The World Champs are a peculiar thing. Favorites falter. Dark horses can win. Sometimes. In other words, expect the unexpected. And that’s what happened in the elite XC races: Maja Wloszczowska of Poland and Jose Hermida of Spain both came away from their respective races with gold.
Hurricane Earl may have missed hitting the Eastern Seaboard, but the close brush was enough to send rainsqualls into Quebec and season the dusty XC track with more than enough rain to turn the dry, blown out XC track into proper Mont-Sainte-Anne dirt and mud. Canadians Marie-Helene Premont and Geoff Kabush were both licking their chops; Kabush was even hoping it would rain harder.
In the Women’s Elite race, Wloszczowska pulled off the equivalent of a Cinderella story by taking the win. Wloszczowska is a two time World Cup winner, and while she’s raced well all season, for her to take the win against local powerhouse Marie-Helene Premont and World Cup overall champ Catharine Pendrel was unexpected, to say the least; Wloszczowska was ranked fourteenth overall following this year’s World Cup, while Pendrel and Premont both excel on technical courses like this one. Vegas odds likely had the Polish rider somewhere in the 50-1 neighborhood for a win, if not even lower. But she somehow overcame those odds to pull off win.
All throughout the early stages of the race, she was in perfect position to go for the lead, and by the lap two, she had it and never looked back. By lap three, she owned it. Behind her, more than a bit of chaos ensued with Eva Lechner, Sabine Spitz, Pendrel, Koerber, and a few others duking it out. Eventually, it was Kalentieva and Koerber who filled out the podium with Pendrel a close fourth and Premont back in ninth place.
For the men, it looked to be Jaroslav Kulhavy’s race. The race was two start laps to shake out the field and then six full laps around the four km track. For the first two start laps, the Czech rider was looking stronger than he had at Windham only a week prior. Then Nino Schurter got around him and took control, only to lose thirteen spots with a flat tire. Hermida, meanwhile, was biding his time. The Spaniard is always a threat and has won World Cups before, but he has a tendency to run hard and blow up. But not today; today he had the legs. He took the lead by lap four and started turning the screws on the rest of the field, upping the pace and essentially riding away. An emotional Hermida took the win in 1:52:26, while Kulhavy and first year elite rider Burry Stander were +:29 and +1:10 respectively.
While Hermida’s victory wasn’t as unexpected as Wloszczowska’s, given the performances of Schurter, Absalon, and Kulhavy throughout this season, he was definitely an underdog here at Mt St Anne. It was a beautiful win for the Spaniard though, so much so that even his fellow riders appeared stoked to see him take home the title of ‘World Champion’.