UCI Mountain Bike World Cup: First win of season for Pendrel and third for Schurter
The beautiful weather that has graced Windham, New York, all week continued for the final day of racing on Sunday, at Round 6 of the Cross-country at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano. Canadian champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) took her first World Cup victory of the season with a dominant performance in the women’s race, while Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) matched World Cup leader Julien Absalon (BMC) with three wins for the series.
Jolanda Neff (Liv Pro XC), despite finishing fourth, locked up the women’s overall title with one race remaining. Absalon has virtually done the same – Schurter would have to win the final round and Absalon finish lower than 28th to stop the French champion from claiming the title.
The Windham course was brutal and simple: a long climb followed by a technical descent. Hot sun added to difficulty the riders faced, and for many it became a race of attrition.
Pendrel, who won here the last time the World Cup was held, in 2012, shot to the front on the opening climb and never looked back. Neff initially tried to match the pace but soon backed off. Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing XC) attempted to bridge up but faded to finish third behind a late surging Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools).
“I knew she [Neff] was breathing really hard on the climb but she wanted to lead the descent,” related Pendrel. “When she got in front of me on the descent I felt I had more pace and I wanted to see if I could get ahead and open a gap and I was able to do that.”
“It feels amazing,” said Pendrel of her comeback from injury. “I’m really happy with the way my training has gone. It’s unfortunate to miss those first two World Cups but in terms of the overall and my season it still worked out okay and I feel strong and that’s important. It’s always nice to have a stronger end to your season. You can come out blazing in the spring but if you don’t hold it until the end…”
Neff has an uncatchable 1050 points, with Pendrel vaulting into second with 790, just two points in front of Zakelj, going into the final round.
As it’s been for most of the season, Schurter and Julien Absalon were the main protagonists in the men’s competition, with Schurter coming out on top, thanks to being faster on the descent.
Canadian champion Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox) had a very good start, briefly leading the field, but by the top of the climb it was Schurter, Absalon and Mathias Flückiger (Stöckli) on the front, followed by Trek Factory teammates Sergio Mantecon and Dan McConnell, Manuel Fumic (Cannondale), José Hermida (Multivan Merida), Henrique Avancini (Caloi Team) and Portuguese champion David Rosa.
By lap three the front of the race had split into two groups, with Absalon, Schurter and the Flückiger brothers ahead, and McConnell, Mantecon, Fumic and Stéphane Tempier (BH-Suntour-KMC) ten seconds behind. The leading quartet came apart on the following lap, as Schurter and Lukas Flückiger pushed the pace on the descent, putting Absalon and Mathias Flückiger on the back foot. Absalon battled past Lukas Flückiger to take second, but could not close the gap to Schurter.
“It was a hard battle with Absalon,” explained Schurter. “I would say I made it in the downhill. I had quite an advantage with the full-suspension. I was always able to open the gap, maybe 10 to 15 seconds. I tried to hold it on the uphill. It was definitely hard but I’m super-stoked to win here on a course that maybe doesn’t suit me best.”
Absalon leads with 1290 points going into the final round, followed by Schurter at 1080. McConnell continues to hold third place with 840 points.
Photo: Catharine Pendrel