Champery World Cup XC Finals

By: Colin Meagher

The XC track here in Champery is a technical beast. In some ways it is a reflection of the DH track, with steep, technically challenging lines, including two nasty drop-offs. As Chris Ball, the UCI’s DH technical delegate put it, “during the men’s race, I had to leave after watching them (the men) hurling themselves off the drop on hard tails with 80 and 100 mm forks, not to mention saddles jacked all the way up. It was too frightening.”

SRAM's iron hand in the pits, Jon Cancellier, checking brakes on Lene Byberg's Specialized.

SRAM's iron hand in the pits, Jon Cancellier, checking brakes on Lene Byberg's Specialized.

Late night pre-race prep with Mike Broderick. ''Mary (McConnloug) and I just flew in today, so the bikes need a bit of TLC.''

Late night pre-race prep with Mike Broderick. ''Mary (McConnloug) and I just flew in today, so the bikes need a bit of TLC.''

The women’s race started precisely at 11:15 am and following a short start lap, the ladies were fed directly into the belly of the beast. A few of them were willing to ride the bigger drop on the upper section of the track, but most opted for the slightly easier line.

“I was thinking about riding that drop on lap two,” confessed Katerina Nash of Luna, “and then I passed Gary Wolff, the Rocky Mountain/Maxxis team manager (ed note: Wolff broke his wrist earlier in the week pre-riding the track), and decided to take the easier line.”

Eventual race winner Nathalie Schneitter led from the gun and never looked back, leaving it a battle for second place in her wake. However, her teammate, Eva Lechner, put a strangle hold on that position in short order, with Willow Koerber, and then Julie Bresset and Georgia Gould strung out behind. The top four places stayed set in that order, for the rest of the race, but Gould began moving back while teammate Katerina Nash began moving up. Eventually, Nash claimed the fifth spot, while the US National champ, Gould, came home eleventh.

Mary McConneloug was twelfth on the day, Katie Compton was twenty-second, and Heather Irmiger was forty third.

Riiiiicccccooooola!

Riiiiicccccooooola!

Accidental fraternal twins; Gary Wolff (on the left), the Rocky Mountain/Maxxis Team director, broke his left wrist cruising the XC track, while Rocky Mountain/Maxxis rider Cameron Cole (on the right) broke his right wrist during the DH finals. Heal up, boys!

Accidental fraternal twins; Gary Wolff (on the left), the Rocky Mountain/Maxxis Team director, broke his left wrist cruising the XC track, while Rocky Mountain/Maxxis rider Cameron Cole (on the right) broke his right wrist during the DH finals. Heal up, boys!

Georgia Gould, US Women's XC Champ, looking to rep the stars and bars.

Georgia Gould, US Women's XC Champ, looking to rep the stars and bars.

Katrin Leumann leading out the bunch on the opening climb of the Women's XC race, with Willow Koerber marking her wheel.

Katrin Leumann leading out the bunch on the opening climb of the Women's XC race, with Willow Koerber marking her wheel.

Catharine Pendrel of Luna started strong, but quickly got caught in traffic. This race track was one where if you were off the back, your chances of making moves were severely limited: loads of single track, and anywhere where there was room to pass, it was straight up hill.

Catharine Pendrel of Luna started strong, but quickly got caught in traffic. This race track was one where if you were off the back, your chances of making moves were severely limited: loads of single track, and anywhere where there was room to pass, it was straight up hill.

Willow Koerber getting a feed in the tech zone.

Willow Koerber getting a feed in the tech zone.

Race winner Nathalie Schneitter on cruise control.

Race winner Nathalie Schneitter on cruise control.

Seven/Kenda racer Mary McConneloug trying to shut down the gap to Anna Szafraniec.

Seven/Kenda racer Mary McConneloug trying to shut down the gap to Anna Szafraniec.

Lene Byberg of Specialized passing her idol, Gunn-Rital Dahle Flessja. Gunn Rita took a year off after having a child last year, and it's been a slow return to racing form for the former Norwegian crusher.

Lene Byberg of Specialized passing her idol, Gunn-Rital Dahle Flessja. Gunn Rita took a year off after having a child last year, and it's been a slow return to racing form for the former Norwegian crusher.

Koerber on full gas. ''I was trying to catch Eva (Lechner), but I just couldn't close down the gap.''

Koerber on full gas. ''I was trying to catch Eva (Lechner), but I just couldn't close down the gap.''

US CX star, Katie Compton put in a surprise appearance in Champrey and served notice that she's here for business, coming in at 22nd on the day.

US CX star, Katie Compton put in a surprise appearance in Champrey and served notice that she's here for business, coming in at 22nd on the day.

Elisabeth Osl was rocking good form today, but wasn't able to crack onto the podium, coming in ninth.

Elisabeth Osl was rocking good form today, but wasn't able to crack onto the podium, coming in ninth.

Colnago owned the podium, but everyone was taking in the bubbly.

Colnago owned the podium, but everyone was taking in the bubbly.

The men raced one more lap on the rapidly drying track, making their total race length 29 kilometers. The race winner, Florian Vogel, covered that distance in 1:44:08, maintaining an average speed of 16.71 kmh (18.2 miles, 10.38mph). Given how technical this course is, that’s an amazing pace.

