Defending women’s World Cup winner Jolanda Neff (Sui) Stoeckli retained the Number One plate with her win, while reigning Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze) Specialized gave Czech fans what they had been hoping for in the men’s race.
After rain in the night, conditions gradually cleared throughout the day. However, the rain had soaked the course, and rocky sections quickly became mud covered and slippery, leading to many crashes.
Neff had her usual fast start to open a 15-second lead by the end of the start loop. Leading the chase was legendary Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), who took her first World Cup victory 19 years ago. With Dahle Flesjaa were defending Nove Mesto winner Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabobank Liv) and Annika Langvad (Specialized).
Dahle Flesjaa joined Neff on the first lap, and the two rode away from the rest of the field, with Langvad settling into third and Ferrand Prevot in fourth. Reigning MTB World Champion Pendrel (Luna) worked her way up to fifth, but was already 49 seconds down after a lap.
The race held this pattern until the final lap, when Neff dropped Dahle Flesjaa, only to see the Norwegian battle back to within a second by the finish line. Langvad crashed in the final lap, allowing both Ferrand Prevot and Pendrel to get by her.
“The legs were good, but it could have been easier today,” said the 22-year old at the finish with a laugh. “It was a hard race and I’m really happy how it went today.”
“Aside from losing gobs of time on the start loop, happy with my 4th place ride today in some slick conditions,” tweeted Pendrel. “Czech definitely wins for most fun course! Amazing single track, technical climbs and flow. Smile every time I race here.”
Elite Men – Kulhavy-Schurter Battle
In the past four years of UCI World Cup racing in Nove Mesto there have been only two winners of the men’s race – Kulhavy took the first edition, and Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) the last three. Once again, it came down to these two riders.
Schurter attacked on the start loop, with Kulhavy, World Champion Julien Absalon (BMC), Australian Champion Dan McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) and Florian Vogel (Focus XC) the only riders to stay with him. Schurter surged again on the first full lap, and this time only Kulhavy could hang on.
Schurter appeared to be stronger, gapping Kulhavy on the climbs, but the Czech rider would always come back, possibly motivated by the cheers of thousands of his fans around the course. In the final half lap the tables were turned, when Kulhavy attacked and Schurter could not respond. The Czech rider rolled into the finishing arena to stands full of cheering fans, to win by 24 seconds.
Absalon and Vogel first dropped McConnell, and then Absalon went solo mid-race to take third ahead of Vogel, with Mathias Fluckiger (Stoeckli) taking the fifth and final podium spot.
“It was a very exciting race between me and Nino (Schurter) again,” commented Kulhavy, “And I attacked on the hardest climb and Nino stayed with me maybe 5 or 10 seconds before I got away. Then I just controlled my position to the finish. The finish was good and I didn’t make any mistakes. The fans were so amazing. They helped a lot and pushed me. It was crazy. I would like to say thanks to them.”
Derek Zandstra (Scott-3Rox Racing) was the top Canuck placing 23rd for what appears to be his top European World Cup result – he was 15th at last year’s MTB Worlds in Hafjell, Norway.
Earlier in the race Team Canada’s Raphael Gagne was as high as 11th but fell back and ended up 26th. Leandre Bouchard (Team Canada) was 29th, Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox Racing) finished 64th, Adam Morka (Trek Canada) was 67th and Evan Guthrie (Norco) was 92nd.
Earlier in the day, Lars Forster (Wheeler – IXS) won the Under-23 Men’s race and took the UCI World Cup leader’s jersey. He finished 17 seconds ahead of Spain’s Pablo Rodriguez, with Andri Frischknecht (Scott-Odlo) taking third. The top Canadian was Peter Disera in 26th, followed by Alexandre Vialle in 35th and Marc Andre Fortier in 62nd.
The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano continues next weekend in Albstadt, Germany, with Round 2 of the cross-country.