The stage was actually set much earlier in the day when Peter Disera (Team Canada) kicked things off with a strong personal best 17th-place result in the U23 Men’s race, an appetizer for the top performances to come. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Soren Meeuwisse earned a personal best in the U23 Women’s race as the top Canuck in 25th.
The Elite Women’s race was dramatic affair as reigning overall World Cup winner, Jolanda Neff (Sui) Stoeckli Pro Team, was back after being sick and quickly established herself in the 21.625km race that consisted of 5 laps. Batty had a strong start sitting 8th as Lea Davison (Specialized) took an early lead but Neff soon took over as Pendrel was caught up behind and had to fight her way up to the leaders.
Batty settled into 4th behind Davison and Katerina Nash (Cze) Luna with Sweden’s Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo) in the mix as Pendrel advanced. By Lap 3 Batty had taken over second with Pendrel 9th as Davison and Rissveds both crashed on the slippery course due to rain that had fallen on the previous evening.
As Batty closed the gap to Neff behind Pendrel was gaining fast and when Neff crashed on a downhill section the Canadians were 2nd and third starting the penultimate lap. A flat for Neff saw Batty take over the lead for the start of the last lap. Suddenly Pendrel was there and passed them both but Neff responded on the climb and regained the lead which she held to the end as Pendrel took second and Batty 3rd.
“What a day. I don’t think my body will let me sleep much tonight! Being forced to dab early on the starting climb meant a lot of traffic and chasing so I was excited to actually make it to the front of the race by last lap encouraged by some of the loudest crowds I’ve experienced at a race. 2nd place today. 2nd overall. Top team. Racing in La Bresse is pretty rad,” tweeted Pendrel who is second overall behind Annika Langvad (Den) Specialized.
Elite Men – Absalon Takes 31st World Cup Victory
Team Canada’s Raphael Gagne grabbed the holeshot in the Elite Men’s 6-lap competition and raced with the front group that saw Fabian Giger (Sui) Kross Racing Team take an early lead. But soon Julien Absalon (Fra) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team took over as he and Nino Schurter (Sui) Scott-Odlo looked like they were setting up for major battle on Absalon’s home turf.
Mathias Fluckiger (Sui) Stoeckli Pro Team was with them even taking the lead for a short time. Then Schurter had an uncharacteristic crash and lost some ground but a flat on his new 29er put him further in arrears as Absalon saw the opening and established a 15-second gap.
With Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze) Specialized lurking behind Schurter settled in with Maxime Marotte (Fra) BH-SR Suntour-KMC and teammate Victor Koretzky (Fra) along with Fluckiger. Ahead Stephane Tempier (Fra) Bianchi Countervail took over second behind Absalon, but Tempier suffered a flat as well and soon faded.
On Lap 4 Schurter suffered his second flat putting him out of contention as Marotte and Koretzky took over 2nd and 3rd. Behind Bouchard and Gagne were together in 26th and 29th respectively as Absalon charged ahead extending his lead to over a minute.
The partisan crowd was going wild as their top favourite Absalon was not only leading but two French riders were just behind meaning a podium sweep was in the cards for a storybook ending. On the last lap Koretzky realized he had a slow leak but did not stop for wheel change as Schurter was now in 4th and gaining.
At the finish Absalon led home the sweep as expected for his 31st cross-country World Cup victory, with Marotte second as Koretzky held on to third with Schurter taking 4th and Kulhavy 5th as he passed Fluckiger on the final lap for the final podium spot.
“This was one of my best wins ever,” said Absalon. “It’s incredible to win at home this way.”
Bouchard raced on as Gagne faded and moved up steadily to claim 20th on the day in a sprint against Florian Vogel (Sui) Focus XC. Gagne ended up 34th while Derek Zandstra (Scott-3Rox) was 44th, Evan McNeely (Norco Factory Team) finished 58th, Geoff Kabush (Scott-3Rox Racing) was 61st and Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory Team) finished 78th.
“I’m pretty proud about my first top-20 in Europe,” said Bouchard. “I’m happy about how I am going in only my second year of Elite. I had a great start, and managed to stay up there. It’s true that I am bigger and heavier, but I also have more power, which helped me at the start.”
Schurter holds on to the Series lead with Absalon close at 40 points behind. Gagne is the top Canuck in 20th with Zandstra 28th and Bouchard 32nd.
Earlier in the day Ontario’s Disera, a Junior Worlds silver medalist back in 2013, earned his best Euro result as a U23 rider claiming 17th as Titouan Carod (Fra) Scott Creuse Oxygene Gueret won the 5-lap, 21.625km race.
Despite her last row start position both in Albstadt, her first World Cup, and La Bresse, Ontario’s Meeuwisse moved up steadily in to claim her best result finishing 25th, earning her first World Cup point as well. Frederique Trudel finished 32nd, Laurie Arseneault was 35th and Rachel Pageau did not finish. Catherine Fleury, now eighth overall is still nursing her ankle following a crash in Albstadt. Switzerland’s Sina Frei (JB Brunex Felt) dominated with her second consecutive victory.
“I’m very satisfied,” said Meeuwisse. “Last weekend in Albstadt was my very first World Cup in the U23 category, and I was in the last row, and I managed to move up to 32nd by the finish. Today my goal was to finish top-25, and I finished 25th. Consistently throughout the race I was just trying to pick my way up to each group and hold on. The downhills are usually where I can gain some time, but I was riding well on the climbs today.”
U23 Women’s full results here.
U23 Women’s full standings here.
U23 Men’s full results here.
U23 Men’s full standings here.