August 31, 2013 (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa) – In the Elite Women’s 6-lap 29.7km cross-country race held on Saturday at the 2013 UCI MTB World Championships, reigning national MTB champ, Emily Batty, posted the best Canadian result finishing in 17th place, despite battling a chest infection.
2011 MTB World Champion Catharine Pendrel was among the leading group in the first lap, and crashed, which forced her to lose her momentum. A second crash in Tree House rock garden forced her to fall out of contention. She would end her race soon after Batty, in 20th position.
The course here in South Africa is definitely one of the tougher ones,” said Pendrel. “My race started out great and I was able to find good wheels to get me from 3rd row into contact with the lead group by the first climb. By mid-course I moved into 6th but washed out on a corner before the first drop and lost four positions.
“On Lap 3 I had a big crash exiting the rock garden and getting my chain caught. After that I never found my stride or race pace again. Riders always bring more to Worlds, take more risks and bury everything so when you are a bit off from health, crashes or mistakes it results in a big loss of positions.”
By the end of the first lap of six defending champ Julie Bresset (Fra) BH Suntour, Eva Lechner (Ita) Team Colnago Sudtirol and Maja Wloszczowska (Pol) Giant Pro Xc Team established themselves as the leaders. World Cup leader Tanja Zakelj (Slo) Unior Tools Team was close behind in a chase group of three. Lechner crashed allowing Bresset and Wloszczowska to escape while Zakelj also took a tumble which Esther Süss (Switzerland) and Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation) capitalized on.
Bresset and Wloszczowska we clearly in a class of their own as they exchanged the lead until the last lap when Bresset attacked on the final descent through the Tree House rock garden gapping Wloszczowska, a former Worlds champ herself, and held it until the finish. Süss, 39, claimed the final podium spot for her best result at the Worlds.
“We definitely had a challenging day out there. Our Elite women’s team had a tough lead up to Worlds with some injuries and sickness that hampered preparation, so we weren’t quite sure how it would go,” said Dan Proulx, Head coach of the Canadian Mountain Bike Team. “On the men’s side it was simply a tough day where big time gaps formed early and there was simply no way to come back.”
“On the positive side, I know all of our riders maintained their composure and did the best they could with what they had on the day. We’ll take the lessons learned here and continue to build our program toward 2016. The important thing is to keep everyone moving forward. We definitely have lots of talent and fire-power in our team,” continued Proulx.
Mikaela Kofman posted an excellent result in 23rd position for her rookie appearance in the Elite group at the World Championships, while Amanda Sin crossed the finish line just after Kofman, in 24th place. Both Sin and teammate Sandra Walter were involved in a crash early in the race.
“In the women’s race, Mikaela Kofman had a breakthrough, finishing 23rd. That’s a great ride from one of our youngest elite riders. We expect to see Mikaela get closer to the front as she gains more World Cup experience,” commented Proulx.
Geoff Kabush finished 25th in the Elite men’s 7-lap, 34.65km race, the best result among the Canadian men in South Africa. Kabush was involved in a crash at the start of the race, and couldn’t close the large gap that resulted.
Derek Zandstra, who has had a stellar season winning the Canadian MTB championships, placed 33rd, followed by Raphael Gagné in 34th. Max Plaxton suffered a flat during the first lap and finished 39th.
Defending champ Nino Schurter (Switzerland) set a blistering pace that few could match as his main contender, Julien Absalon (France), was never a threat riding in sixth or seventh the whole race perhaps affected by a crash while training. Another possible threat was Olympic champ, Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic), who also had a lacklustre day but clawed back some time to finish 5th.
World champ in 2010, José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain), showed his teeth moving into second by the second lap of seven with Fabian Giger (Switzerland) and Manuel Fumic (Germany) close behind. Giger crashed as Fumic took over third but no one could catch Schurter. An inspired Fumic surpassed Hermida on Lap 5 holding on for the silver as the Spaniard took home the bronze. “I’m really happy to defend my title,” said Schurter at the finish. “I like the course and the fans here in South Africa.”
Canadian Coach Proulx is now looking ahead. “At these Worlds we’re definitely seeing some depth and a higher level of performance in our Junior and U23 riders. It’s really encouraging to see the program continue to develop and improve. We’re confident that we have a strong team of young guns that will insure Canada’s future success at the international level for many years to come.
“In a post-Olympic year, you really want to focus on these riders and take the pressure off the Olympians from last year. It’s nice to see the younger riders take advantage of this opportunity,” added Proulx.
Tomorrow will feature the cross-country Eliminator, as well as the downhill finals.