There was dust and drama at the Vallnord World Cup XCO on Sunday. A dynamic woman’s race saw constant changes all the way up to the final lap, while an unexpected turn of events saw late race changes in the men’s.
In the Women’s race, Catharine Pendrel attacked early. It was Anne Terpstra that emerged from a constantly changing women’s race to earn the first ever Dutch woman’s World Cup XCO win.
In the men’s race, Ondrej Cink temporarily stopped racing while in the lead, opening the door for Nino Schurter to take his first World Cup win of 2019.
Peter Disera continued his march up through the elite men’s ranks. The Canadian scored a career best elite World Cup finish in 11th at Andorra on Sunday.
Women’s World Cup XCO Vallnord, Andorra – New winners, returning favourites and constant lead changes
The Women’s race saw a constantly changing lead, as tight racing and the rigors of altitude made for a dynamic race. It was Anne Terpstra (Ghost Factory Racing) that emerged on top, holding off a hard charging Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing). Terpstra’s win is the first for a Dutch woman in World Cup cross country.
“I didn’t expect this, I’m just very happy,” Terpstra said post-race. “When I attacked and I saw I had a little gap, I went for it”
Early on, it was Catharine Pendrel (Clif Pro Team) pushing the pace on the front. Taking advantage of a front row start earned in Friday’s short track, the Canadian world champion created a small gap and rode on the front for two laps. Eventually Pendreal was joined by Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Canyon Factory Racing) and Sina Frei (Ghost Facotry Racing)
Starting the third of six laps, though, the lead group briefly grew to eight. At the front, Ferrand-Prevot and Dutch rider Anne Terpstra were on the move with Pendrel trying to hold their wheels. Further back, Kate Courtney (Scott-SRAM) was struggling to hold the pace and was drifting away from the leaders.
While the American struggled her rival for the World Cup overall, Jolanda Neff, was recovering from a slow start. The Swiss rider had worked her way up through the field from the mid-20’s. Also making her way steadily through the pack a few spots back was 2016 Olympic Champion Jenny Rissveds (Team 31).
At the half way point, Terpstra had established a gap and was riding alone in the lead. Damiano Campuzano (Mexico) and Githa Michiels (Primaflor Mondraker Rotor) were riding together in 2nd and 3rd. Neff had moved up to fourth, passing Ferrand-Prevot. Pendrel was holding on to fifth, but looking like she was starting to feel the early effort at altitude.
On the penultimate lap, Neff had passed the chasers and caught Terpstra in the lead. Yana Belomoina (CST SANDD) had moved up from a slow start, and was riding with Campuzano and Michaels in the chase group. Rissveds was closing as well, passing Courtney and Pendrel to move up into seventh.
Heading out onto the final lap, Neff made one attempt to take the lead. Terpstra responded immediately, and quickly created a gap between herself and the Swiss riders.
Belomoina continued her progress forward, passing Campuzano to move into third. Further back, Rissveds was in contact with Michaels and fighting for the final podium position.
Anne Terpstra crossed the line alone, for her first World Cup win. Neff finished second, unable to match the Dutch riders pace after the effort of recovering from a slow start. Belomoina held on for third and Campuzano fourth. Rissveds finished fifth, marking an incredible comeback after nearly two years away from the sport.
Canadian Women’s results – Vallnord World Cup XCO
Haley Smith (Norco Factory Racing) led the Canadian women, finishing 16th in Andorra. After going for the win early in the race, Catharine Pendrel drifted back to 17th. Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) moved up to 26th, and Sandra Walter (Liv International) squeezed just inside the top 30 to finsh 29th. Jenn Jackson (AWI Racing) was 32nd, Cindy Montambault 44th and Rebecca Beaumont 54th at Vallnord.
Men’s World Cup XCO Vallnord, Andorra – Schurter sprints, Cink falters
Sunday’s men’s race saw a familiar face take the win, but in a very unexpected fashion. Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) earned his first World Cup win of 2019 in a sprint showdown with fellow Swiss rider Mathias Flueckiger (Thömus RN). The two were only able to race for the win after Ondrej Cink (Kross Racing) temporarily pulled out of the race while in the lead on the final lap.
The race started with Schurter and Friday’s Short Track XC winner Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) quickly opening a small gap to the rest of the field.
Schurter took an uncharacteristic spill late in the first lap, dropping him back into the chasing group. This left Avancini alone on the front with a 15 second advantage. He was quickly joined by Czech rider Ondrej Cink, and the two set about distancing the field.
Three laps into a seven lap race, Schurter attacked the chasing group to seek out the leaders. Sensing the threat, Cink dropped Avancini to go solo. This quickly turned into Schurter, Avancini, and Flueckiger forming into a new chase group, which was eventually joined by 2018 Vallnord World Cup winner, Gerhard Kerschbaumer.
Cink’s lead grew over the course of several laps, ballooning out to nearly 40 seconds at its peak. Then, quite suddenly, it was down to ten, then zero. The Czech rider tapped his chest as the group entered the final feed zone, and pulled to the side of the course. Cink stood over his bike drinking water and watching his computer, apparently waiting for an extremely elevated heart rate to drop back into safer territory before rejoining the race. Schurter, Avancini and Flueckiger rode on, having dropped Kerschbaumer earlier in the lap.
Entering the final lap the trio were riding strategically, each waiting for the other to make a move. Schurter was the first to go, but only Avancini was distanced. Flueckiger remained glued to the world champion’s wheel.
Schurter tried several more times to attack Flueckiger, and every time the Thömus RN rider responded. Avancini remained dangling 10 seconds behind, ensuring the two Swiss riders were forced to stay on the gas.
Schurter tried one final attack leading into the finish line, finally breaking Flueckiger. Schurter wobbled as he celebrated his first World Cup win of 2019, then lay down in the dirt, exhausted from the effort.
“It’s the hardest to race at high altitude,” Schurter said after the race. “I went as hard as I could, and saw [Flueckiger] was still with me so I knew it was going to be a hard one.”
Flueckiger finished second and Avancini third. One year after his win in Andorra, Italian Gerhard Kerschbaumer was fourth, with Jordan Sarrou (Absolute-Absalon) in fifth.
Canadian Men’s results – Vallnord World Cup XCO
Peter Disera (Norco Factory Team) led the Canadian men with a career best 11th place finish. Leandre Bouchard (Pivot Cycles-OTE) was next across the line in 33rd. Raphael Gagné was 53rd, Marc-Andre Fortier (Pivot Cycles-OTE) 78th and Andrew L’Esperance (Norco Factory Team) 80th.
Riders have just four days to recover from the high altitude effort before they’re back on the start line. Les Gets Short Track XC starts in France on Friday, July 12.