While riders and fans alike are still reeling from last weekend’s Lenzerheide World Cup – Commencal’s matching wins, Canada’s four podiums and the “Swiss Incident” – the season keeps right on rolling. This weekend the series heads up to the high-elevation slopes of Vallnord Andorra.
Downhill: Iles versus Pierron at home
It will be a homecoming party of sorts for the Commencal/Muc-Off team. Not only are Commencal’s headquarters located right at the finish line, but two of its riders, Myriam Nicole and Amaury Pierron, both won the elite downhill race in Lenzerheide. The win was Pierron’s third this year alone. Even after year’s of dominance, Lenzerheide was the first time the team has taken the top spot in both elite downhill races. Both riders will be looking to repeat that result for their sponsor’s home race.
Finn Iles rolls in as one rider that could upset that dream for the Commencal team. The Canadian national champion was second behind Pierron in Lenzerheide. It’s the second time Iles, who is chasing his first elite World Cup win, has missed a win behind Pierron this year. Iles has more than motivation on his side, though. He showed up in Lenzerheide with a mysterious prototype Specialized Demo, shrouded in secrecy – and a fabric sleeve. Ile’s only had a few rides on that bike before finishing second on Sunday in Switzerland. Who knows what he can do with more time on the new bike.
Iles isn’tthe only Canadian hunting for a win in Andorra, either. Juniors Gracey Hemstreet and Jackson Goldstone are powering their way through the season with incredible success. Hemstreet has three wins in four races. Goldstone has two wins and two silvers. Both were on the top step in Lenzerheide and roll into Vallnord with momentum, as well as the World Cup leader’s jerseys.
Cross country chaos
Lenzerheide was the home race for the powerhouse Swiss cross country team. In the men’s race, fans were vocally supporting Nino Schurter, who lives just minutes from the start line, in his quest to best Julien Absalon’s career World Cup win’s tally. Mathias Flueckiger, also Swiss and intent on winning at home, was right beside Schurter all race. The dramatic finale boiled over a couple hundred metres too early as the two rivals managed to crash each other out while leading on the final lap. Since the crash happened off camera, and since the two rider’s accounts of what happened are contradictory, at best, the event remains shrouded in mystery.
Whatever did happen, the event will be on both rider’s minds, and everyone else’s, when they line up again in Vallnord this weekend. Schurter is still chasing win number 34. Flueckiger is still intent on proving Schurter’s not Switzerland’s only cross country star.
While less controversial, the elite women’s season is equally dramatic. Loana Lecomte leads Rebecca McConnell by a single point in the season standings. The Australian stormed into 2022 with three consecutive wins, but faded slightly in the last two rounds. Lecomte has been building results more steadily, winning XCO and XCC in Leogang before taking a second XCO win in Lenzerheide.
While Lecomte and McConnell have all the wins, they’ve been far from unchallenged. Jenny Rissveds, the 2016 Olympic champion, has pushed both McConnell and Lecomte, but has yet to come away with a win of her own. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Jolanda Neff are both pushing the pace as they look to get back on par with their results last season.
Cross country Canadians
Emily Batty is also charging up the ranks. The Canadian pushed into the top-20 for the first time this season in Lenzerheide. She was missing her Canyon MTB teammate Jenn Jackson, out with a broken wrist, but is finding speed of her won.
Likewise, Gunnar Holmgren is having a great 2022. Pivot Cycles-OTE’s Ontarian has consistently been the top Canadian in the elite men’s race. After a high-speed crash in Brazil resulted in injury, Canadian national champ Léandre Bouchard is back and looking to represent in his maple leaf jersey this year. He returned to World Cup racing in Lenzerheide and had a strong start before fading slightly. Another week of fitness should see him move up the ranks, too.
While it wasn’t televised, Carter Woods landed his first World Cup podium of 2022 last weekend. The Vancouver Island rider challenged Chilean Marcus Vidaurre, undefeated this year, in Lenzerheide and came away with second. A strong group of Canadian under-23’s are pushing up the results in both men’s and women’s XCO events. Look for more from them on the technical Andorra course.
Broadcast Schedule: World Cup DH#5 & XCO/XCC #6 – Vallnord, Andorra, July 15-17, 2022
Racing in Andorra starts Friday with Short Track XCC. Elite races will be broadcast all weekend live on Red Bull TV. Sunday’s XCO events are slightly later than last week in Lenzerheide, so you can sleep in – slightly – if you’re planning on watching live.
July 8 – World Cup XCC #6
Elite Women XCC: 08:20 PST / 11:20 EST
Elite Men XCC 09:10 PST / 12:10 EST
July 9 – World Cup Downhill #5
Junior Men/Women (Not Televised)
Elite Women DH: 03:25 PST / 06:25 EST
Elite Men DH: 04:45 PST / 07:45 EST
July 10 – World Cup XCO #6
Under-23 Men/Women (Not Televised)
Elite Women XCO: 3:00 PST / 06:00 EST
Elite Men XCO: 05:30 PST / 08:30 EST