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France Defends Team Relay Title @ 2015 UCI Mountain Bike Worlds Canada 8th – Report + PHOTOS

by pedalmag.com
Team podium (l-r) Denmark 2nd, France 1st, Italy 3rd  ©  Michal Cerveny
September 02, 2015 (Vallnord, Andorra) – France repeated as World Champions on Wednesday in the team relay at the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships in Vallnord, Andorra.  The French team held off a late charge by an unexpectedly strong Danish team, with Italy taking the bronze medal.

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.

Start  ©  Michal Cerveny

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.

Raphael Gagne  ©  Andrew Rogers

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.

Alexandre Vialle  ©  Michal Cerveny

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.

Catharine Pendrel  ©  Michal Cerveny
Pendrel battles with Githa Michiels  ©  Andrew Rogers
France held on for the victory with Denmark claiming the silver as Italy’s Gioele Bertolini had a strong final lap put them back into third for the finish. Canada’s Auclair, racing at Andorra for the first time, crossed the line in 8th.

“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.”

Raphael Auclair  ©  Andrew Rogers

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.”

Antoine Philipp  ©  Michal Cerveny

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.

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