Some 650 mountain bike athletes from 45 countries went hunting for the rainbow stripes in the third UCI World Championship. The technically challenging cross-country and downhill tracks witnessed highly dramatic action, that thrilled athletes and spectators alike. Here are five stories that unfolded.
Women’s XCO: Pauline Ferrand-Prévot wins Gold with perfect race management
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA) topped her season off. Starting late into this year’s World Cup due to surgeries in both legs caused by endofibrosis, the French rider reached her peak performance just in time. Even problems at the start and losing nearly one minute to the top group did not get the 27-year-old worked up. She kept her pace. Valuable tips and advices came from Julien Absalon at the trackside. The French Cross-Country legend has to use an e-bike nowadays to keep up with his companion and her increasing tempo. The winner from Val di Sole reduced the arrears round by round and closed the gap to the top group in the fourth of six rounds. Then-leading riders Jolanda Neff (SUI) and Rebecca McConnell (AUS) had to pay for the high pace they set at the beginning of the race and were forced to witness how Ferrand-Prévot overtook them, fully determined to win her second Mountain Bike World Championship since 2015. She crossed the finish line 43 seconds ahead of Neff and the Australian, who completed an underdog story with her third place. Further favorites Anne Terpstra (NED) and defending champion Kate Courtney finished as fourth and fifth. Jenny Rissveds (SWE) ranked 16th.
Men’s XCO: Eight times: Schurter lives up to the expectations – mechanical mayhem among the chase pack
The men’s competition stunned the gathered fans with thrilling duels and unbelievable material failures. Nino Schurter (SUI) had to put up a hell of a fight to finally crown himself the eight-time World Champion. Lap by lap, the Swiss rider attacked in the La Marmotte section and managed to shake off a number of his rivals during the long, arduous climb, but especially Mathias Flueckiger (SUI) and Stéphane Tempier (FRA) managed to keep up with him. Although Schurter proved to be the strongest rider in the field, it was two mechanical failures that decided the race. A flat front tire in lap four put a stop to the ambitions and hopes of Flueckiger and also Tempier had to visit the tech zone one lap later due to a flat tire. With those two out the way, the road ahead seemed to be paved for Gerhard Kerschbaumer’s ride towards the silver medal. The Italian had been riding with a constant pace and managed to shake off his pursuers in the final lap, now going full throttle and full risk – only to end up with a punctured tire as well. Hoping to secure the second place on foot, he got passed again by Flueckiger and Tempier with the Albstadt winner having the better finish and winning silver. Tempier won bronze. Poor Kerschbaumer finished as fifth after being passed by Titouan Carod (FRA), who came in fourth.
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Women’s DHI: From rehab to the winner’s podium
After her crash just before the season kick-off, Myriam Nicole (FRA) spent most of her time on crutches and not on her bike. Tahnée Seagrave (GBR) too had been condemned to watch the season unfold from the sidelines. Winning the season opener, she severely injured her shoulder in Fort William. Both made their comebacks to the big stage at the World Championships – and with quite the spectacle! Starting with number 16, Nicole mastered the 2.9 km /1.8mi long track with ease and elegance. That she has been absent for nearly the whole seasons only became visible at the finish jump, that she passed by rather than sending it. But this roughly one-second detour did not affect her victory and her first World Championships win in her career, with the French rider securing the rainbow jersey for the 2020 season.
The comeback madness was completed by Seagrave’s second place, finishing only 1.2 seconds behind Nicole. Only 1.7 seconds back to Nicole, was fellow French rider Marine Cabirou, who won in Val di Sole and Lenzerheide, but had to settle for third place in Canada. World Cup Overall leader Tracey Hannah (AUS) ended up in an ungrateful fourth place, a sizeable 4.1 seconds slower than the winner.
DHI Men’s: Title hoarder Bruni follows the footsteps of fellow Frenchman Nicolas Vouilloz
Loic Bruni (FRA) is on the way to become Mr. World Championships. Having won in Mont-Sainte-Anne, the 25-year-old now has won four World Championships – all accomplished within the last five years, with his 2019 win in Mont-Sainte-Anne being his third title in a row. The last rider to have such a streak was Nicolas Vouilloz, who even managed to win five consecutive titles in the late 90s. This year’s top stars showed an awesome race with too many highlights to mention. The lead changed several times, each rider claiming the hot seat with a high-class performance. Finn Iles (CAN), Greg Minnaar (RSA), Amaury Pierron (FRA), Troy Brosnan (AUS) and Loic Bruni are just a few riders who took the hot seat. At the end of a dramatic and exciting race, Loic Bruni became the old and new World Champion, finishing 0.6 seconds ahead of Brosnan, with Pierron claiming bronze. Danny Hart (GBR), 2011 and 2016 World Champion missed the third place by only 0.256 seconds, while three-time Champion Greg Minnaar was off the pace by 0.6 seconds. Val di Sole winner Laurie Greenland (GBR) was stopped by a flat tire and finished sixth, followed by Iles finishing seventh.
French mountain bike party in French-Canada
The World Championships in Monte-Saint-Anne had been a battle of nations too – especially between France and Switzerland. Looking at the Elite competitions, France seemed to have been boosted by nearly riding on home ground in the French-Canadian Quebec and emerged victorious. Three gold medals and three bronze medals leave no doubt. But the Swiss riders don’t need to hide. They can be proud with one gold and two silver medals. Australia won a silver and a bronze medal; the British riders return home with a silver medal.