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Evie Richards ascends to first elite championship title

Pendrel leads Canadian efforts in elite women's XCO

Evie Richards Photo by: Bartek Wolinksi / Red Bull Content Pool

Saturday saw a brand new elite world champion crowned in Val di Sole, Italy. Evie Richards dueled with Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, before dropping the decorated French rider to ride home solo to victory. It’s Richards’ first elite world championship title, and a historic first elite cross country title for a British woman.

Canadians in Val di Sole

Catharine Pendrel led the Canadian elites, racing to 22nd in her final world championships appearance. With two world championships titles of her own, the Kamloops, B.C. rider celebrated becoming a mother for the first time early in 2021 before making her impressive return to racing.

Sandra Walter of Coquitlam, B.C. followed 13 seconds behind her long-time friend and training partner, finishing in 25th. Laurie Arseneault, just starting her own elite career, crossed the line in 43rd. Jenn Jackson finished several spots back in 46th and Cindy Montambault 48th. Emily Batty finished one lap down in 49th. Haley Smith, who has been nursing a serious ankle injury in Val di Sole, withdrew from the race.

Pauline Ferrand Prevot went off the front early on in Saturday’s XCO. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

How the race was won

Off the start, Olympic champion Jolanda Neff put herself, and her gold Trek Supercaliber, right on the front. It was the woman on her wheel that quickly took over control of the race, though. Defending world champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot clearly looked to be making up for her frustrating ride in Tokyo, flying out to a 40 second advantage by the mid-point of the first lap.

Behind, it was Evie Richards, and Sina Frei chasing. After the first of five laps, Ferrand Prevot had a 31 second advantage to the chasing duo. 50 seconds behind, a select group were working together to hold on to the race.

Evie Richards rides past Poland’s Maya Wloszczowska in pursuit of Ferrand Prevot. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Not content to fight for podium places, Richards dropped the Swiss rider and went on the attack. Within a lap, the Brit had closed the gap to Ferrand Prevot, while Frei faded into the chase group behind.

Prevot seemed content to sit on the younger rider’s wheel and let Richards do the work. The effort of the French woman’s early attack started to show, though, and, through the third lap she faded away from first Richards.

Evie Richards leads her French rival through one of Val di Sole’s many rock gardens. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool 

That left Evie Richards alone on the front with two laps remaining. The energetic young Brit rode clean to the finish line, taking her first elite world championship title. Richards is the first British woman ever to win an elite cross country world championship title.

“I said I would shine one day, and obviously today was my time to shine,” the new world champ said after the race. “I’m so shocked. I didn’t think I’d ever be good enough to win a race like this, I’m so excited.”

Evie Richards 2021 uci mountain bike world championships
Anne Terpstra, Evie Richards and Sina Frei on the podium at 2021 XCO world championships. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Behind, Terpstra caught Ferrand Prevot, but could not close the gap to Richards. The Dutch rider crossed the line 1:03 back in second.

Sina Frei takes bronze, in a tight sprint finish with Jolanda Neff. Polish veteran Maja Wloszczowska, racing in her final world championships, followed close behind in fifth. Ferrand Prevot faded to a distant sixth after her early lead.

Full results: Elite men’s and women’s XCO – 2021 UCI mountain bike world championships.