A Nation's Pride: XCO World Cup Round 3, La Bresse

May 30, 2016
by Matthew DeLorme  


There is nothing sweeter than taking home your first win of the season in front of your hometown crowd. Julien Absalon rode like a man possessed today. Call it hometown advantage if you like, but it was a brilliant ride, a win for France as much as it was for Julien Absalon. The course that was running fast and dusty yesterday got a good soaking from some hefty thunderstorms last night, and that changed the playing field drastically. There were plenty of spills in both men's and women's races, and at the end of the day, La Bresse had an impressive bunch of casualties of war to its name. Flats were coming hot and heavy, and if you weren't out front from the start and didn't have a bit of luck, your chances of moving up the field were diminished. Nino Schurter suffered multiple flats, putting him in the position of fighting his way through the field, something we haven't seen him have to do this season.

Jolanda Neff came out hard and never looked back. Whatever infection was holding her back last week was only a memory today. The question of whether or not she would be fit and ready was quickly answered. Annika Langvad didn't have the best of luck today, but retained the leader's jersey. Question is: with Jolanda back in the game, how long can she keep it? Jenny Rissveds had a stellar performance last week, but wasn't at full capacity today. An off into the safety netting only hurt her situation more. Catharine Pendrel and Emily Batty had amazing rides to second and third respectively.

With the Olympics drawing near, the chess board is really starting to take shape. Now we have a bit of a waiting game to see what happens next.

Jolanda Neff is back in action after falling sick last week in Albstadt.
Jolanda Neff is back in action after falling sick last week in Albstadt.

Is luck all it takes Elisabeth Brandau is in fierce competition for one of the German slots for the Rio Olympic Games.
Is luck all it takes? Elisabeth Brandau is in fierce competition for one of the German slots for the Rio Olympic Games.

Linda Indergand and Kathrin Sternimann have a laugh before racing gets underway.
Linda Indergand and Kathrin Sternimann have a laugh before racing gets underway.

There is no such thing as an easy start. Full on high pace maxing out.
There is no such thing as an easy start. Full on, high pace, maxing out.

La Bresse proved to be challenging for many. Go in slightly afraid and you crash.
La Bresse proved to be challenging for many. Go in slightly afraid and you crash.

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot still has to find her mojo after recovering from a broken knee. Her goal is an Olympic medal.
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot still has to find her mojo after recovering from a broken knee. Her goal is an Olympic medal.

Catharine Gunn-Rita and Indergand take three different line in and come out unscathed.
Catharine, Gunn-Rita, and Indergand take three different lines in and come out unscathed.

Annike Langvad rode hard today but met the dirt in an unfortunate manner.
Annike Langvad rode hard today, but met the dirt in an unfortunate manner.

Neff added some last minute drama as she flatted and lost time in the tech zone. She was overtaken bij Batty and Pendrel but soon after dropped them both.
Neff added some last minute drama as she flatted and lost time in the tech zone. She was overtaken by Batty and Pendrel, but soon after, dropped them both.

Battle wounds on Annika Langvad. The Danish lady struggled with the course in La Bresse but managed to cling on to the lead in the World Cup.
Battle wounds on Annika Langvad. The Danish lady struggled with the course in La Bresse but managed to cling on to the lead in the World Cup.

Katarina Nash may have seemed like she was taking a break from world cups last year but she was on it today. fourth place.
Katarina Nash may have seemed like she was taking a break from World Cups last year, but she was on it today. Fourth place.

Emily Batty had the legs today. She finished third.
Emily Batty had the legs today. She finished third.

Maja Wlozsczowska traversing with La Bresse below. She rode to fifth place today.
Maja Wlozsczowska traversing with La Bresse below. She rode to fifth place today.

Emily Batty is right up there proving to be a top contender this season. The Olympic Games will be a spectacle to watch with this field.
Emily Batty is right up there, proving to be a top contender this season. The Olympic Games will be a spectacle to watch with this field.

