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Short track battles get messy at Les Gets worlds

Mud and rocks cause chaos at XCC world championships

Photo by: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

A fast, but highly technical short track cross country course, made slippery by rain, created chaotic racing at Les Gets world championships on Friday. Pauline Ferrand Prevot finessed the treacherous course to take a big win for the French home crowd. Sam Gaze and Christopher Blevins played out a dramatic last-lap battle for the men’s title.

Rain picked up part-way through the women’s race, tapering off into sun partway through the men’s. A wet course and tricky rock gardens caused havoc in both races with several crashes influencing the course of the races.

Women’s XCC: A hometown hero for France

The arrival of rain didn’t diminish the French fan’s fervor, with a solid crowd lining the XCC course on Friday. Off the line, it was two Brits leading. Evie Richard and Annie Last pushed the pace early, joined by Swiss XCC powerhouse, Alessandra Keller.

Keller’s momentum was stalled on the sixth lap when the Swiss rider lost her front wheel in one of the man-made rock gardens, sending her over the bars in a heavy crash.

Just moments later, as the pack went onto the seventh of nine laps, Pauline Ferrand Prevot launched a fierce attack. Carried by the roar of the assembled French crowd, Ferrand-Prevot quickly opened a gap over Annie Last and Italy’s Greta Seiwald. As the rain started to fall harder, Last’s chase was also ended by a crash in the rocks.

Alessandra Keller put in a huge effort to lead the chase. The Swiss rider overtook Gwendalyn Gibson of the U.S.A. to try close down the French rider’s 32-second advantage. Keller couldn’t catch Ferrand Prevot, but does earn silver. Gibson held off Jolanda Neff to earn bronze.

But it’s Pauline Ferrand Prevot who takes a big win at home, giving the French their first non-electric win at Les Gets world championships.

“I just wanted to push full gas. I had to wait and wait.” Ferrand Prevot said of her late-race attack. “Then I tried to be very smooth through the rock gardens and keep a good pace. I’m very happy. One world title in the bucket, so yes, I am very happy.”

Emily Batty
Emily Batty was back on track in Les Gets after a rough weekend at Mont-Sainte-Anne. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Canadians in Les Gets

Laurie Arseneault leads Canada’s results in the short track XC. The Canadian national champion crossed the line 14th. Sandra Walter was 22nd and Emily Batty rounds out Canada’s effort in 25th.

Men’s XCC: Blevins battles Gaze

Brazil’s Henrique Avancini continued his tradition of attacking to lead early on in the men’s XCC. Canadian XCC national champion Quinton Disera could be seen holding into the top ranks in the early laps. Tyler Orschel and Sean Fincham were also enjoying their chance to race the XCC format, riding in the top 20. Gunnar Holmgren had less luck, flatting out on the third of 10 laps.

RELATED: XCC: How hard could a 20-minute short track be?

While the sun was out, the course was still treacherous from rain earlier in the day. All riders looked to struggle with the combination of mud and awkward man-made rock gardens, as falls and close calls constantly changed the look of the front group. Avancini was caught up in a crash at the half-way mark of the men’s race, running into Sebastian Fini when the Dane crashed in the rocks.

Sam Gaze put a big sprint as the field launched into the final lap. Christopher Blevins, the 2021 XCC world champion, responded immediately. The two battled for position through the lap. After trading leads several times in the short lap, Gaze and Blevins went into the final two rock gardens shoulder to shoulder. Both cleared the first safely. Only Gaze survived the second. The two battled for the only line through the second rock garden. Gaze led on the inside as Blevins came level from the outside of the corner, stalled on the rocks and went over the bars.

Sam Gaze rode away to claim the men’s XCC world championship title. Blevins limped home, nursing bent bars and a battered bike just across the finish line. After taking a moment to catch his breath and assess any injuries, the U.S. rider went over to the Kiwi to congratulate him on his hard-fought win, passing the torch to the new world champion with a handshake and smile.

“Chris was super strong today. A bit of a mishap on that last corner, he came out of nowhere,” Gaze added with a laugh about the American’s daring but ill-fated attempted pass. “I’m super happy to take an elite world championship title.”

The Swiss earn two more podiums in France with Filippo Colombo and Thomas Litscher finishing second and third behind Gaze.

Canadians in France

Sean Fincham leads the Canadians with a 17th-place finish. Léandre Bouchard followed three seconds later in 20th. Quinton and Peter Disera crossed the line, arm-in-arm, in 30th and 31st. Tyler Orschel ended up 37th.

Results: 2022 UCI mountain bike world championships (Les Gets, France)

Men’s Short Track Cross Country
1 19 GAZE Samuel NZL 22:21
2 7 COLOMBO Filippo SUI +0:03
3 16 LITSCHER Thomas SUI +0:07
4 5 HATHERLY Alan RSA +0:13
5 13 BLUMS Martins LAT +0:16
6 15 CARSTENSEN Sebastian Fini DEN +0:19
7 6 AVANCINI Henrique BRA +0:21
8 38 LINDBERG Jonas DEN +0:23
9 18 BRAIDOT Daniele ITA +0:24
10 21 BRANDL Maximilian GER +0:24
11 23 CULLELL ESTAPE Jofre ESP +0:24
12 14 SCHUERMANS Jens BEL +0:25
13 24 ORR Cameron GBR +0:26
14 11 ALBIN Vital SUI +0:28
15 34 SCHELB Julian GER +0:30
16 1 BLEVINS Christopher USA +0:30
17 54 FINCHAM Sean CAN +0:33
18 58 SOETE Daan BEL +0:34
19 47 ANDREASSEN Simon DEN +0:35
20 32 BOUCHARD Leandre CAN +0:36
30 32 DISERA Quinton CAN +1:00
31 32 Disera Peter CAN +1:00
37 32 Orschel Tyler CAN -1
46 32 Holmgren Gunnar CAN -7
Women’s Short Track Cross Country
1 14 FERRAND PREVOT Pauline FRA 21:56
2 2 KELLER Alessandra SUI +0:18
3 12 GIBSON Gwendalyn USA +0:21
4 4 NEFF Jolanda SUI +0:26
5 6 RICHARDS Evie GBR +0:29
6 13 SEIWALD Greta ITA +0:36
7 18 LAST Annie GBR +0:44
8 7 COURTNEY Kate USA +0:50
9 19 HABERLIN Steffi SUI +0:52
10 25 BLUNK Savilia USA +0:54
11 5 INDERGAND Linda SUI +0:55
12 21 URBAN Kelsey USA +1:24
13 35 GORYCKA Paula POL +1:29
14 26 ARSENEAULT Laurie CAN +1:31
15 1 FREI Sina SUI +1:36
16 11 GUSTAFZZON Linn SWE +1:37
17 37 JACOBSEN Ingrid Sofie Boe NOR +1:38
18 41 von BERSWORDT Sophie NED -1LAP
20 28 LILL Candice RSA -1LAP
22 34 WALTER Sandra CAN -1LAP
25 34 BATTY Emily CAN -1LAP