5 Things We Learned from the XC World Cup Season

Oct 5, 2020
by James Smurthwaite  
Finally Henrique Avancini takes that win he wanted so badly.

There was double trouble in a COVID bubble this week in Nove Mesto as the XC season was started, fought and finished in just six days of competition. In that time we had two XCC and two XCO races and although it was tantalisingly short, it was packed with action and stories as riders scrambled to adapt to the new normal.

Cyclocrossovers are racking up more wins

Maybe inspired by Mathieu Van Der Poel's successful crossover in recent years, two new cyclocross converts made their presence fully known on the World Cup circuit this weekend. First was Evie Richards, a first year elite rider for Trek Factory racing and Under 23 Cyclocross World Champion in 2016 and 2018. She won both the XCC races and that was despite crashing on the last lap of the second one and having to battle her way back through the top ten on the final two-minute circuit. While the sprint format clearly suits her well, she was no slouch at the Olympic distance either and finished with two top tens.
A clean sweep in Nove Mesto for Pidcock. Incredible racing from this young man.

The other Cyclocross success stories this weekend were 21 year old Brit Tom Pidcock and fellow U23 racer Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado. Alvarado was the 2020 UCI CX World Champion and the U23 XCO Winner at Sunday's race in Nové Město na Moravě. Pidock was the 2018 U23 CX World Champ and is also a formidable presence on the road having won the 'Baby Giro D'Italia' or Giro Ciclistico d'Italia in September this year. Pidcock was unstoppable in the Under 23 races this weekend and won the first World Cup by 27 seconds and the second by more than a minute. He also recorded the fastest lap of anyone in the first round with his 12:01 putting him around 7 seconds faster than anyone in the Elite men's field. Pidcock heads to the World Champs as strong favourite this week but there's a question mark over his head for his future in XC and cyclocross. He recently announced a move to the Ineos Grenadiers (formerly Team Sky) team who are heavily focussed on road Grand Tours. Their frame sponsor, Pinarello, doesn't currently produce an XC race bike and the team would no doubt be looking to finesse Pidcock into a road mountain climber. We'll keep our fingers crossed that World Champs isn't the last we see of this promising young talent.

XCC was still crucially important despite offering no overall points

With no overall to fight for this year, some riders could have seen the XCC as a bit of a sideshow to the more prestigious XCO races that followed a couple of days later. This proved to be a dangerous tactic as, while it may not have conferred any overall points this year, the XCC still determined the all-important grid positions for the XCO. One rider that was caught out by this was Nino Schurter. He seemed out of sorts at the first XCC and ended up rolling home in 29th, which left him stranded a few rows back from his normal starting position at the front of the grid.
Not the start of the season Ninio Schurter was looking for today but knowing him he ll have more in store for us later this week.

Schurter was sitting in 22nd place and 33 seconds back after the first proper lap of the XCO, but battled incredibly through the pack in that race to end up on the podium in fourth. When the second XCC came around, Schurter had clearly received the message as he kept himself up near the front for the race and finished sixth. This put him back on the front row of the start grid and he controlled the race until the last lap when Avancini pipped him with a huge attack on the last lap.

Young guns led the charge at round 1

In a disrupted season after the longest break between World Cup races since the series began, it was the young riders that seemed to adapt better and brought the fight to the established old guard of XC racing. In the first round, there were 4 first-time winners in the elite categories - Richards (23), Ulloa (24), Andreassen (23) and Lecomte (21). In fact, all of these riders except Ulloa were on their first-ever Elite World Cup and Ulloa was only setting out on his second elite season. Evie Richards continued to take the fight to the elites in the second round of the XCC but generally the regulars regained their place at the top. Avancini won the XCC and the XCO for a victory that has been a long time coming, while Prevot soloed for most of the race to take the win the women's XCO.
Loana Lecomte tires to shake off Pauline Ferrand Prevot through the rock garden.

