It was a historic day of cycling in Andorra for another reason as both La Vuelta and the 2015 MTB/DH World Championships were practically rubbing arms in this high-mountain principality that enjoyed huge crowds with many catching both races.
The team relay gave the cross-country athletes their first opportunity to try out the track at race speed, with each country entering a team of four riders, consisting of an Elite man, Elite woman, Under-23 man and a Junior man.
Switzerland took the lead at the end of the first lap, with Florian Vogel passing off to teammate Jolanda Neff seven seconds ahead of Italy and nine seconds in front of France. Denmark was in fourth position.
The Canadian team of Raphael Gagne, Alexander Vialle, Catharine Pendrel and Raphael Auclair – all national champions in their categories – started out strong with Gagne punching it hard crossing the line after lap one in 6th at 40+ seconds back.
France took the lead on the second lap with their Elite man Jordan Sarrou, and never relinquished it after that. Italy remained in second after the second lap as Vialle lost a bit of ground handing off to Pendrel in 8th.
On the third lap Denmark’s Annika Langvad had a very strong ride to move her country into second behind France’s Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, which they held to the finish as Italy had dropped to fourth behind Switzerland. Canada’s Pendrel battled with Belgium’s Githe Michiels to bring Team Canada up from 8th to 7th.
“It was a good start to the Worlds,” said Gagne. “Not the best but not bad and I think everyone had a solid day and was able to experience the course to get ready for the next races.”
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, the third rider for France, had a scare before her lap: “During my warm up I crashed [she had a bandage on her chin during the race], so I was kind of panicked to start. I just tried to calm and not risk our medal. At the start I tried not to over-pace myself, so I felt good [later in the lap] and could go harder. I am pleased to keep the jersey.”
Pendrel felt good after the race and exclaimed smiling, “I felt good out there and I think everyone had a strong ride. The altitude hurts but team relays always hurt… I hope that all of my preparation pays off this weekend.”
Full results here.