2021 World Champs XC Photo Report from Val di Sole, Italy

While no one was surprised to see an extremely difficult downhill track on offer, the cross country course in Val di Sole, Italy, was one of the most technically challenging we've witnessed.
The new women’s World Champ, Evie Richards, riding solo off the front of the field.

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.

Men’s World Champion Nino Schurter Chasing Mathias Flückiger up the final climb.

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.

American favorite, Kate Courtney, had an unfortunate spill in the deep dust on lap one, and fought back to earn 23rd position.
Riders spent a good amount of time hunched low over the bars pedalling all the watts.
McConnell didn’t crash, but she ingested enough dust for a lifetime.
Amando Martinez Galvan getting low behind his teammate. Mexico had three of their fastest XC racers in the men’s field.
The track snakes through healthy forests, green from the summer’s heavy rains.
Christopher Blevins finished in an impressive 18th position after winning gold in short track and taking third in the e-bike race.
Nicolas Delich Pardo of Chile demonstrating why long-travel droppers are better.
Jolanda Neff with a proper dropper, charging her way through the rough undulating climb. It drizzled during the women’s race, but not enough to knock down the dust.
XC isn’t just suffering. Sam Gaze knows how to party.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado of the Netherlands rolls with a clean and precise riding style.
Here she is fighting gravity with all she’s got.
To be fast and good in the roots takes something special. Richards has that something.
Tumelo Makae of Lesotho looked poised and determined aboard his feathery Scott race machine.
The lead moto skipped that trickier line on the inside.
Faranak Partoazar of Iran and Naama Noyman if Israel pushed the pace together throughout the race.
The moss is a good indicator that it’s not always sunny in Val di Sole.
Flueckiger and Schurter un their way up the 4X track.
Shenanigans abound.
Climbing the 4X track wasn’t the simplest ask after 3-4 laps.
It may not have been the result Luke Vrouwenvelder was looking for, but he rode strong all six laps.
What pairs well with a mouth full of dust? Mountain bikes!
One of the brief rest points on track.
Dascalu never let up, staying out of the saddle every bit as much as the leaders.
PFP on the long way up.
Despite the stones, tire pressures were kept low to maintain some grip with the fast rolling tread.

Full results from both races are available on the UCI website. Stay tuned for our photo report of the DH event coming soon.