Posted by Editoress on 08/4/19
French champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Canyon Factory) won the closest race of the year at Round 5 of the Mountain Bike World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy, outsprinting Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory) for her first World Cup win since 2015. World Cup series leader Kate Courtney (Scott-SRAM) struggled, finishing 17th and losing the overall lead to Neff.
Catharine Pendrel was the top Canadian finisher, in ninth after challenging for a top-5 in the first half of the race before fading slightly in the last lap and a half. Haley Smith (Norco Factory), the top ranked Canadian in the World Cup series, finished 22nd. Sandra Walter (Team Canada) was 28th and national champion Emily Batty (Trek Factory) 39th. Cindy Montambault was 43rd, Jenn Jackson (Team Canada) 54th and Emily Unterberger (Pendrel Racing) 62nd.
In the Under-23 women, national champion Laurie Arseneault was 28th and Juliette Tetreault was 40th. Arseneault drops to 18th from 15th in the overall standings.
"I'm really happy with my race," said Pendrel. "I felt consistently strong and just need to maintain the driving intensity a bit more into those final laps."
After an extremely muddy short track on Friday, racers were back to good weather for the XCO on Sunday. The Val di Sole course, site of the 2008 world championships, has 190 metres of climbing per lap, and is known for some of the longest and steepest climbing on the World Cup circuit, with early leaders often fading in the final lap.
Neff, the winner of the short track, came into the XCO only 95 points behind Courtney. The new European champion jumped into the lead on the start loop, but was passed by Ferrand Prevot on the first climb and was joined by Courtney and Under-23 world champion Sina Frei (Ghost Factory). Uncharacteristically, Courtney began to fall back and looked to be seriously struggling on the steep climbs, eventually finishing over five minutes down.
Neff joined Ferrand Prevot at the front using her exceptional descending skills, but the French rider surged away on the next climb, opening a gap of 50 seconds by the third lap. Behind, 2016 Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds of Sweden had worked her way up from mid-field to join Neff in the chase, and the pair began to nibble away at Ferrand Prevot's lead. As Ferrand Prevot slowed on the penultimate fourth lap, Neff began to pick up her pace, dropping Rissveds and closing the gap to 14 seconds by the start of the last lap.
With a half a lap to go, Neff had caught Ferrand Prevot and moved to the front on the second to last climb. She tried an attack on the final climb, but Ferrand Prevot stayed with her and countered, taking the lead for the final descent into the finish. Out of the final 180-degree corner, 100 metres from the finish line, Ferrand Prevot began the sprint, holding off Neff by a bike length. Rissveds continues her comeback to the top ranks, finishing third.
Ferrand Prevot was emotional after her win, the first after three years of struggling with injuries. "It feels so, so good; I've had a tough past three years, so to win again is such an amazing feeling. I need to thank my team and family. because it was tough for them as well. When Jolanda came back, I said to myself, 'I did all the work at the front, so I don't want to lose now'. So I sprinted to the top of the climb, and after that she was on my wheel and pushing me. It was a tough finish."
In the overall standings, Neff jumped ahead of Courtney by 33 points, donning the leader's jersey for the time this year. Anne Terpstra (Ghost Factory), winner of Round 3, remains in third, while Ferrand Prevot jumps from seventh to fourth, only ten points behind Terpstra. Smith remains tenth overall, while Pendrel jumps two spots to 11th. Batty and Walter each dropped two spots, to 24th and 33rd, respectively.
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