Jolanda Neff did not hold back. She sprinted away from the field taking the lead in the women s field.
Jolanda Neff did not hold back. She sprinted away from the field taking the lead in the women's field.

Speeding through for another larp
Speeding through for another lap

Jolanda Neff was positively on fire today. Looks like she hasn t missed a beat.
Jolanda Neff was positively on fire today. Looks like she hasn't missed a beat.

If there were doubts about Jolanda Neff s fitness they were answered today. She rode incredibly well.
If there were doubts about Jolanda Neff's fitness, they were answered today. She rode incredibly well.

Jenny Rissveds was wearing all kinds of tape today from a practice crash. She had an off today as well.
Jenny Rissveds was wearing all kinds of tape today from a practice crash. She had an off today as well.

Emily Batty greets team mate Bec Henderson when she crossed the line.
Emily Batty greets teammate Bec Henderson as she crosses the line.

Splatter.
Splatter.

Smoked after a finish line sprint.
Smoked after a finish line sprint.

More French bubbles.
More French bubbles.

The winning bike in the women s elite race.
The winning bike in the women's elite race.

Baguettes for all
Baguettes for all!

Nino Schurter speeds away leading the pack towards the first climb at La Bresse.
Nino Schurter speeds away, leading the pack towards the first climb at La Bresse.

Absolutely packed. A challenge to get around here in La Bresse but so worth it.
Absolutely packed. A challenge to get around here in La Bresse, but so worth it.

Maxime Marotte was one of there Frenchmen on the podium he took second today.
Maxime Marotte was one of three Frenchmen on the podium, he took second today.

Julien was all by physically pushed by the crowd.
Julien was all but physically pushed by the crowd.

Nino Schurter suffered two flats during the race. One lap after riding this new rear wheel he would flat his new wheel as well.
Nino Schurter suffered two flats during the race. One lap after riding this new rear wheel, he would flat his new wheel as well.

Fabian Giger set the pace on the first lap.
Fabian Giger set the pace on the first lap.

Not only mountainbikers crashed. The lead bike face planted with Absalon only thirty seconds behind.
Not only mountain bikers crashed. The lead bike face planted with Absalon only thirty seconds behind.

Julien had some wickedly fast lines on the way to his victory.
Julien had some wickedly fast lines on the way to his victory.

For the first couple laps it looked like Nino and Julien would push each other to the brink then Nino ran into trouble.
For the first couple laps it looked like Nino and Julien would push each other to the brink, then Nino ran into trouble.

Nino Schurter chases after suffering a second flat.
Nino Schurter chases after suffering a second flat.

Dan McConnell comes around a corner to find traffic.
Dan McConnell comes around a corner to find traffic.

It was one big slip and slide through the crowd at the last descent.
It was one big slip and slide through the crowd at the last descent.

Jaroslv took fifth place toay
Jaroslv took fifth place today

Marco Fontana enough said.
Marco Fontana, enough said.

After flatting twice Nino chases back to the front but couldn t get past the three flying Frenchmen.
After flatting twice, Nino chases back to the front, but couldn't get past the three flying Frenchmen.

Crowds. Roaring crowds. A packed course cheers for everyone. Yet so many more cheers for local Julien Absalon.
Crowds. Roaring crowds. A packed course, cheers for everyone. Yet so many more cheers for local Julien Absalon.

Julien Absalon takes the win. Riding a dropper post on a full suspension bike Absalon has evolved once again this season.
Julien Absalon takes the win. Riding a dropper post on a full suspension bike, Absalon has evolved once again this season.

Some days of racing are harder that others.
Some days of racing are harder that others.

Julien s kids were waiting for him at the line.
Julien's kids were waiting for him at the line.

All the legs tat crosses the line had a solid mud coating.
All the legs that crossed the line had a solid mud coating.

Your men s podium with Julien Absalon Maxime Marotte Victor Koretzky Nino Schurter and Jaroslav Kulhavy
Your men's podium, with Julien Absalon, Maxime Marotte, Victor Koretzky, Nino Schurter and Jaroslav Kulhavy,

XCO La Bresse

Nino fueling the fire in the next generation of riders.
Nino fueling the fire in the next generation of riders.

