Joland Neff came out swinging in the Women's U23 Race, Conditions were still ridiculously slick--traction was basically non existent in more than one section of track, forcing many riders to run anything remotely steep--up or down.
U23 Men did go as planned for Ondrel Cinj. The guy was bullet proof. Attacks came and he pretty much shrugged them off.
Michiel Van Der Heijden putting some muscle into it, but to no avail. You see Cink back there? He reeled Van Der Heijden back in within a lap.
This was Annie Last's race to lose, and unfortunately she did just that. I'm gonna chalk that up to Olympic prep burn-out. She had the horses to own this thing, but just came out a bit flat. Last's technical handling was off, too, and she just didn't seem to be able to find the focus to ride up to her ability. She was only 27 seconds off pace--good enough for fourth; but realistically, she should have walked away from the field.
The future: this is Anton Cooper of New Zealand's last year as a junior. Trek better place him under lock and key; his average lap time was good enough to be competitive with the top tier of the U23 racers. With this win, the kid just vaulted onto every team's radar.
Cooper coming home to a gold medal in his final season as a junior.
The course was drying out to pretty much insane traction. Fast enough that the spikes Jose Hermida was running gave way to a buzz cut tire a la the DH trims we were seeing in South Africa last spring.
Swiss super fans en masse just before the start of the Elite Women's XC race.
Sabine Spitz looked as if she was going to run away with this race. But then Olympic Champ Julie Bresset roared to the front, and in a show of complete dominance, simply rode away from everyone. Spitz and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja both went down in lap two, and Spitz just never recovered. Dahle Flesjaa, on the other hand, kept a steady hand on the throttle, moving up, and picking off riders until she was securely in second place. Not bad for a 39 year old mother.
Bresset was just unstoppable.
Georgia Gould has just been on a tear this year. Never mind that in a number of World Cups this year, the talent pool was diluted due to Olympic training - riders flat out skipped races - Gould took bronze in London, and bronze again here.
It wasn't an easy bronze, though, Gould had to earn this one.
Catharine Pendrel was riding the technical terrain very tentatively. And she wasn't really looking like her usual self. Then she took a header off of the rock drop and got-for lack of a better term-fired up. Her lap two and lap three times were right there, Pendrel of Mt St Anne and Windham; but then the wheels came off a bit and she eased back--slowly--to eleventh on the day.
Eva Lechner in the feed zone.
Bresset was on fire in the woods. The track there still had some slick spots, but she skated through every lap, and just walked away from the field.
39 years old and a mom. And second place here at Saalfelden. Nuts.
Bresset with an amazing season: Gold in the Olympics and now the rainbow jersey...
Lap one started out with the bunch on cruise control. Julien Absalon took the front, but only briefly. Then Marco Fontana stepped it up, only to be caught in short order by Nino Schurter.
Ain't no one in that rear view mirror...Schurter and Fontana worked together to distance themselves from the chasers.
But chasers were coming. Like Mathias Flukiger...
And Fabian Giger. Giger was able to take the lead for a lap but could not maintain the pace, sliding back to claim fifth on the day.
Rudi Van Houts taking a feed. It was bloody damn hot on the track for a September day in the mountains: 28C...
Looks can be deceiving. Wolfram Kursshat was the unlikeliest guy I could think of to be throwing down a bit of style with a turn bar as he settled into no man's land--so far adrift that NOT getting lapped becomes the goal. Kurschatt playing was just so unexpected I almost missed this shot.
Golden bike, but not so much of a golden ride: Jaroslav Kulhavy brought it home in thirteen place.
Manuel Fumic--season's over. I will take a beer now...
Complete Results at bottom...
The Swiss have really made a statement in the Elite Men's XC, sweeping the podium and taking four of the top five spots.
Julian Absalon had a bunch of problems at the Olympics and it looked like he was wanting to prove something here. He lead out the start loop with Nino Schurter and Jose Hermida right on his wheel. By the end of the intro loop it was Absalon still in the lead followed by Luk Fluckiger and Nino Schurter, but Fluckiger took the lead immediately after before losing it to Schurter and Marco Fontana. By the end of the first lap the lead group consisted of Fontana, Schurter, and Fabian Giger with a twenty second lead over the rest. At the end of the second lap it was still the same, Giger, Schurter and then Fontana, but increasing their lead to 30 seconds. At this point the chase group was made up of Fluckiger, Vogel, Tempier and Absalon, two Swiss and two French.
