of the season.
Elite Women’s World Cup XCO – Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada
Jolanda Neff (Kross Racing) had her usual fast start, taking the initiative in the race right away. With her in a small group of five was Norco Facotry Team’s Haley Smith, who had used her bump up the start grid from Friday’s XCC race to great advantage.
Over the course of the first lap Neff, along with the two Specialized riders Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney, created a separation from a small chasing group behind. The trio didn’t last long and, eager to separate herself from the two teammates, Neff surged ahead on a steep, switchback climb, and extended her lead on each of the technical descents that followed.
Neff continued to extend her lead, and was all alone at the front by the mid point of the second lap in a six lap race. Behind her, Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) had moved up to seventh after a slower start, with Smith holding stead in eighth.
Batty was on a mission though, and, buoyed by massive support from the crowd, was up to fourth by the end of the second lap. Neff had extended her lead to nearly a minute over Courtney in second, with Langvad looking to be struggling 10 seconds firther back in third.
The race order remained steady at the front until the penultimate lap. Langvad, looking to preserve her chance at regaining the overall World Cup points lead from Neff, had moved back past Courtney into second. Batty had continued to close the gap, and was now within sight of the American. Smith was steady in eighth, with a ever changing group of riders surrounding her. Showing that her return to racing wasn’t tentative, Catharine Pendrel (Clif Pro Team) had moved up to 13th on course.
Batty looked strong, and Courtney tired. By the top of the steep switchbacks, the Canadian had made the pass to take third position going into La Beatrice, the formidably rock descent. Adding insult to injury, Courtney pulled into the pits half a lap later with a flat rear tire. This allowed Yana Belomoina (CST American Eagle) and Anne Tauber (CST American Eagle) to catch up to the American national champion.
To the roaring cheers of track side crowds, Batty was closing steadily on Langvad for most of the sixth and final lap. The gap was down to a handful of seconds after Langvad stepped off her bike on the penultimate climb, but Batty was still not quite on her wheel.
Up ahead, Neff crossed the finish line alone in front, claiming her third Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup victory. It was an incredible performance, having won the European championships just days earlier on Tuesday.
The Danish rider found one last surge of energy to move back away from the Canadian, a held on to finish second. Batty took her time in the finishing straight, enjoying her third place performance on home soil.
Belomoina crossed next in fourth, with her teammate Anne Tauber out sprinting an exhausted Kate Courtney four fifth. Finishing one step off the podium is hard, but it was still the young American’s best elite World Cup result to day.
A short while later Haley Smith came into the finish area, smiling as she landed her first World Cup top-10, ending the day in eighth.
Catharine Pendrel was the next Canadian across the line in 16th, followed by Cindy Montambault (Trek/Equipe du Quebec) in 24th and Elyse Nieuwold (Pendrel Racing) in 26th.