The local and national press even had their own time with Julien.
The local and national press had their own time with Julien.

La France c est magnifique. A French podium with Julien Absalon Maxime Marotte and Victor Koretzky.
La France, c'est magnifique. A French podium with Julien Absalon, Maxime Marotte and Victor Koretzky.



97 Comments

  • 171 8
 I'm not sure how or when it happened but xc became cool again. Love it.
  • 78 13
 XC was always cool, and will always remain cool.
  • 46 0
 I think XC carries on. I can only imagine Enduro, and the "earn your turns" ethos has generated maybe more respect for xc? I dunno. They also have considerably improved the courses in recent years. Like alot...
  • 34 1
 Maybe the coverage has gotten better? I didn't pay much attention to it before, but this is awesome. Gnarly course and the fitness and speed are amazing of course.
  • 19 0
 Definitely the courses are getting better. That's effing gnarly on those bikes.
  • 12 1
 I think it's a combination of things. Courses have gotten gnarly, coverage is better and i think people are becomming more open minded to different disciplines of biking in general.
  • 10 0
 they're running droppers. the courses are definitively better.
  • 6 3
 @UtahBikeMike: I think XC is kind of like heavy metal in a sense. Even when metal is the least "cool" genre, as a scene it is self sufficient. I think XC is similar. A lot of fads have come and gone, but some things just ebb and flow.
  • 6 2
 @VwHarman:

I do like me some metal..
  • 8 4
 @yerbikesux: nope. E-bikes are smooth jazz. Xc could be like real jazz.
  • 3 0
 For a while XC was nearly identical to road racing... just on dirt. The courses were purposely non-technical and bikes sacrificed everything for weight. It was entirely focused on cardio endurance. It was boring to watch and boring to ride. Yet at the same time it dominated the mountain bike scene. That's where the dislike for XC came from. XC was ruining mountain biking. Then things began to shift. Bikes became more capable and courses became more technical. Meanwhile, much of the mtb world had already shifted focus to more fun forms of riding, racing and competing. XC athletes and competitions were no longer the pinnacle of the mtb scene. Free ride movies, rampage, crankworx, web edits and freecaster broadcasts were making stars elsewhere. All that slowly shifted XC. Which is good, it had gone off the rails and taken the entire off road cycling universe with it. Now it's found a place again, as just another niche of the mtb ecosystem. And in that niche, I no longer feel the need to rage against it.
  • 1 0
 @dfiler: Actually XC was never like. In some locations it was, and unfortunately still is, (Western United States for example). But a lot of world cup courses have been like Le Bresse for at least the last year 10 years. What has changed is the coverage is better and you get see what the course are like.
  • 1 0
 @WhatAboutBob: Agreed, in some places it was never that bad. But in many it was. The shift i'm talking about started more than 10 years ago in some regions. Culture varies around the world and doesn't change overnight. It takes generations of riders aging through the sport to see real change.
  • 89 0
 Now that's a proper gnar XC course. Tackling those rock gardens on a hardtail with no dropper borders on insanity.
  • 43 2
 Yeah, looks tougher than what I ride on my 160mm trail bike.
  • 8 0
 Carbon xc 29er hardtails are much more capable than you think by looking at them. Definitely not taking anything away from those guys (and girls) or that course, they're animals for sure! Every bike has its limits and hardtail race bikes with a skilled rider can be a trail weapon!!
  • 11 0
 Don't forget, these riders can descend.
  • 3 0
 Totally. Perfect course. Long painful climbs, steep and technical descents and then this long flat paved section that tights-it all up together. All around biking race
  • 3 0
 @adrock-whistler Yeah... I'd want to ride them at least with some knee protection and a fully retracting saddle :-)
Takes mucho balls to run a lightweight 5 digit carbon rig face down & ass up, just like that.
XC is definitely a hotter sport today!
  • 2 0
 @WayneParsons: exactly. Kabush crushes it whenever he shows up at an Enduro race. As does Evan Guthrie and those CDN ladies rip too!
  • 1 0
 @adrock-whistler