We've been reading a number of theories as to why the younger riders performed so well. Maybe they had more motivation as they were moving up to elites for the first time, maybe they are an especially strong cohort, or maybe the elites are just holding something back for World Champs in Leogang this week. Whatever the case, the next few years of racing are sure to be packed with excitement as we see a tussle for the top between two generations.

Less well-known cycling nations are picking up steam in XC racing

Alongside new race winners, we also got winners from parts of the world we don't normally see in mountain bike racing too. On Tuesday, Jose Gerardo Ulloa Arevalo took Mexico's first World Cup win of any kind in mountain biking as he outsprinted the cream of the crop in some of the worst conditions we've had in recent years. Ulloa has been slowly building since he moved up to the elite class with two top ten results last year and it was great to see him take victory at his first attempt this year.

Henrique Avancini also gave Brazil a first XCO World Cup victory after also giving them a first mountain bike World Cup victory in the Short Track at Andorra in 2018. He doubled his World Cup total to 4 as he did the double in round two in Nove Mesto, which will no doubt please the huge fan base he has back home in Brazil.
What a day for Jose Gerardo Ulloa Arevalo.

Leogang is going to be wide open

This season is so incredibly compressed that riders will have made the 500km trip from Nove Mesto to Leogang yesterday evening and will begin the first training session for the World Championships at 12:30 pm today. The riders will then line up for the relay race on Wednesday followed by the World Championships on Saturday.

The scattered results show us that there are no clear favourites for this year's race and Leogang has apparently constructed a whole new course for riders meaning that nobody will have an advantage from having raced at the Austrian venue before. It's going to be a fascinating weekend of racing to round out the 2020 season.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot lead early on.

Regions in Article
Nove Mesto


  • 33 1
 No mention of Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, 2020 UCI CX World Champion, and U23 XCO Winner at Sunday's race in Nové Město na Moravě.

