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Evie Richards wins photofinish sprint in her first elite World Cup short track

Ulloa makes history for Mexico in cold, muddy evening of racing in Nove Mesto

Snowshoe World Cup Evie Richards Photo by: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

With both men’s and women’s races decided by a sprint finish, Tuesday’s Short Track XC delivered a thrilling start to a week of World Cup racing in Nove Mesto. Under dark skies, the fast-paced 20-minute races delivered exciting and sketchy racing.

Evie Richards pushed Pauline Ferrand-Prevot to a photo-finish in the women’s race, while Gerardo Ulloa Arevalo rode to a historic finish for Mexico.

Richards goes toe-to-toe with Ferrand-Prevot for first elite win

Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing) made the most of her elite World Cup debut, and her first short track XC appearance. After riding from the back of the start grid to the front of the race, the U.K. rider spent the latter half of the race on, or near the front of the women’s field.

Richard’s led much of the final lap, emerging from the woods onto the paved finish straight in the lead. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, who also had a hand controlling the pace much of the short race, opened the sprint and was briefly able to pull ahead of the Trek rider. Richards, in her first-ever short track race, fought back. Both threw their bikes for the line, with Richards winning in a photo finish.

“It was so muddy I couldn’t really think much,” Richards said of her final lap effort. But the experienced cyclocrosser looked as comfortable as the veteran XC racers in the treacherous course conditions as she safely navigated the mud on her way to victory.

“Even to get the top 10 would be amazing, I’m so happy,” Richards said of her race. The win comes after a successful under-23 campaign in 2019.

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot takes silver, an impressive result to kick off her return to international racing following surgery early in the off-season. Showing that the next generation is ready as ever for racing to return, under-23 rider Loana Lecompt found a clean path through the mud to claim third.

Eva Lechner crashes mid-way through the women’s XCC in Nove Mesto Na Morave. Photo: RedBull TV

Eva Lechner, the Italian Olympian was not so lucky. On the penultimate lap, Lechner crashed hard on a muddy set of jumps that would also prove decisive in the men’s race a short while later. Lechner’s fall took several other riders down with her. Emily Batty, chasing to reconnect with the front group, narrowly avoided hitting the downed rider.

While Lechner was unlucky in the mud, other riders had a much better day. Danish world champion Annika Langvad (Specialized) used Tuesday’s XCC to significantly improve her starting position for Thursday’s Olympic distance race. Langvad patiently worked her way through the field, finishing 9th. This bumps the Dane up to the second row on the start grid on Thursday.

While Batty dodged Lechner’s crash, she couldn’t pull back enough positions to qualify for a position in the front two rows. Batty finished 17th, with the top 16 getting priority on the XCO start grid. It’s still an impressive result for the Canadian, converting long base miles bikepacking across Iceland into short track race fitness.

Haley Smith, after starting strong and moving into the top 10, suffered a mechanical and settled for 32nd. Both Canadian’s head into Thursday’s World Cup XCO in excellent form.

Allua makes history for Mexico

After the women’s race, the elite men prepared for their own race. It was clear they would be battling each other, but also the fading light and plummeting temperatures. Many clung to their jackets for as long as possible in the start grid, trying to stave off rain and cold. Léander Bouchard (Pivot Cycles-OTE) could be seen on camera dancing to stay warm.

Bouchard moves to stay warm in Nove Mesto. Image: RedBull.tv

Bouchard used his strong position on the start grid to his advantage early on, sitting on either side of the top 10 for the first two of eight laps. With a large group still together, several riders touched bars trying to exit the tight 180-degree turn after the start-finish line. Bouchard was caught up in the confusion and shot to the back of the group. Tough luck for the tall man from Alma.

Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) was positioned well to capitalize on the absence of Mathieu van der Poel. The Dutch rider won five XCC rounds in 2019, often denying Avancini the win. The Brazilian rider, the first World Cup winner from his country, was on the front until halfway through the race. Avancini caught a rut in the same jumps where Lechner went down. The powerful Cannondale rider was caught out, careening from one side of the course to the other before hitting the mud. Luckily, the riders behind all managed to avoid his spectacular crash. Avancini picked himself up and rejoined the back of the race.

In less dramatic fashion, Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) also faded toward the back of the field. The Swiss rider has said in the past he struggles with cold, wet conditions, most obviously in Albstadt World Cup last season. But, after crashing on the pavement off-camera, the reigning world champion seemed disinterested in pushing his luck in the sketchy course conditions. With two World Cup’s and world championships all crammed into less than two weeks, playing it safe seems like a smart choice from the veteran racer.

France’s Victor Koretzky (KMC Orbea) took the opposite approach. With a lap to go, the French rider pushed to the front and fought hard to maintain his position there. Coming into the finish sprint, Koretzky had held his lead. On his wheel, though, was Pan American champion Gerardo Ulloa Arevalo (A.R.-Efideporte Pro Cycling).

The Mexican rider had positioned himself perfectly. Ulloa swung out and around Koretzky, out sprinting the French rider to take his first, and Mexico’s first mountain bike World Cup win.

Riders were struggling to change as quickly as possible in the finish area, trying to regain warmth and avoid shivers. The race winner was still getting changed as the camera crew conducted his finish line interview.

Ulloa was elated, even through the cold, saying “I’ve been waiting a long time for this win.” After an eighth-place World Cup best last season, the Mexico rider looked confident and ready for his win, and was already looking ahead to Thursday’s full-distance race. “Short track is only a warm-up,” Ulloa said through a translator. “My training has been for the Olympic cross country.”

Maxime Marotte (Cannondale Factory Racing) finished third behind Ulloa and Koretzky. Peter Disera (Norco Factory Racing) was 28th, and Bouchard 34th.

Riders have Wednesday to recover before racing resumes. The first of two World Cup XCO events in the Czech Republic starts Thursday.

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