It was a busy, but successful opening day for the home team at 2019 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
Starting with the very first event, the XC Team Relay, the Canadian squad put in a solid fifth place finish against cross country powerhouses Switzerland and the United States.
Maghalie Rochette kept the momentum going into the afternoon. The Canadian cyclocross national champion was second in the first ever UCI eMTB world championship event.
Kicking off #MSA2019 with a 5th place in the Team Relay 💪
— Cycling Canada (@CyclingCanada) August 28, 2019
XC Team Relay
With five riders each racing one lap, the XC Team Relay is always a mixture of skill and strategy. Teams are required to field three men and two women, spread across the age categories. A fast start is key to having a clear path to race, but often leaves mis-matched riders on track at the same time resulting in constant lead changes.
Canada got off to a good start, sending Raphael Auclair then Carter Woods off to get clear track early on. Woods handed off in second place, chasing a fast-starting Danish squad.
As would happen to Denmark, then the Netherlands, Canada moved down to just-inside the top 10 in the middle of the race. Anchor, and elite men’s national champion Peter Disera fought back to put Canada in fifth at the finish line.
Canada’s national mountain bike coach, Dan Proulx was quick to point out the 5th place is not just a great result on its own, it is a big improvement over 2018’s 8th place finish. The Canadian team raced closer to the leaders all race than in previous years.
Solid relay at World Champs – 5th this year – up from 8th in 2018. Gap to winner, SUI, cut in half to 1:09 this year from 2:23 last year. More important: great race speed prep for each rider’s individual race later this week. Well done team. @CyclingCanada
— Coach Dan Proulx (@danprlx) August 28, 2019
It was still the Swiss that were dominant, though. Following up on wins in 2017 and 2018, the dominant Swiss squad made a last-lap pass of the American team to claim its third straight win. After taking over the lead from the Netherlands, The U.S. team was able to hold on for silver at Mont-Sainte-Anne.
Jolanda Neff talks about Swiss dominance in the XC Team Relay, after winning a third straight title with Switzerland:
How is Switzerland 🇨🇭 so consistent in the Team Relay? 🥇 #MSA2019
— UCI MTB (@UCI_MTB) August 28, 2019
E-MTB world championships
At the first ever e-MTB world championships, Maghalie Rochette jumped out to an early lead. Swiss rider Nathalie Schneitter was never far behind, however. Schneitter made her move on the final lap, just as Rochette – or her bike – ran out of juice. It remained close at the finish line, but Schneitter delivered the Swiss their second world championship title in just a manner of hours at Mont-Sainte-Anne.
Dutch downhill and gravity racer Anneke Beerten also made a late-race move, pulling herself into third on the final lap to claim the final medal and podium spot.
In the men’s race, a decidedly distinguished field lined up for the inaugural electric event. It was Alan Hatherly, the South African under-23 world champion, however, that walked away with the win. Hatherly led from early on, and never looked back. By the time he crossed the finish line, the South African had a 1 minute 10 second advantage over France’s Jerome Gilloux in second place.
Cross country legend Julien Absalon made a return to racing in the eMTB event, and wasn’t taking it easy. Already the most decorated male cross country athlete ever, Absalon added another world championship medal to the collection he earned under his own power. Making a late push to move up spots, Absalon finished third, just 19 seconds behind Gilloux.
Felix Longpre and Alexandre Vialle were the top two Canadians in the men’s event. After racing close to each other all race, and on either side of Swiss world champion and 2000 Olympic medallist Christoph Sauser, Longpre finished 9th and Vialle 11th.