watched the race on red bull's teevee
The rock face in the Stadium is really impressive for an XC track!
Tackling it (and the rest of the muddy descent) the way they did, multiple times, and when tired is even a bigger feat IMHO.
I was surprised that enduro rockers like Fontana didn't end up with a better placement....
  • 31 0
 Congratulations to Julien and Jolanda! What an incredible race. The coverage from Pinkbike and Red Bull TV has been fantastic as well.
  • 14 1
 "Julien Absalon takes the win. Riding a dropper post on a full suspension bike, Absalon has evolved once again this season."

Is this the first time someone gets a WC XC podium on a bike with a dropper post ?

Bravo Julien !
  • 4 0
 Absalon was using one last weekend and came 2nd,. Interesting that at least one of them only has 35mm of drop.
  • 8 0
 Absalon was extremely weight conscious before. Only in Hafjell did he decide to race his fully, being advised so by his brother, Remy. This winter he has improved his technical skills and now he decided to run a dropper post at all times as he is convinced the added weight does not outweigh its benefits.
  • 5 3
 @fr0sty125: Nino had a reverb but from watching the race I didn't notice him actually use it
  • 3 0
 @rrsport: it was on his hardtail
  • 3 1
 @rrsport: He had a Reverb during training. He swapped it for a regular seatpost for the race.
  • 3 0
 Matthias Fluckiger ran a custom dropper last season.
  • 2 1
 Lol at the neg props... look at the photos on other websites. Blatant reverb dropper on ninos bike
  • 1 0
 @matthewdelorme I am shocked that the article doesn't mention that this was Nino's first (recent?) race on a 29'er!! My guess is that Absalon's off season work on the DH made last week's win a little too close for comfort for Nino. In response he made a choice to ride a bike that might help the efficiency of his climbs. Very surprising to me b/c the technical aspect of this track might favor his regular 27.5. And I bet the two flats didn't help his confidence on the 29er.
  • 1 0
 @zepper: what I'm wondering is was the prototype hardtail last weekend a 29er as well? In photos his wheels look the same size as absalons
  • 2 0
 @zepper: My guess is that Nino is preparing for the Olympics, for which the 29er will be a benefit. As the Olympics are the main goal, he will want hours on that bike.

