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.”
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.
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.
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.