On another note, IMO Tom Pidcock should have signed with Trek-Segafredo instead of Team INEOS. Trek-Segafredo already has a team and bike for XC, CX, and Road racing.
  • 7 0
 Don't forget that Alvarado was also 2nd overall in the UCI CX World Cup in 2019 - 2020. I didn't even realize that she was racing at Nove Mesto, so it was a great surprise to see her taking the win on Sunday!
  • 7 0
 Yep, if Pidcock deserves a shout out for his U23 results coming out of CX, then CdCA similarly deserves a nod.
  • 20 0
 How right you are - we'll add her in!
  • 2 0
 @sarahmoore: Nice work Sarah. We knew you'd have her back.
  • 18 0
 I've not really followed XC but after watching the close shoulder to shoulder racing I'll definitely be following it in the future, a great spectacle.
  • 4 0
 the tracks have been getting better over the last few years, and the racing is definitely exciting
  • 14 0
 How about an 11th followed up by 15th for Isla Short without even being on a factory team? not too shabby either! lots of young'ns out there to be excited about these days!
  • 3 0
 The article has many ommissions and certainly came across as written without a deep interest in the sport
  • 1 0
 @Madfella: SOOOO many talented youngsters to get excited about these days!!! that's what keeps our love for the sport going!! the true fans are keeping track =)
  • 10 1
 The cyclocross and XC fan in me hates Pidcock signed for Ineos. He's such a talent and they'll try their best to turn him into another drone riding tempo on the climbs while staring at his wattage on his cycling computer. I guess they came carrying bags of money though. Gotta take the cash I guess.
  • 3 0
 I'm similar; and while I do like road racing, I hate the superior attitude it's followers have towards 'lesser' disciplines. Whenever somebody shows promise in off road racing, you get the inevitable "when are they moving to the road?"
Pro cycling isn't just about road racing; but we all know that on here.
  • 7 0
 While watching DH on RedbullTV back in 2013 got me back into following the World Cup (and back into DH riding in general after a long hiatus), I really started watching the XC races in 2018 and I'm just as hooked on those races as the DH broadcasts. It's a far cry from the XC races of 20 years ago.
  • 8 0
 Looking forwards to World Championship, unpredictable = exciting!
  • 4 1
 hope no crash for Aaron...
  • 2 0
 As an aside, on the weekend I did a race that is usually a mass start XC marathon event, but this time it was a time trial in order to socially distance riders. It worked just fine - the fastest person won. I found it hard because without others to gauge how hard I was pushing, I only had ghosts to chase. If you organise a race, racers will turn up. Sending XC riders off at 30 second intervals may not be ideal, but it is better than no race at all. TT is a legit format for track, road, BMX, DH and enduro. XCO should be fine.
  • 1 0
 with the turnout we have for local XC races if we used that format we would have weeks of races. I can take or leave it personally, im ok not racing for a season and waiting for standard XC format. Time trial cross country is not for me, as a rider or a spectator. To be clear, im not against modifying formats so people can race, more power to you, just don't expect to see me ringing cowbells at the finish.
  • 1 0
 We've been doing TT format. I personally always race that way anyway except for when the 80% rule applies,
  • 1 0
 I like the idea of a TT start. If you catch the person ahead of you, you are clearly faster and they should let you around. Same goes if you get caught. The only big downside I see is potentially starting late and the course drastically changing as 200 tires hit it before you get your chance (especially in wet races). We used to run a local group TT and it was a blast. 10-15 of us would run a quick 20 minute sprint course with TT start and then do a group ride afterward.
  • 3 0
 I wouldnt call Evie a CX cross over, she have been focused on racing XCO for years, has only ever cherry picked cyclocross races and never done a full season. Pidcock and Ceylin are definitely crossers.
  • 1 0
 New blood coming in and having good results gives motivation for ANYONE who moved up in the future not to be intimidated by the old guard. Now they know that just because someone like Nino is on the grid with you, that doesn't mean you has to dominate you.
  • 2 0
 Pidcock was the *U-23* World Champ in 2018. And many other U-23 wins and championships ... so he's a 'young-cyclocrossover-gun'
  • 2 0
 Thanks - we've clarified that!
  • 7 2
 #6: COVID is contagious
  • 4 4
 COVID is contagious, but honestly there were a lot of people around, several hundred racers alone, plus team and all that. And only 5 or so got it? I don't know, seems about right. The Flu probably went around at races in the past, or some other virus. I'm so, so glad they at least tried to get a few races in this year. I wish the Worlds all the luck.
  • 5 0
 You have to also keep in mind even in groups people are being much more careful, so the comparison to the contagion of an off season virus that most of us are vaccinated for doesn't really work. If 5 racers came down with a serious flu in a weekend it would definitely be news, especially if everyone was on high flu alert, wearing masks and avoiding eachother to some degree .
  • 1 0
 I would think that these racers would be the first to feel the difference if they were symptomatic of COVID. I feel safer in an MTB pack than at the supermarket.
  • 4 0
 Read an interesting article on flu numbers dropping incredibly due to the covid restrictions. With covid numbers rising while the flu numbers drop, theres not really a comparison?
  • 1 1
 @RonSauce: I don’t think it was 5 racers, was it? Just 2 I think. My point was simply that out of hundreds of people at the venue, a handful of positives is very low. So low that I was comparing it to what happens when any large group of people get together. Trade shows, concerts, people do get something afterwards. It’s normal isn’t it?
  • 2 0
 @iamamodel: I get your point but there's also a certain go-fever when you have looked forward to, trained for and travelled to an event. It gets more difficult to back out.
We had a case of a rider bragging about having raced the national road championships with a fewer this year. That did not go down well. So, I'm not so sure if it is wise to trust in other athletes judgement.
  • 1 0
 @shorttravelmag: right, it was 5 people not racers, 2 racers. 2 racers getting the flu is news. If 2 racers came down with food poisoning it would be news. How do you not understand the difference between organized sporting events where people are keeping distance and wearing masks. The handful of positives is high considering no one should have showed up sick and everyone should be exercising caution. There is no reason to have zero new cases.
  • 4 0
 6. The WC season was over before it started.
  • 2 0
 Also learned you can sneak in pretty easily!
  • 2 0

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