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Canadian women make strong effort at first XC World Cup in Nové Město

Catharine Pendrel
Catharine Pendrel
Canada’s Catharine Pendrel, seen here in Glasgow in 2014, was one of Canada’s best performance at the first 2015 XC MTB World Cup of 2015.

For the Canadians racing this past weekend in the mountain Bike world Cup, carving up the occasionally slippery, wet trails of Nové Město, the Czech Republic, the cross country event belonged to the women—both the elites and the under-23 crowd. For everyone else, though, one of the year’s biggest races in world mountain biking was anyone’s game. Although it’s safe to say that for the race’s European representation, there was a definite—and noticeable—home-soil advantage.

Women under-23

The women’s under-23 cross country event featured a solid Canadian effort. On a 19.2-km course, winding through four laps with a single starting loop, the race saw Team Canada’s Haley Smith clock in with a time of 4:39 down from race winner Jenny Rissveds’ 1:17:18. Smith tied with Switzerland’s Andrea Waldis and finished in ninth. Frederique Trudel, with Specialized Canada, was just behind Smith with a time of 4:44 behind the lead position; Maghalie Rochette, racing for Luna Pro Team, recorded a finish of 5:52 behind; Catherine Fleury clocked in for Team Canada at 7:23 back. Team Canada was again represented in the 40th position with Marine Lewis’s time of 11:55 behind the lead. Rachel Pageau, racing for Cyclone d’Alma, was Canada’s last rider to roll in during the May 23 event, finishing 41st with a time of 12:44 back.

Taking the UCI World Cup leader’s jersey, Sweden’s Rissveds of Scott-Odlo. During the race—an event threatened with rain, which happily never fell—Rissvelds managed to break away from the rest of the field along with the Czech Republic’s Margot Moschetti and the U.S.’s Kate Courtney. Despite a see-saw contest that saw Rissveds and Moschetti changing positions on the climbs, Rissveds ultimately turned her momentum into a comfortable lead, finishing 42 seconds ahead of Moschetti.

“I was excited to get this win in the first World Cup of the season,” Rissveds said. She knew, too, what she was affecting Moschetti’s performance on the uphill stretches. “We knew that Margot would be stronger on the climbs, so my goal was just to control the race there, and it worked perfectly.”

Elite women

The following day was for the elite women cross country specialists, with a more commanding performance for Canada’s athletes. Racing for Luna Pro Team, Catharine Pendrel came in fourth with a time of 2:21 behind winner Jolanda Neff’s 1:34:29. Emily Batty of Trek Factory Racing was in 12th place, 4:39 from the lead. Sandra Walter, representing Team Canada, finished 46th with a time of 12:19 behind, teammate Cindy Montambault finished 53rd with 13:57 behind, and Mikaela Kofman, riding for Scott-3 Rox Racing, finished 57th in the field with a time of 14:37 behind. Farther back, Rebecca Beaumont crossed the line with 16:48 shy of the finishing time.

Neff of Switzerlad, was the defending women’s World Cup winner, and held on to her No. 1 position with a lead that was established before the conclusion of the starting loop, putting her in a commanding position at the front of the field. Joining her to make for a two-rider breakaway was Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa, whose first World Cup win was 19 years ago. Neff was able to hang on to that lead and roll in first, leaving behind a race affected by a wet, muddy course and littered with crashed riders—some of whom never recovered their positions in the race .

Men under-23

In the men’s under-23 race, happening that same wet, muddy Sunday morning, Peter Disera of Team Canada finished with a time of 5:42 behind winner Lars Forster (1:22:20), coming in 26th, while Alexandre Vialle was nine positions behind with a time of 6:47 back. Marc Andre Fortier, also of Team Canada, rolled in with a time of 10:15 behind the finish, 62nd overall in the race.

Elite men

Later that morning, the elite men put rubber to the course, with three of Canada’s top riders finishing the field within three positions of each other. Coming in 23rd, Canada’s Derek Zandstra of Scott-3 Rox Racing finished 6:05 down on winner Jaroslav Kulhavy (1:33:27) and 38 seconds ahead of Raphael Gagné, riding for Team Canada.  Gagné was in 26th. In 29th position was Canada’s Leandre Bouchard, also with Team Canada, who finished with a time of 6:50 behind. Farther behind in the pack were Geoff Kabush, finishing 64th with 10:22, and Adam Morka of Trek Canada at 10:36, finishing 67th. Canada’s Evan Guthrie of Norco Factory was 92nd in the race, down one lap.

For the elite men, the cross country race on Czech Republic soil was fittingly owned by the Czech Republic itself. Riding for Specialized Racing, Czech rider Jaroslav Kulhavy beat out Switzerland’s Nino Schurter, riding for Scott-Odlo MTB, and France’s Julien Absalon, riding for BMC Mountain Bike Racing Team. For the past three years, Schurter has won this World Cup event; four years ago, it was Kulhavy. Once again, it came down to a pitched battle between the two men, with Schurter loading on the pressure during the start loop. He would drop Kulhavy on the climbs, but the latter managed to come back every time, emboldened by the roaring, elated applause of the Czech spectators. At the race’s conclusion, Kulhavy basked in the cheers again, finishing ahead of Schurter by 24 seconds.