Emily Batty © Michal Cerveny
September 09, 2017 (Cairns, Australia) – The cross-country competitions at the MTB Worlds concluded on Saturday with Switzerland dominating as Emily Batty of Brooklin, Ontario brought home Canada’s best result claiming 7th in the Elite women’s race.
Nino Schurter © Michal Cerveny
Swiss star Nino Schurter made history defending his title in the Elite Men’s XCO race for the perfect-perfect season as he also won all six World Cup races to claim the 2017 UCI MTB World Cup XCO title as well. His teammate Jolanda Neff took the Elite women’s title while Sina Frei captured the Under-23 women’s gold medal.
Catharine Pendrel © Michal Cerveny
Batty and Pendrel were part of the initial lead group in the 27.4km Elite women’s race spearheaded by Neff and Annie Last of Great Britain. Neff attacked on third lap of six establishing a 20+ second gap which she extended to over two minutes at the finish claiming her first Elite title.
Jolanda Neff © Michal Cerveny
Last took the silver with 2015 champ, Pauline Ferrand Prevot of France, recovering from a flat to take the bronze. Batty settled into seventh, which she held to the finish, although a crash on the final descent led to a sprint finish with Corina Gantenbein of Switzerland.
Batty vs Gantenbein © Michal Cerveny
Haley Smith continued her strong season since joining the Elite ranks, with a steady climb from the mid-30s to finish 16th for her best ever international result. Catharine Pendrel was 27th, Sandra Walter was 30th, Cindy Montambault 37th and Rebecca Beaumont 41st.
Montambault © Michal Cerveny
“I don’t know what to think,” admitted Smith. “I’ve never been inside the top-20 before and to do a top-20 … I know it’s not a podium result, but it’s absolutely huge for me, so I don’t know how to process it. But I’m really happy! I had a crappy start loop and actually crashed in the first couple of laps, but I just stayed focussed and moved through people. I couldn’t have hoped for a season this good; this is a big jump for me, and I’m very happy to end the year on this note.”
Elite Men’s start © Michal Cerveny
In the Elite men’s 31.7km race Schurter and 2012 Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy of the Czech Republic took an early lead but were soon joined by Thomas Litscher of Switzerland and Brazil’s Henerique Avancini.
Nino Schurter © Michal Cerveny
Avancini got dropped and a cat-and-mouse battle raged until the final 1/2 lap of the 7-lap race when Schurter attacked and gapped Kulhavy taking the ultimate prize for a perfect-perfect season. Kulhavy took the silver and Litscher the bronze.
Men’s podium ©
“It was a tough race as Jaroslav was super strong but Thomas was there to help. It’s been an incredible year and it all came together with such an amazing team around me,” commented Schurter.
Leandre Bouchard © Michal Cerveny
Leandre Bouchard was Canada’s top performer in the Elite men’s race, finishing 24th. Andrew L’Esperance was 44th, Derek Zandstra 45th, Evan McNeely 46th and Raphael Gagne 52nd.
Raphael Gagne © Michal Cerveny
“I was pretty lucky on the start,” said Bouchard, “I had some space to move up and the start was really important. So I was able to move up quickly and then protect my place. I’m really happy with this race because I had almost no errors; it was the most dusty race of my life!
Derek Zandstra © Michal Cerveny
“You are just eating dust by the first lap. I did my first top-20 in the World Cup here last year, so I knew I could do well, and so I was looking for a top-25. It’s good to end the season like this.”
Sina Frei wins U23 Women’s race © Michal Cerveny
In the Under-23 women’s race, Soren Meeuwisse was the top Canadian, in 16th place after moving up steadily all race. Anne Julie Tremblay suffered mechanical problems on the start loop and finished 23rd.
Anne Julie Tremblay © Michal Cerveny
Frei, the European champion, was in charge from the start with Anna Tauber (Ned) joining her but she suffered a mechanical. The USA’s Kate Courtney recovered from an early crash to take the silver while Alessandra Keller gave Switzerland another medal claiming the bronze.
Dan Proulx, Team Canada Head Coach © Jonnydunc
Team Canada Head Coach Dan Proulx, summarized the project positively: “We had a great Worlds team this year – new energy and enthusiasm! The highlight was Holden Jones’s bronze medal! The team really impressed me with their effort level. They gave everything. Amongst our team there were several massive improvements in performance – Haley Smith, Marc Andre Fortier, Quinton Disera, Soren Meeuwisse, Andrew L’Esperance. Overall, it was a race where at least one Canadian in every category was strong and competitive. That bodes well for the future. The ones who performed best are just getting started in their careers as high performance athletes.”