Mountain bike World Championships were as dusty and as fun as anyone could want this weekend, with junior and elite athletes hoping to wrap themselves in rainbows across the e-bike, 4X, cross country, short track, team relay, and DH disciplines. While no one was surprised to see an extremely difficult downhill track on offer, the XC course in Val di Sole, Italy, was one of the most technically challenging we’ve witnessed.
The riders endured roughly 190 meters of steep and loose climbing per lap, with stone-strewn descents that threatened to chew through their featherweight tires. Dust piles were deep enough to swallow 29″ circles up to the rim, making vision and respiration tricky for folks at the tail of the train.
In the elite women’s race, Evie Richards of England rode away with the gold medal early on, opening up a massive gap between herself and the rest of the charging field. The race for second was a spicy one, with athletes swapping places multiple times prior to the final grass drag across the finish line. Anne Terpstra of the Netherlands and Sina Frei from Switzerland earned the silver and bronze awards respectively. Terpstra was 1:03 off Richards’ pace, Frei 1:08, and looking back to sixth position, former World Champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot crossed the line a full 2:35 later.
Each of the athletes threw down impressive performances, and Canada’s Catherine Pendrel’s 22nd place finish is worth highlighting. She’s been racing nearly as long as some of these women have been alive. Pendrel won World Champs in 2011 and 2014, and earned the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.
The men’s race looked a little tighter, until Swiss favorites Nino Schurter and Mathias Flückiger pulled away to enjoy their own pairs competition, letting everyone else fight it out behind. Flückiger was ahead of Schurter on the final descent into the finish straight, and Schurter sprinted his own daylights out to pull ahead for the win.
Like the women’s race, the field behind these two fought hard for their chance at a bronze medal, and France’s Victor Koretzky took that third podium position in the end, followed closely by Vlad Dascalu from Romania. If we peek at sixth position the finishing gap kicks up to 2:30 for Samuel Gaze of New Zealand. The pace was excessive for all six laps, seeing ten riders pulled form the race before the final lap, and an additional thirteen riders removed earlier to prevent traffic issues for the race leaders.
Full results from both races are available on the UCI website. Stay tuned for our photo report of the DH event coming soon.