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Canada’s Batty 5th and Pendrel 4th Overall as Neff and Schurter Lock Up World Cup XC Titles – Report + PHOTOS

by pedalmag.com/UCI
Elite Men's overall podium  ©  Michal Cerveny
August 23, 2015 (Val di Sole, Italy) – The 25th season of the cross-country series in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano concluded on Sunday in Val di Sole, Italy, with the awarding of the overall titles for 2015.


Neff  ©  Michal Cerveny
Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli Pro Team) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) maintained their leads in the women’s and men’s categories, respectively, to become the World Cup champions. While Schurter won in Val di Sole, Neff had to settle for second behind first time winner Annika Langvad (Den) Specialized.

Batty battles to 5th  ©  Michal Cerveny

For Canadian fans it was a strong finish to a long season as Ontario’s Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) landed on the podium in 5th with a strong second half to her race. Fellow Canuck and defending MTB Worlds champ Catharine Pendrel (Luna) finished 4th overall taking home a crystal trophy while Batty was 7th – interviews here.

Pendrel w/crystal trophy for 4th overall  ©  Michal Cerveny

On the men’s side Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain) matched his career-best 14th World Cup result and made the top 20 overall claiming 17th following his best season ever – interview here.

Elite Women

Rain overnight made the course wet and muddy, slowing the track and making sections slippery. Through the day it gradually dried out, but riders still crashed frequently on mud-covered rocks and wet grassy descents.

Neff got her usual fast start in the women’s race, with world champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) and Langvad chasing through the start loop. As Pendrel faded back, Langvad seemed to be getting stronger and, surprisingly, Neff could not open a gap on the Danish rider. By the halfway point the pair were together at the front, and when Langvad attacked on the penultimate lap, Neff could not respond, leaving the Specialized rider to cross the line with a huge smile as she scored her first win.

Behind the lead two, Pendrel was joined by Irina Kalentyeva (Moebel Maerki), who then moved solo into third place, which she held to line. A chase group containing Maja Wloszczowska (Kross Racing), Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing), Adelheid Morath (BH-SR Suntour-KMC), Lea Davison (Specialized), Blaza Klemencic (Habitat Mountain Bike) and Eva Lechner (Colnago Sudtirol) was starting to move up, but eventually split in the last lap and a half, as riders attacked. Wloszczowska took fourth, just ahead of Batty.

Langvad battles Neff  ©  Michal Cerveny

“I must say I can’t believe it,” stated Langvad. “It felt so good out there today. Last weekend I did a race in Leadville [USA] at three thousand metres. This entire week I was filled with jet lag, I was exhausted, didn’t sit much on my bike. I thought ‘OK, I’ll do this race for the points, for going for the overall team award’. Even yesterday I did some intensity on the course and I thought ‘whoo, I’m tired’. So I started out with very low expectations. Then, all of a sudden, I felt really good. When you catch a good wave, you just have to stay with that feeling.”

“You’ve all seen how I have been struggling the last few World Cups with crashes, lack of concentration. But, this race, I actually put it all together. I had a little bit of a mistake on the second last lap, but I kept it together. I am so happy. I am beyond words.”

“The last two laps I really had to put the hammer down. I could see Jolanda was struggling and I had to put it to my advantage. But when you go over your limit, you go a little bit cross eyed, especially going into the downhill part. But still, I kept it together. I really wanted the win and the tears came into my eyes when I came to the last stretch and realized this is really going to happen. It is an amazing feeling.”

Batty on the podium  ©  Michal Cerveny

While Neff and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) were secure in first and second for the overall standings, the remaining places were completely overturned by the results of the Final. Third placed Pendrel dropped to fourth, Davison moved up to third, and Kalentyeva bumped Batty out of fifth.

“Oh yes, this was a really tough race for me,” agreed Neff. “Really hard. Tough climbing. Yeah, it really was a hard race. But I’m really happy I could take the overall. It means a lot to me and to take it two times in a row, yeah it’s amazing.”

For Batty landing on the podium was good preparation for the upcoming MTB Worlds in Andorra. “My form has been good and my goal is to always fight for top a five and I’m happy to achieve that today. The focus of course is the top 3 and that elusive World Cup win – and yes, I’ll be ready for Andorra in 2 weeks after some training at Alp d’Huez this week,” said Batty.

“I didn’t quite have the punch today,” said Pendrel, the defending MTB Worlds champ whofinished fourth overall in the series. “I’m looking to find the form I had a MSA and hopefully it’ll be there in Andorra. I dug deep and did what I could today, and always like competing on this course.”

