Elite Men’s winner, legendary Julien Absalon (Fra) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team, took his 32nd World Cup win including the leader’s jersey from Swiss star, Nino Schurter (Scott Odlo), who was not on the start line as he prepares for the Games. Reigning national MTB champ, Derek Zandstra (Scott-3Rox Racing), led the Canadian men in 32nd.
Elite Women’s Race
With 26 years of hosting World Cups, Mont-Sainte-Anne is always one of the favoured sites and taking a victory here is a hard-fought goal, evenmorso heading into the Rio Olympics. But, like Schurter, not all Olympic contenders made the trip this year for the women’s race such as top contender Jolanda Neff (Sui) who chose to compete in the women’s road race on Sunday in Rio.
The 4.16-km course featured plenty of steep climbing, and technical, rocky descents such as the renowned La Beatrice, including several drops and jumps, and tough passages of twisty, rocky singletrack.
With nine Canadians on the start line of 44 riders and sunny weather Pendrel got off to another great start and drove straight to the lead on lap one of six. Batty came unclipped just off the start and appeared to go backwards, but quickly fought to regain her position.
Langvad had a poor start as well but worked her way into third as Pendrel established a strong 20-second lead over Norway’s Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) in second while Batty settled into 5th place behind Katerina Nash (Cze) Luna in 4th.
There were multiple crashes as riders fought to establish positions on the technical course while Pendrel continued to charge ahead gaining time on Dahle as Langvad struggled. Nash was also feeling the pace and crashed allowing Batty to take over 4th.
A brief but strong burst of rain made the course more treacherous as Pendrel appeared unstoppable with Dahle holding her own but Langvad came off the bike on La Beatrice and soon Batty was on her and knew third was in striking distance.
On the final lap the sun was back out for Pendrel’s triumphant finish as Batty overtook Langvad through a rocky passage for a strong double-podium finish for Canada with Dahle second and Langvad 4th followed by Nash in 5th.
“On this course it’s just super important to get out in front,” said Pendrel. “A lot of people make mistakes in front of you so at least if you make a mistake you’re in control. It was awesome there are so many people out on course … it was amazing out there, trying to keep focused and not get distracted by what was going on.”
“It’s great to be having a consistent season, with top-5s and top 3s,” said Batty who is now 4th overall up from seventh. “Having all the Canadian spectators coming out to cheer for us was pretty wild, and help me have a burst of energy towards the end. I’m not starting quite as hard as the rest, but making sure I’m still in contention position. I’ve always been a strong finisher in races.”
With several riders not participating, the Eite Men’s start was a barn burner and it appeared that everyone was determined to fight for the win in this 7-lap race. Through the first lap it was Lukas Fluckiger (SUI) and Matthias Stirnemann(SUI) tight together at the front, followed by Absalon, Victor Koretzky (FRA), and Jordan Sarrou (FRA). Behind Marotte (FRA), and Florian Vogel (SUI) were chasing as the remainder of the field trailed behind.
Fluckiger appeared strongest as Absalon seemed to be biding his time or suffering as positions shifted a bit though the laps. Then Sarrou made a move on Lap 4 but Koretzky responded and became the new race leader as Stirnemann, Fluckiger, Absalon and Sarrou battled behind while Marotte and Vogel faded.
Zandstra battled from behind after a tough start to overtake Leandre Bouchard and Evan Guthrie (Can) Norco Factory Team as the top Canuck. “I had a tough week,” said Zandstra. “But I’m glad I was able to recover from a bad start and salvage something.”
Absalon is now back in the leader’s jersey with one more race in the series. “I’m always happy to race at MSA and winning here again on this tough course is always great. With Schurter and Kulhavy not here it’s a good opportunity to retake the overall lead and hopefully keep it until the end,” said Absalon.
With the Friday’s thunderstorms having little effect on the dry, dusty trail conditions at renowned Mont-Sainte-Anne the U23 Men’s race set the tone for the XCO events of the day with a 9am start time. Nine Canadians took the start line out of a total of 49 racers.
Disera of Bradford, Ontario racing for Norco Factory Team, and the top-ranked Canadian, had moved into 12th place through lap two and fought into 11th by lap 4, with Carod, Bouqueret, and Baum still holding on to the top three positions.
Disera held onto 14th heading finishing with a small group of three other racers, putting him just seconds out of the top ten as Fortier ended up 22nd while Raphael Auclair was 26th.
As a notable change to usual World Cup racing format, Mont Sainte Anne had the Women U23 start 2 minutes after the Elite Women rather than after the Elite men as six Canadians lined up as part of 18 participants in the race.