@rrsport it is. Although both bikes apparently are available in both sizes...
  • 1 0
 @aidanbrown559: And he is working on a new version of it as well.
  • 2 1
 @zepper: I think the SRAM Eagle drivetrain is the reason for Nino to go 29er. The Eagle RD is less prone to hitting trail obstacles when on bigger wheels like a 29er.
  • 2 0
 I have heard rumours of a new wheel size between 27.5 and 29 so maybe its not a traditional 29er. They premiered the 650b at London2012 so maybe their doing something similar in Rio. Who knows.
  • 1 0
 @two-s-lipo: so basically f*ck scram Wink
  • 12 0
 Fantastic coverage, thanks PB.
  • 8 0
 Julien, an absolute legend. Has been up the top for so long, must have motivation for miles. To win his first World Cup Overall in 2003 and be still killing it in 2016 is phenomenal.
  • 8 1
 Great stuff. I'm loving the XC coverage on here. Happy for Julien after his disappointment last round. Would have been nice to see Nino up there though putting some pressure on.
  • 4 0
 Yeah definitely. Julien got skills and at 35 he just keeps getting better. Getting ready for a showdown at world champs.
  • 7 0
 It's amazing how he Racing Ralph/Rocket Ron are the pro's choice for such a slick/muddy course. I must be riding too much rubber for my local trails. Time to go semi-slicks.
  • 2 0
 ha I was thinking the same thing, I run that combo for very dry (but often loose) So Cal conditions.
  • 2 0
 @neons97 Same thought here.
Talks volumes about bike handling skills, 'specially down the damp rock garden and muddy descent.
FTW!
OTOH they have the luxury of a mech zone - those skinny Schwalbes IMHO are race specific... seen so many ripped ones on the rocky trails in the Alps. Having to walk yourself and your rig 2 hrs down to the village isn't very cool
:-/
  • 9 0
 Orange Fox 32 SC forks for the win
  • 6 1
 Be interesting merging the xc pros with the enduro pros and make the ups and downs timed. Ride whatever bike you like. Sounds stupid but the xc guys have serious bike skills and the enduro guys are fit as all hell.
  • 2 0
 Prediction: Former and current WC DH professionals (Enduro racers) win on the downhills, and current XC pros win on the uphills. Can't see it going any other way if history tells us anything.
  • 3 1
 @atrokz: Thow in the rowdiest descent and the XC guys would still be a minute up.
  • 2 1
 @jclnv: definitely! There's a promo scott bikes vid floating around of Nino with Brendan Fairclough ridin trails together and it highlights ninos skills! Xc rules
  • 1 1
 @jclnv: Overall? I thought he said time the ups and downs. You can't just make up the rules! XC pros aren't going to be a minute up on any professional enduro racer on the downs. We all know some of the pros have serious skills (Nino was his countries DH champ for years), but to think they can compete, for descending (the topic at hand), with current and former WC champions and professionals is fanboism at it's finest. We all know what would happen when that clock starts ticking and you've got Barrel or Nico or Graves at it. Also thinking guys like Graves and Nico can't climb fast is funny. XC pros win at XC races. Enduro pros win at enduro races, DH pros win at DH races. If you're timing the ups and then the downs then the results would be an easy bet to make. If you're timing both together it's called a XC race which isn't the discussion. We know who wins at those because that's what the entire article is about! lol
  • 1 0
 @atrokz: I think you're talking about a format of racing that used to be popular with the Whistler scene where points are awarded for positions in individually timed DH, XC and hill limb stages. All Mountain racing if you will. I advocate for it whenever possible as it is the true indication of all-round ability. Much more than Enduro and even XC. That's where, as you rightly say, where guys like Niño and Graves would probably be untouchable.
  • 1 0
 @jclnv: Yea thats true. Nino is a very skilled rider for sure and graves can climb with the best of them.
  • 6 0
 Trail looks gnarly af, huge props for the xc guys! This is getting better every year
  • 6 0
 That takes a special kind of talent to come from 1:39 down to battle for the lead. Way to go Catherine!
  • 4 0
 Wow the pictures really dispelled a lot of XC stereotypes. Front mechs, full suspension and dropper posts. Plus slick, steep rock gardens and ankle deep mud. That's a proper race!
  • 6 0
 witweew...sweet Batty's eyelashes... nice Mat..
  • 3 0
 I wonder how many riders would start charging downhill even more, if they only had droppers. Julien is gaining some serious time on the descents. Nino should get one so he can ride away from Julien again.
  • 3 0
 The dropper issue is tough. Sure everyone could desend quicker and more agressive, but lets not forget they will probably out ride the thin xc tires very quick. Nino has a hard enough time not getting flats as it is.
  • 2 0
