The season finale in Snowshoe surpassed even the wildest expectations with high drama and legendary performances. It’s only fitting that many World Cup Overall winners were decided on this weekend.
XCC Highlights from Snowshoe | UCI MTB World Cup 2019
XC Women Elite: Courtney Wins Overall World Cup in Second Season as Elite Racer
Last season, Kate Courtney (USA) surprised everyone when she became World Champion in Lenzerheide. This year, she adds the Overall World Cup Champion trophy to her list of achievements and has shown the mountain bike fans that she has what it takes to become one of the sports’ greatest. The final showdown between Courtney and Neff (SUI) would only be concluded on Sunday. With a 3rd place in Short Track on Friday and a 5th place finish on the Olympic distance, the American was able to turn her 73-point deficit into a title. After an exhausting season, the Swiss rider wasn’t able to achieve her desired results in the West Virginian mountains with a 16th place (XCC) and an 11th place (XCO), but still managed to secure second place in the battle for the Overall. In typical Neff fashion, there was no sign of frustration because of her result, congratulating Courtney for the win and making sure to photobomb her trophy photo session with a big smile on her face. With three XCO wins and two Short Track successes, the American could hold her Overall trophy high in the sky.
The duels for the season finale win also were a thrilling affair. Jenny Rissveds (SWE) took the win in the Short Track race on Friday, but it wasn’t in traditional fashion. During her attack in the fifth lap of eight right ahead of a steep climb, the Swede crashed into a barrier and was forced to get off her bike. The only thing she could do was pick up her bike and run up the climb. That mistake meant she had to once again battle to the front of the pack, a battle that would take until the very last lap.
The battle for the Olympic-distance podium was equally fierce. While Anne Terpstra (NED) set the pace going into the last lap of the race, it was French experience that would ultimately decide the race. With a strong chase and a brilliant overtake maneuver, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, the current World Champion, the French speed machine would prove to be the fastest on the day.
DHI Women Elite: Hannah’s Tactics Pay Off
Tracey Hannah (AUS) is your new Overall World Cup Champion. The Australian secured her first big title with smart riding and a decent dose of foresight. After her second win of the season in Les Gets, the Aussie opened a sizeable lead in the race for the Overall between her and her rivals. Reaching into her bag of experience, the 31-year-old knew that she could secure the Overall, even if she rode more carefully than she normally does – riding well within her limits without risking injuries or big losses. Even a 5th place finish in Snowshoe couldn’t stop Hannah from climbing on the top step of the podium at the end of the day. When she crossed the finish line, the Australian celebrated her brand-new title with family and friends.
The competition was fierce in the Appalachian Mountains. Marine Cabirou (FRA) who had a breakout season this year, took home her third World Cup win, finishing ahead of fellow Frenchie and current World Champion Myriam Nicole. Veronika Widmann (ITA) would have to settle for 3rd place, ahead of Tahnée Seagrave (GBR) and Tracey Hannah (AUS).
DHI Men Elite: Bitter Rivals on the Track, Best Friends in the Finish Corral
Side-by-side, Amaury Pierron and Loic Bruni (both FRA) watched as Danny Hart (GBR) rocketed down the mountain in Snowshoe – the last ride of the World Cup season. The battle between Bruni and Pierron and the ramifications thereof couldn’t have been imagined by the world’s greatest novelists. Pierron raced down the mountain early, setting the time to beat and would remain in the hot seat for a long, long time. The ten following riders were unable to beat Pierron’s time. With only Bruni and Hart left at the top, a number of scenarios were still in play. If Pierron won in Snowshoe, Bruni would have to finish 3rd or better in order to become the Overall World Cup Champion. Bruni started nervously and was out of the top 3 at the first splits. Just a fast and smooth last sector made him finish 3rd and so within reach of the Overall World Cup title.
The Final Battle for World Cup Success | Winning Runs from UCI MTB Snowshoe 2019
With Danny Hart still left at the top, a miracle unfolded. Hart battled his way from a time that would have put him in 6th place to taking the win, which put Bruni in 4th place, but because of Amaury’s 2nd place finish, Bruni would become the new Overall World Cup Champion – with only a 40 point advantage over Pierron. As Hart crossed the finish line with the clock showing green, Pierron was the first to congratulate his fellow French racer, showing just how special the duel between the two is. They might be bitter rivals when the clock is on but are some of the best of friends when the seconds don’t count. With his new title, Bruni joins the illustrious group of riders that became World Champions and World Cup Overall Champions in the same season: only Francois Gachet (FRA; 1994), Nicolas Vouilloz (FRA; 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999) and Sam Hill (AUS; 2007) achieved this feat before Bruni.
XC Men Elite: It Takes a Man to Stop a Machine
Nino Schurter (SUI) keeps on climbing the Cross-Country legends stairs one step at a time, achieving three milestones this weekend. With his eighth World Championship win in MSA, the Swiss racer now stands alone at the top when counting rainbow jerseys, while his win during Friday’s Short-Track race unofficially puts him on equal ground with Julien Absalon (FRA) with 33 World Cup wins each, however Absalon achieved his record without Short Track races, which are new on the World Cup calendar since last season, so Schurter will still have a record to chase in 2020. His Short-Track win also resulted in Schurter locking down the race for the World Cup Overall, a title he has now won seven times, but it wasn’t without a little bit of luck in the process. The 33-year-old benefited from a mishap by Brazilian Henrique Avancini, passing him in the same place where Rissveds crashed in the women’s race.
On Sunday, it was a different story. A problem with Schurter’s rear wheel cost him the lead, with Avancini quickly moving in to take over, forcing Schurter into a battle from behind. The machine managed to close the gap to the leader once again, joining the ranks of Avancini, teammate Lars Forster (SUI) and Maxime Marotte (FRA). In a daring move, straight out of Ferrand-Prévot’s playbook, Forster stepped on the gas in the home stretch and Schurter was unable to counter and so Forster celebrated his first World Cup win, being congratulated by his teammate and fellow Swiss racer.
Four Reasons why 2020 will be the most Spectacular Season yet!
1. The ranks of the Downhill Women Elite will be loaded with talent. Seagrave and Nicole will make their full-time return. Nina Hoffmann (GER) and Rachel Atherton (GBR) will be ready to race again. Cabirou has cemented her place among the world’s best and Vali Höll (AUT) graduates from the Junior ranks, where she often put downtimes that rivaled the best of the Women Elite.
2. The strong British contingent, the motivated American, the GOAT Greg Minnaar (RSA) and Troy Brosnan (AUS) will be looking to climb on the top step next season to step out of the French shadows.
3. In the women’s Cross-Country races, the scenario has been written for a five-way battle for the Overall. Terpstra, Ferrand-Prévot, and Rissveds will be joining the battle between Neff and Courtney. Let’s also not count out Sina Frei (SUI), who has proven that she has what it takes to mix it up with the world’s best.
4. Schurter will be under fire from more than just Mathieu van der Poel (NED). On his way to his 33rd XCO win, Schurter will have to hold off a strong group of chasers. Ondřej Cink (CZE), Gerhard Kerschbaumer (ITA), Mathias Flueckiger (SUI), Henrique Avancini (BRA) and the French threesome of Maxime Marotte, Jordan Sarrou and Stéphane Tempier want to put the brakes on Schurter’s advance. With the Olympic season around the corner, it will be exciting to see how van der Poel balances his multi-sport domination.