Posted by Editoress on 07/1/16
Sweden and France were the first national anthems heard as cross-country competition began on Friday at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic. Ida Jansson of Sweden took the women's title and Thomas Bonnet of France the men's.
Sean Fincham took the top Canadian result of the day, finishing eighth in the Junior men's race. Sidney McGill was the top Canadian Junior woman, finishing 21st.
Held in the wooded, rolling countryside 90 minutes southeast of Prague, Nove Mesto offers a tough 4.1 kilometre XCO circuit, with half of it climbing. From the magnificent arena, riders head out through a rock garden then up a long climb followed by an immediate descent and a second long climb. After descending through a difficult rock garden, riders hit the longest sustained climb, then go over a drop off and back up to the highest part of the course. A final descent takes them to the flatter portion of the circuit, where they face the famous Rock n' Roll technical section before heading into the stadium for the end of the lap. All races will have a 2.8 kilometre start loop before starting the regular laps, with the women racing three laps and the men four.
Jansson, who is coming back from a broken wrist that denied her a chance at the European Championship title, led the women's race from start to finish. Martina Berta of Italy led the chase for the first lap of the three lap race, before being caught by Lisa Pasteiner of Austria. Pasteiner pulled to within 15 seconds of Jansson, but couldn't quite close the gap, finishing second at 25 seconds. Berta held on for third, but faded in the second half of the race to finish nearly two minutes back.
For Jansson, it was a strong return to racing. "It is the best day of my life! I had hard luck earlier in the year and wasn't sure of my form, but I felt very good out there today."
McGill, racing in her first Worlds, rode consistently around 20th, to finish 9:22 down on the winner. In other Canadian results, Sophieanne Samson was 24th, Erica Leonard 28th and Emily Handford 39th.
"It was a tough race, but lots of fun," said McGill. "I came into it sick, with allergies, but it was still amazing to race get the experience of racing with some of the best Juniors in the world."
The Junior men's race saw five riders break away from the rest of the field on the first lap. The group contained Bonnet, Vital Albin (Switzerland), Chris Blevins (USA), Quinton Disera (Canada) and Axel Zingle (France). Disera was the first to get dropped, then Zingle after his team mate Bonnet attacked as Blevins was joining the group. Albin and Blevins were together entering the final lap, but the American had a mechanical problem, dropping him the fourth and enabling a late surging Tobias Halland Johannessen (Norway) to take the bronze medal behind Albin.
Bonnet came charging through the finish with his head down and had to be flagged down from starting another lap. "I was so focussed on the race that I did not realize it was the last lap," he explained. "I was concerned about Blevins joining us at the front, so I attacked. Then I kept going as hard as I could. It is fantastic to win."
Fincham came back a poor start that saw him get jammed into the fencing on the start, to steadily work his way back into the top-10, finishing 2:28 down on the winner and less then a minute and a half out of the medals. Disera faded in the middle of the race before recovering to finish 12th. Gunnar Holmgren rode up through the field to finish 16th and Victor Verreault was 33rd.
"I can't believe, I'm so happy to get top ten," said Fincham. "My goal was top-15 and I beat it; I can't believe it. I had a bad start and got pushed into the fencing and fell back, but I just kept hammering and picking people off. The climbs are so steep, but there are so many fans cheering you on and pumping you up that you can get through it. This is a highlight, for sure."