The men’s race started fast. Vogel quickly seized the lead, but then slipped back as Mr. Technical, Julien Absalon, rode to the front. A chase group of Jaroslav Kulhavy, Nino Schurter, and Burry Stander were hard on his heels, waiting to pounce in the event of a rare mechanical or (even rarer) a melt down by the Orbea rider. In lap three, their patience was rewarded as Absalon suffered a flat, and Vogel again seized the lead. Behind him, Absalon continued to slip back, while Trek rider Mathias Flueckiger surged past a faltering Stander, and eventually, Absalon. Vogel came home first, with Kulhavy, Schurter, Flueckiger, and Absalon rounding out the podium.

Todd Wells finished twelfth, with Adam Craig in fourteenth, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski in twenty-second, Mike Broderick in forty second, and Sam “Big Country” Schultz in forty eighth.

There was a 3.2 km opening lap that skipped the big drop on the near end of the course before the main event to shake out the rabbits, and allow the real horses a chance to move up through the field before the real racing began.

There was a 3.2 km opening lap that skipped the big drop on the near end of the course before the main event to shake out the rabbits, and allow the real horses a chance to move up through the field before the real racing began.

Just another day in the office for Adam Craig. ''This course was pretty sweet. I was moving up the entire time, but Martin (Fanger) caught me on the last climb.'' A solid fourteenth place for AC; not too shabby for his first race back on the World Cup circuit, not too shabby at all.

Just another day in the office for Adam Craig. ''This course was pretty sweet. I was moving up the entire time, but Martin (Fanger) caught me on the last climb.'' A solid fourteenth place for AC; not too shabby for his first race back on the World Cup circuit, not too shabby at all.

Jaroslav Kulhavy was not too keen on the big drop and opted for the slightly easier, but 3-4 seconds longer, 'chicken' line. He finished 11 seconds down. It was a 6 lap race. You just gotta ask yourself: what if?

Jaroslav Kulhavy was not too keen on the big drop and opted for the slightly easier, but 3-4 seconds longer, 'chicken' line. He finished 11 seconds down. It was a 6 lap race. You just gotta ask yourself: what if?

Alexis Vuillermoz putting his Lapierre hard tail through the crash test. He walked away, but was badly shaken up and pretty much out of the race after he picked himself out of the dirt.

Alexis Vuillermoz putting his Lapierre hard tail through the crash test. He walked away, but was badly shaken up and pretty much out of the race after he picked himself out of the dirt.

Burry Stander was on fire for the first half of the race and then the wheels came off a bit and he came in just one step off the podium.

Burry Stander was on fire for the first half of the race and then the wheels came off a bit and he came in just one step off the podium.

Burry Stander was on fire for the first half of the race and then the wheels came off a bit and he came in just one step off the podium.

Burry Stander was on fire for the first half of the race and then the wheels came off a bit and he came in just one step off the podium.

Newly minted Trek/Subaru rider Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski's wagon wheels attracted a fair amount of attention from the Euros.

Newly minted Trek/Subaru rider Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski's wagon wheels attracted a fair amount of attention from the Euros.

Stars and bars and more wagon wheels. The new US Champ, Todd Wells had a great race, coming in twelfth.

Stars and bars and more wagon wheels. The new US Champ, Todd Wells had a great race, coming in twelfth.

Sam Schultz had a bit of a rough one, coming in forty-eitghth. ''I just didn't have good legs today,'' he said. ''That's not an excuse, but I just felt as if I couldn't put any power in 'em.'' Hmmm, maybe Schultz needs another round on the Sh*t Bike... What do you think Sam?

Sam Schultz had a bit of a rough one, coming in forty-eitghth. ''I just didn't have good legs today,'' he said. ''That's not an excuse, but I just felt as if I couldn't put any power in 'em.'' Hmmm, maybe Schultz wants another round on the Sh*t Bike... What do you think Sam?

Julien Absalon is not having a great season--by his standards. Only one first place so far. Finishing anywhere but on the top step is such a rarity for this guy, that it makes you wonder if we're finally starting to see cracks in the armor of the man who will likely wind up as the winningest male XC racer of all time.

Julien Absalon is not having a great season--by his standards. Only one first place so far. Finishing anywhere but on the top step is such a rarity for this guy, that it makes you wonder if we're finally starting to see cracks in the armor of the man who will likely wind up as the winningest male XC racer of all time.


And even though Absalon's off his usual game, he's still holding down the top step of the World Cup overall, even if it's only by a scant twenty four points over reigning World Champ, Nino Schurter. With only two races remaining, if Absalon doesn't find his old form quickly, it could be Schurter with the leader's jersey after Val de Sol in Italy next week.

And even though Absalon's off his usual game, he's still holding down the top step of the World Cup overall, even if it's only by a scant twenty four points over reigning World Champ, Nino Schurter. With only two races remaining, if Absalon doesn't find his old form quickly, it could be Schurter with the leader's jersey after Val de Sol in Italy next week.

Absalon continues to lead the World Cup overall, while Eva Lechner seized the lead from Catharine Pendrel—the Luna rider had a bit of a rough day, coming home sixteenth. Willow Koerber is a mere 15 points back, from Lechner, so look for the Trek/Subaru rider to keep the pressure on to re-take the lead.

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