By: Colin Meagher
For the first time in a long time, not one, but two American women claimed World Cup Overall podium spots, with both Willow Koerber and Georgia Gould making the selection. In other World Cup racing news, the Canadians dominated the women's race, with Catharine Pendrel and Marie-Helene Premont stuffing the rest of the field while the Swiss men previewed their World Championship aspirations by dominating the podium here in Windham.
The Women's XC race:
From the first lap, the race was Catharine Pendrel's to lose. The Luna rider came out of the gate swinging hard, took control halfway up the first lap, and was firmly in the driver's seat halfway up the first climb, with Marie Helene Premont hot on her heels. Behind the two leaders, the rest of the field came on hard at first, but then a few mechanicals and the brutal pace shed the bunch. Many riders were forced to go into damage control mode, while others, like Eva Lechner, simply blew up. Georgia Gould, however, dug deep and did her best to bridge up in the final lap, but the pace of the leaders was simply too much for her.
Up front, Pendrel retained control of the pace for the duration. She did have a brief scare as Marie-Helene Premont surged past her with a wicked attack on the final climb of the last lap, but Pendrel was able to reel her back in and take the win by four seconds.
Gould came in third, but was still 2 minutes and change back from her teammate, Pendrel. She was followed by Blaza Klemenic and then Elisabeth Osl to round out the podium.
The Men's XC race:
It was a slugfest, pure and simple, with all the big kids coming out swinging. Nino Schurter needed only to beat Absalon to take the overall, and the only way to do that is by blasting away from the gun. The rest of the top men simply had nothing to lose. And from the start gun, that was more than evident. In very short order a selection had been made with Jaroslav Kulhavy, Florian Vogel, Christoph Sauser, Lukas Fluekiger, Julien Absalon, Jose Hermida, Burry Stander, and—from out of nowhere—Liam Killen.
Behind them, the same situation that the women had faced was staring the chasers square in the face—keep the pace and detonate, or go into survival mode. Most opted for the latter. A number of riders suffered flats or were caught in a first lap tangle too. Such was the fate of Todd Wells, Geoff Kabush, and Adam Craig. Kabush was forced to DNF with a mechanical.
In the end, it came down to horsepower. A very hungry Kulhavy had it, and took the win, followed by Schurter, Vogel, Sauser, and Fluekiger, who all had some horses, but not enough to burn.
For the Overall races, things shook out as anticipated for the top spots: Pendrel and Schurter took it. But in the Women's XC, two Americans—Willow Koerber and Georgia Gould—were on the box, claiming second and fourth, respectively. Eva Lechner's dismal race dropped her to third overall and Esther Suess took the last step on the box. The men—used to being dominated by Absalon—saw a changing of the guard, as the French rider took the second step. Kulhavy's win here tied him with Absalon for points, but as he had only one World Cup win to Absalon's two, the Czech rider was forced to take third overall. Vogel and Jose Hermida took fourth and fifth.