Dahle Flesjaa wins historic 29th World Cup  ©  Michal Cerveny
July 05, 2015 (Lenzerheide, SUI) – Swiss hopes of victory on home soil were dashed on Sunday, at Round 3 of the Cross-country series of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano in Lenzerheide, when Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) took respective wins in the Elite women and men categories.

Jaroslav Kulhavy pays homage at the finish  ©  Michal Cerveny

Canada’s Catharine Pendrel (Luna) landed on the podium in third as she battled with American¬†Lea Davison (Specialized) on the final lap. Fellow Canuck Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) raced her way into seventh at the finish as she moved up on the third lap from the mid-teens and settled in a small group with Eva Lechner (Ita) Team Colnago Sudtirol. The lone Canadian man on the start line was Leandre Bouchard (Cyclone d’Alma) who ended up 56th on the day.

Canada's Pendrel battling in the heat  ©  Michal Cerveny file photo

Jolanda Neff (Sui) Stoeckli in fourth continues to lead the women’s overall standings, tied on points with Dahle Flesjaa, while Kulhavy regained the men’s lead with his second win of the series as his only challenger, Nino Schurter (Sui) Scott-Odlo who suffered a late race flat and ended up second.

Lenzerheide heat surpassed 30 degrees Celcius  ©  Michal Cerveny
Ice packs were the norm as Batty tries to deal with the heat  ©  Michal Cerveny
The hot weather that has blanketed Lenzerheide all week continued for the cross-country, surpassing 30 degrees Celcius and making for dry, dusty conditions. Combined with the 1,500 metre altitude and the technical track, riders faced some of the toughest conditions of the season.

Batty takes 7th  ©  Michal Cerveny

Neff, who uses Lenzerheide as a training base, was the favourite for the women after two consecutive wins in the opening rounds, and she did not disappoint the thousands of Swiss fans, by attacking on the first climb and opening a gap on newly crowned Marathon world champion Dahle Flesjaa and world champion Pendrel.

 Women's start  ©  Michal Cerveny

However, within half a lap the two chasers had caught and dropped her, with Neff dropping back out of the top-10 and clearly struggling with the conditions. The European Games champion admitted afterwards that she may have gone out too hard and paid the price.

Dahle and Pendrel away on their own  ©  Michal Cerveny

At the front, Dahle Flesjaa and Pendrel rode together until the fourth lap of the six lap race, when Pendrel slid out in a loose corner, enabling the Norwegian to open a gap. Dahle Flesjaa rode away to win her 29th World Cup; a record number for women and moving her ahead of American star of the 1990s Juliana Furtado.

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa sets new women's record for more most WCup wins at 29 victories  ©  Multivan Merida

Behind, Pendrel never seemed to regain her rhythm after her slip and was eventually overtaken for second by American champion Davison. Neff managed to recover to take fourth behind Pendrel.

“This win means a lot,” revealed Dahle Flesjaa. “I dedicate this 29th victory to my coach, my best friend and my husband, Kenneth. Today we both had an amazing day, we knew I was in good shape after a tough week recovering from the [Marathon] Worlds. This is just an unbelievable day for both of us.”

Final women's podium  ©  Multivan Merida

“Normally, I’m not too much affected by the heat and I tried to drink as much as possible, but today it was not so much my legs as my lungs that had the pain. So I had to watch my pace and not overdo it, because the legs wanted more then the head and the lungs could give.”

Neff and Dahle Flesjaa are tied atop the overall standings with 650 points each, but Neff retains the jersey by virtue of more wins. Pendrel remains in third with 470 points, followed by Davison, who jumps to fourth from eighth with 420 points.

The Men’s Race

The men’s race was expected to be a three-way battle between Kulhavy, winner of the opening round, World Cup leader and Round 2 winner Julien Absalon (Fra) BMC and Swiss favourite Schurter.

Men's race in hot, dry, dusty conditions  ©  Multivan Merida

That was the way it initially played out, with Schurter getting his usual fast start and the other two bridging up to him. Swiss strongmen, Florian Vogel (Focus XC) and Mathias Fluckiger (Stoeckli), were also in the front group after the first lap, but then Schurter attacked again, dropping Fluckiger from the group, and Vogel crashed, leaving just three at the front.

Kulhavy and Schurter at the front  ©  Michal Cerveny

Kulhavy and Schurter were doing the pacemaking, with Absalon losing ground on the descents but making much of it back on the climbs. However, the World Cup leader and world champion was gradually losing a few seconds every lap, and it looked like he would have to settle for third, until Lap 6, when first Absalon had a rear wheel flat and soon after Schurter suffered the same fate.

Absalon got his puncture at the far end of the course from the tech zone, dropping him to 12th before he was able to get a wheel change. Schurter’s flat was just before the tech zone, and he was 17 seconds down by the end of the lap after a quick change, but he could not make up ground on the 2012 Olympic champion. In fact, he lost time over the remaining two laps to finish 33 seconds back for his third consecutive second place result.

Absalon (l) and Mathias Fluckiger trying to catch the leaders  ©  Michal Cerveny

Ondrej Cink (Cze) Multivan Merida, the 2012 Under-23 world champion, had caught Absalon just as he flatted and took third, ahead of Fluckiger and Maxime Marotte (BH-SR Suntour-KMC). Absalon managed to recover to finish ninth.

“When Nino flatted I just kept my own tempo,” explained Kulhavy. “It wasn’t so good for the spectators, with Nino being at home here, so that was too bad, but I’m really satisfied with my performance here, because it was a really hard race with nowhere to rest. I had a really bad year last season, but I’m at the top again, I’m healthy, and it’s really great.”

Elite Men's final podium  ©  Michal Cerveny

With his second victory, Kulhavy moves back into the leader’s jersey with 660 points. Schurter remains in second with 600 points and Absalon drops to third with 510 points.

Lars Forster wins the U23 Men's race  ©  Michal Cerveny

The only Swiss victory of the day was in the Under-23 men’s race, by Lars Forster (Wheeler-IXS), who took his second win of the year and regains the lead in the overall standings from Spaniard Pablo Rodriguez with 240 points to 200. No Canadians competed.

 Jenny Rissveds wins the U23 Women's race  ©  Michal Cerveny

The competition concluded with the Under-23 women’s race, won by Swedish champion Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo), who took her third consecutive victory. Rissveds has a perfect score of 270 points, 110 in front of second placed Alessandra Keller (Strueby-Bixs). There were no Canadians on the start line.

The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented now moves to North America in four weeks, for two rounds, beginning with Mont-Ste-Anne, Canada, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Elite Men’s results here.
Elite Women’s results here.