 Yeah I think we're gonna start seeing a lot more droppers very quickly, at least if the courses stay as techy as this. Nino was crazy not to ride one after last race, IMO. But @machine4321 is right, they're also gonna have to make some weight/durability decisions on tires if the courses stay this burly. We could see XC builds start to look different in lots of ways if this keeps up.
  • 3 0
 @bkm303: The main reason not to run droppers for most riders is weight. Another reason often mentioned is they would like the dropper to go down by the touch of a button, as it can be cumbersome to put weight on the saddle when your heart is doing 190bpm and you've to manually push your saddle down.
  • 2 0
 @ikeizer: Yeah I know all that, but the dropper has made a massive difference for Absalon, and if the courses stay this gnarly riders will need to start making some hard weight decisions to keep the competitive edge.
  • 2 0
 @bkm303: I'm not saying they are right. The static weight does not matter if you do the maths (watts/kg), its in their head.
  • 3 0
 @ikeizer: Also, for some riders, the time gained in downhill using a dropper post is negated by the time lost on long climbs. Every grams matter. They have to go with the compromise that works best for them.
  • 4 0
 Great coverage - Thank you Pinkbike and RBTV!! That and gnarly new/revised courses as well as epic battles between the top riders in every single race... BRING ON RIO!!
  • 1 0
 Rio is quite different, Olympics have to consider televised broadcasting, so courses are in the open and very artificial.
  • 6 2
 Gutted for Nino. After suffering 2 flats he still managed to catch up to the top 3 racers~ That's how insanely fast he is. Julien got lucky this time around.
  • 8 0
 I guess you didn't see the splits because Niño didn't pull any time back on Julien.
  • 4 0
 Nino probably would have been 2d without the flats. An awesome ride for him, to be sure, but Julien was flying and no doubt would have set an even more furious pace if Nino had been on his wheel. We might not see Nino on a 29er again, though. That didn't seem to go too well. Even after getting his flats, he couldn't make up any time.
  • 1 0
 Lucky... sure... but not for the race win. Nino didn't pull back any time on Absalon after the flats, it just wasn't his day.
  • 1 0
 @jclnv: didn't watch it or catch the times, just caught this article and read he had 2 flats.
  • 4 0
 Now I can understand Aaron Gwin's quote "Most people call it enduro but I call it XC".
Makes perfect sense after looking at that course. It looks like an EWS track my God...
  • 2 0
 Amazing Neff won even with that crash and a flat! #FrontMechs4Lyf And the wheel change was like watching F1 with how close it was getting out of the 'pits' before the next rider (Batty) came round. Good to see my fave Wlosczowska back on the podium. Poor Jenny Rissveds, hope she gets well soon after crashing out.
Absalon was imperious. Coretsky is one for the future no doubt. Will we see Nino on a 29er again???
  • 8 2
 Cocorico !
Smile Smile Smile
  • 3 0
 Anyone else notice the distinct lack of gold chains on the new eagle groups? They are all silver however black and gold are the only two options. Weird
  • 3 0
 There's a silver chain option for the Eagle group as well.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: ah right, couldn't see that on their website...thought they were prototyping a new chain design already.
  • 3 0
 Pendrel and Batty. Way to go! Two of our Canadian girls on the podium, couldn't be more proud. Batty was looking very good on the technical descent
  • 5 1
 fourth with two punctures.. sheesh!
  • 3 1
 ......and 2 of the slowest wheel changes by his team! Easy to say sitting on the couch but WOW!
  • 5 1
 Great photos! The XC coverage is awesome Pink Bike. Keep it coming!
  • 3 0
 Amazing to see 2 on the podium from Canada, now if only we could break the top 5 in mens..... XC is alive and well!
  • 3 0
 Holy cow. Less mud than that has bested me on a trail bike DH tires and the seat slammed to the top tube. Much respect.
  • 3 0
 Love this, please keep the awesome XC coverage coming. What a gnarly course, magnifique!!
  • 4 1
 Looks like actual Mountain Biking! Nice job.
  • 3 1
 Jolanda's bike had a front mech!!!
  • 5 1
 Indeed! Someone (internet keyboard experts) needs to tell Jolanda that real racers only run 1x. And that way the saved weight can be used toward a dropper.
  • 3 1
 Olympic will be really interesting, Bravo Julien
  • 3 1
 Marco Fontana FTW
Can we give this guy some more coverage?
  • 10 0
 He needs to speed up if he wants more coverage.
  • 1 0
 So the winners change into fresh, identical kits for the medal ceremony? You learn something new everyday!
  • 1 0
 Indeed. Plus mandatory sponsor caps, bottles, cans etc.
  • 2 0
 Kate Courtney is my favourite one, I like her.
  • 2 0
 Great coverage lads!
  • 1 0
 Can´t believe only 3 years ago Julien was still wining over Nino.
  • 2 1
 droperpost eperywhere Big Grin
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