June 03, 2014 (Albstadt, Germany) – Canada’s Léandre Bouchard from Alma, QC, is on fire, currently enjoying a streak of excellent international performances among the world’s best U23 riders.
After earning his career-best World Cup result last week in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic with a fifth place finish in the U23 men’s cross-country race, and then a strong fourth in the Eliminator race on May 30 in Albstadt, Germany, the young rider rode to sixth place in the U23 men’s XCO race on Sunday at the World Cup in Germany. Fellow Canuck Jérémy Martin finished 23rd.
“I am extremely pleased with my entire trip in Europe. Sixth place today (Sunday) is a very nice way to end it all,” said Bouchard in a Sportcom interview. “I am delighted that I found good results at this level. In addition, the course here was very demanding with two long steep climbs. I’m really glad I had the legs to climb well.”
The Quebec rider sits ninth overall in the U23 men’s category although he did not participate in the first two events of the four races held so far this season.
Jordan Sarrou (Fra) won the U23 Men’s World Cup race in Albstadt extending his lead in the overall standings. Sarrou out-paced Dutchman Michiel van der Heijden by 23 seconds for the win with American Howard Grotts earning a career-best result in third.
In the 24km U23 women’s 6-lap race Maghalie Rochette (Luna Pro Team) lead the Canadian charge in 14th as France’s Margot Moschetti (Scott-La Clusaz) soloed in for the victory over Yana Belomoina (Ukr) Betch.nl Superior Brentjens Mtb Racing Team in second with Lisa Rabensteiner (Ita) Focus XC Italy Team in third.
“I’m happy with how the race went. It was a very difficult circuit, but also really cool because descents were very quick,” said Rochette in a Sportcom interview.
“I finished ninth last year at the MTB World Championships in South Africa, and was 19th in Nove Mesto (Cze), while being 14th here at start of the season. I think it bodes well for the rest of the year. The quality of the pack (56 riders) was really strong, so it was nice for me to race against such good competition,” she concluded.
Haley Smith (Can) Canadian National Team was just behind in 19th followed by Rachel Pageau in 29th and Frederique Trudel in 32nd. Both Andreane Lanthier-Nadeau and Laura Bietola DNF’d.
Former world champ, Catharine Pendrel (Team Luna Pro) of Kamloops, BC, raced to a solid fifth place behind winner, Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Fra) Liv Pro XC Team, who dominated again with a 3-minute margin over Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Nor) Multivan Merida Biking Team followed by series leader and teammate, Jolanda Neff (Sui).
It was a repeat of Ferrand Prevot’s performance last week in Nove Mesto where she took the lead on the first lap and powering away from her competitors extending her lead each lap until the finish. The accomplished 22-year-old road rider is quickly becoming a sensation on the WCup scene.
Pendrel moved up as high as third behind Dahle but was joined by Neff and Tanja Zakelj (Slo) Unior Tools Team along with Adelheid Morath (Ger) Sabine Spitz Haibike Pro Team and Maja Wloszczowska (Pol) Liv Pro XC Team as the fight for third place became a real thriller.
Morath looked strong hoping for her first World Cup podium but crashed on a tough descent called Teufels corner as Neff took over to claim 3rd with Zakelj and Pendrel also passing her taking 4th and 5th respectively as Morath settled for 6th. Pendrel was the first to console her at the finish.
Fellow Canucks Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing) finished 13th, Mikaela Kofman (Scott-3Rox Racing) was 33rd, Cindy Montambault (CVM 2Vals) was 66th and Andréanne Pichette (Opus) was 74th.
In the Elite men’s 32km race Julien Absalon (Fra) BMC asserted himself on third lap of eight following an attack by Fabian Giger (Sui) Giant which saw Nino Schurter (Sui) Scott-Odlo unable to respond.
As Absalon pulled away a small chase group including Schurter, Giger and Stefan Tempier (Fra) BH-Suntour formed with a second chase group another 20s back lead by Moritz Milatz (Ger) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team and Daniel McConnell (Aus) Trek Factory Racing.
Absalon’s 29th World Cup victory was also the debut of Shimano’s new MTB Di2 electronic shifting system for XTR and now the Frenchman is the record-holder of the most World Cup wins – one victory ahead of Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa and Juli Furtado who each have 28 golds. Schurter held on for second with Tempier taking third and Giger fourth, the best World Cup result of his career.
“I love this course and this race, and I was very motivated going to Albstadt. Here it’s easier for me than, for example, in Nove Mesto. Of course, it’s great to have won three World Cups already in spring. It was something very special to achieve my 29th victory in this place. That made the decision easier for me to continue with my career. Now I want to stay in good shape for the European Championships next week, and then I will take a rest,” said Absalon.
Canada’s Raphael Gagné racing for the National Team was able to move up to finish 25th as the top Canuck. “Last week (in Nove Mesto), the course maybe suited me a little better because it was more technical. Here it was purely physical,” Gagné told Sportcom. “I would say that my 25th results is the same performance as last week , so I’m just as happy. It confirms my fitness level.
“I made the choice not to go to [Cairns] Australia after my best World Cup result (14th) in [Pietermaritzburg] South Africa. For me it was a good decision because it reduced my fatigue and traveling time so I could prepare myself for the races here in Europe,” he concluded.
The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series features downhill events for the next two weekends, while the next cross-country events will be held at Mont-Ste-Anne, QC from July 31 to August 3rd. The 2014 Canadian MTB XC Championships will be held July 17-20 at Hardwood Ski and Bike, near Barrie, ON.
With files from Cycling Canada, Presse Skyder and Sportcom.