Walter was happy with her run today despite falling back a bit to end up 33rd. “I felt good out there and had fun,” said the 3x Canadian MTB Cup champ. “The support and training has been great and I’m hoping to have a solid performance at the World Championships within 2 weeks.”

Elite Men

The men’s race had no upsets, with Nino Schurter and his constant rival, world champion Julien Absalon (BMC) moving to the front by the second lap, along with Florian Vogel (Focus XC). Chasing just behind was Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized), but the Olympic champion couldn’t quite close the 20 second gap and remained in fourth for the entire race.

Schurter  ©  Michal Cerveny

At the front, Absalon was making an effort to set the pace so he could hit the descents first, ahead of the faster Schurter. Schurter seemed content to let him do this, as the pair pulled Vogel with them until the final lap, when a series of attacks by Absalon knocked the Focus rider off their wheels, to finish solo in third.

It was only in the final descent that Schurter showed his skills, opening a five second gap to take the win. He was partially aided by a soft tire on Absalon’s bike, that forced the French rider to be more cautious in the descents to avoid crashing.

Gagne  ©  Michal Cerveny

“Honestly, I didn’t feel that good at the beginning,” revealed Schurter, “I was struggling a bit. I was just hanging in there and tried to stay up with Julien and Vogel. Towards the end I felt better and better. I tried to stay on Julien’s wheel. I knew if I could get first into the descent I could win again. It was actually a lot of drafting from my side but, yah, I feel really happy about this win here. Happy about the World [Cup overall] win also.”

Schurter wins  ©  Michal Cerveny

“It [World Cup overall] was a big goal for me this year. It started with a bit of bad luck, I always managed to get second, but now three wins in a row is amazing and a big achievement for me.”

Schurter, with three seconds and three wins, had a 250 point margin on Absalon for the title. Kulhavy, with two wins, finished third and Vogel jumped from fifth to third with his placing in the final round. Mathias Fluckiger (Stoeckli Pro Team) was bumped down to fifth by Vogel.

“I was shooting for a top 20 so I’m happy with my result finishing 14th,” said Gagne. “My form continues to be good and this race is a good sign for the upcoming Worlds in Andorra.”

Derek Zandstra (Scott-3Rox) placed 26th today telling Pedal “I was glad to stay in front of the crashes at the beginning. I wasn’t too sure about my fitness yet, but was happy on how I felt at the end.”

Zandstra’s teammate Cameron Jette came in 71st. “Today was a bit of a fight as I got caught up in a heavy start crash. Fortunately I had no injuries and was able to continue. I will be preparing now for the Canadian Marathon Championships in Barrie on Sep 12 and then some cyclocross,” said Jette.

Leandre Bouchard remained optimistic despite a tough day in the saddle. “The legs did not show off  today – I think I left them in Quebec! haha,,” he quipped. “The jetlag was a bit harder than usual but I’m looking forward for the World Championships now which is the main goal.”

Under 23

In the Under 23 Women’s series, Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo) completed an incredible clean sweep of all six events to claim the women’s title, with Alessandra Keller (Strubey-Bixs) taking second overall and Lisa Rabensteiner (Focus XC Italy) jumping up to third from fifth with her third place in the final round.

U23 Women's Overall Podium  ©  Michal Cerveny

Team Canada’s Catherine Fleury was the top Canuck in 17th followed by teammate Frederique Trudel in 20th. Both Maghalie Rochette (Can) Luna Pro Team and reigning U23 Women’s champ Haley Smith (Can) Norco Factory Team crashed out and DNF’d. Smith was the top Canadian overall in 12th with 80 points.

Catharine Fleury  ©  Andrew Rogers

In the Men’s Under 23 series there was a change in the leadership after the final round, with Titouan Carod (Scott Creuse Oxygene Gueret) knocking Pablo Rodriguez of Spain out of the title by finishing second to Grant Ferguson (Betch.NL Superior Brentjens) on the final stage.

Grant Ferguson wins the U23 Men's final race  ©  Michal Cerveny
Howard Grotts (Specialized) took third in the final overall standings. In Sunday’s race, Canada’s reigning U23 champ, Alexandre Vialle, finished 86th suffering from a stomach flu, while teammate Peter Disera crashed out. Vialle was the top Canuck overall in 26th.

U23 Men
U23 Women
Elite Women
Elite Men

Alexandre Vialle  ©  Michal Cerveny
Peter Disera in action before his crash  ©  Andrew Rogers

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