Lap three and it was Fontana, Schurter, and then Giger, with Tempier making the move to close the gap, only 24 seconds back, and by the end of the fourth lap it was still Schurter and Fontana in the lead, with Giger dropping back as Tempier picked it up to now become the chase group, with Mathias Fluckiger now chasing only six seconds behind them. Nino put a bit of power down on the fifth lap, trying to put some space between him and the chasers, pulling away from Fontana a bit. It was a short lived burst as Fonatna pulled up again quickly, but it did manage to up the pace a bit, and put a few more seconds between themselves and Tempier, still in third. It was awesome to hear Nino and Marco talking as they worked together to put some more time between themselves and third place.
At the end of the fifth lap it was still Schurter and Fontana, followed by Tempier, and then the Fluckiger brothers and Giger. A bunch of moves made on the sixth lap as Schurter made a big push and Luk Fluckiger made the move up into third, passing Tempier. End of the sixth lap and Schurter had put some serious time between him and second. Lukas moved up to pass Fontana with Maths right behind, only 25 seconds behind Nino.
Last lap and Nino was out ahead with no one to really challenge him. Lukas Fluckiger in second and his brother Mathias in third, while Fontana slipped back to fourth, and then Giger in fifth. The riders had really spread out by the start of the last lap, 23 seconds to second, 42 seconds to third, and just over a minute to Fontana in fourth, with Giger coming on strong. Mid way through the last lap and Fontana had fallen back, with Absalon coming on strong and challenging Giger for fourth. Schurter still putting it on pulling ahead even more, while Absalon moved up to pass Giger and move into fourth.
A really interesting race in the Elite Women's XCO, with 23 year old Olympic winner Julie Bresset easily taking the World Championship win, and 39 year old Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa taking the silver. Gunn-Rita didn't finish her Olympic race this year, but third place Georgia Gould was also third in London.
Overheard from Gunn-Rita at the finish:
I'm getting old! - Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa
Sabine Spitz took it out early with Julie Bresset in second, and then Bresset moved up early in the first lap to echo the Olympics a little where she came first and Spitz second. Eva Lechner was in third and looking strong in the beginning, but unofortunately crashed and twisted her bars taking her out of the chase group. At the end of the first lap it was all Bresset with Gunn Rita Dahle-Flesjaa and Spitz chasing about 20 seconds back, and already a minute lead over Irina Kalentieva sitting in 7th. Bresset opening her lead up to 34 seconds by the end of the second lap with the real battle being between Gunn-rita and Spitz, fighting for second, and then Nash and Gould fighting for 4th and 5th a minute and a half back. Canada's Catharine Pendrel won the World Cup overall this year, but at the end of the second lap here she was in 12th spot, two minutes back. On the third lap there were a a few change ups. Sptiz and Gunn-Rita both crashed, with Spitz coming out of it with a pretzled rear wheel. and then . Bresset opening her lead up to almost a minute in the second lap, with Gunn Rita now in second and then Georgia Gould in third 1:50 back. Pendrel moving up into 6th and chasing hard, only 2:14 back. At the end of the third lap it was Bresset followed by Gunn-Rita at +:56, Gould at +2:03 and then Ester Suss and Pendrel at +2:20 and :23 respectively. Pendrel really putting the gas on, and we've seen her do this before and make up over a minute on the last two laps of a race.
At the end of the 4th lap nothing much had changed with Bresset still in the lead, GR +:59 and then Georgia +2:34 with Esther and Katharine still in striking distance.
One lap to go and it's still Bresset in the lead, Gunn-Rita +1:26, Georgia +2:56, and then Esther and Irina at +3:25
And that's how it stayed throughout the last lap, no changes in the top 5. World Cup Champion Pendrel looked like she might be making a move in the third lap but she couldn't hold it.