The third round of the World Cup XC in Vallnord provided historic racing at high altitude and heat. Here are five things we noticed from the sidelines:1. A great weekend for the smaller XC nations
After Anne Tauber lost the lead in Albstadt, it seemed like we would have to wait a bit longer for a Dutch woman to take a win in XC. But just two rounds later the other Anne from the Netherlands would put it all on the line to hold that title. Terpstra has been looking strong at the opening rounds and at altitude in Vallnord she was able to pull away from last year's series winner Jolanda Neff. Terpstra put an impressive 14-second gap into Neff on a single climb and took the win after crossing the line 38 seconds before the Swiss rider. It was an impressive performance at 2,500 metres from a woman who was born in a country whose highest point is 322 metres.
It was also a great weekend for Mexico with Jose Gerardo Ulloa Arevalo taking sixth in the men's race and Daniela Campuzano Chavez Peon grinding out her first podium with fourth in the women's.
2. Last year's World Cup overall winners are back in the thick of it
The opening rounds of 2019 did not go to plan for Nino Schurter and it has actually been his worst start to the year since 2013. In Vallnord, he returned to his winning ways though as he beat Mathias Flueckiger in the final sprint to the finish. He has managed to leap frog both Flueckiger and the absent Van Der Poel in the overall and is now the man to beat for the rest of the season.
Jolanda Neff also made a big step forward in her efforts to retain the overall title. She started the weekend off with a win in the short track though and backed it up with second in the main race meaning she has cut Kate Courtney's lead from 210 to just 75 points this weekend.
3. Riders suffered in the high altitude and heat
Ondrej Cink was setting a blistering pace during the Elite Men's race and managed to build up a lead of over 40 seconds but on the fifth lap he paid the price for pushing so hard. Cink was seen grabbing at his chest and shortly after pulled off into the tech zone. It was later revealed he had suffered a heart arrhythmia and his heart rate spiked to 230bpm. This is something that can occur when putting in maximum effort but it is also a side effect of competing at altitude, hopefully it isn't a symptom of a greater heart issue.
In the women's race, Jolanda Neff also commented on how she felt many riders went too hard at the start. She was a minute back after the first lap in one of her worst ever starts to a World Cup but rode her own race and worked her way up to second as others dropped off or blew up.
4. Jenny Rissveds made an emotional return to the podium
The Olympic champion has not podiumed for three years but in her third appearance after a mental health break, she rode a great race to take an emotional fifth place. Jenny has spoken openly about depression, mental health and suicide and said in a finish line interview that this was the first time her self confidence had returned since winning the Olympics. She is trying not to focus on results this season but her talent and hard work shone through and she delivered the most popular result of the weekend. Hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more from her over the course of the season.