Words and photos by Gary Perkin

Saturday’s World Championship racing was all about XC—both men’s and women’s Elite cross country; the Olympic discipline. USA’s Willow Koerber takes career-best third-place finish on 29er, Todd Wells takes eighth—also on running the big wheels.

Irina Kalentieva leads Sabine Spitz

Irina Kalentieva leads Sabine Spitz

Forty-nine women started at 10:30 under gloriously clear blue skies and with a slight headwind that was detectable, but weaker than yesterday’s U23 race. The favorites made their intentions known straight away, but front runner Irina Kalentieva (Russia) had to drop out of the lead bunch when a mechanical forced her to stop and sort her bike, which dropped her to 21st overall. Meanwhile, Sabine Spitz (Germany), who won the recent World Marathon Championships, and Lene Byberg (Norway), who recently won her first World Cup in Bromont, vied for position on the singletrack climb on lap two. They rode on together for a while until Byberg turned on the gas and dropped Spitz.

Lene Byberg of Norway leads the race

Lene Byberg of Norway leads the race

Meanwhile, Kalentieva has made her way through the field until she caught and dropped Willow Koerber (USA) on the last lap in her pursuit of the Norwegian. She finally caught Byberg on the last half of the lap, and Byberg fought valiantly but to no avail—Kalentieva held on to take her second World Championship gold medal in three years. Byberg rode in shortly thereafter, then Koerber became the first person to win World Championships medal on a 29er—as far as this reporter can recollect, anyway.

Willow Koerber races to her best ever World Championships finish - 3rd

Bronzed: Willow Koerber raced to her best-ever World Championships finish—and the best ever for a 29er, too.

The men’s race was another reason why XCO is so thrilling to watch – and more so at the World Championships level. Watching any of the World Cup events, one wouldn’t think these guys could go any faster. But Worlds is something special.

The usual suspects were all present and accounted for at the front of the pack by the time the race hit the Cardiac Climb on the second lap: Julien Absalon (France), Nino Schurter (Switzerland), Florian Vogel (Switzerland), Jose Hermida (Spain), Geoff Kabush (Canada) to name but a few.

Then on Lap Three, it started to thin out, thanks to a combination of mechanicals (Kabush & Hermida) and the flat-out frenetic pace being set at the front by Absalon, Vogel and Schurter. After working together successfully and by mounting constant attacks, Schurter and Vogel trimmed the final group further, leaving Schurter with Absalon and Vogel with Hermida.

Schurter and Absalon continued to set a manic pace through the remaining laps and eventually it came down to who could take the lead into the last singletrack section. Schurter and Absalon sprinted up the last fire road climb like demons, and it was last year’s U23 World Champion and Olympic Bronze medalist Schurter in front—beating out the former multiple World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Absalon.

Schurter sprinted the last 500 meters of the lap and scorched the finish straightaway to take the win by just 3 seconds. Vogel out-sprinted Hermida for 3rd and Kabush took 5th shortly thereafter.

Nino Schurter wins the 2009 World Championships

Nino Schurter wins the 2009 World Championships

Todd Wells, meanwhile, had a stormer of a ride on another 29er—taking, what this reporter recollects to be a career-best 8th place. Adam Craig, meanwhile, took a solid 18th place.

Todd Wells at Mountain Bike World Championships

Todd Wells rolling on two-nines at the Mountain Bike World Championships

Now stay tuned for Sunday’s much-anticipated DH race, where the rather tame, fast and pedally course promises to make for quite a contest, with the Specialized squad running shorter-travel rigs, Steve Peat gunning for gold on his tried-and-true V-10, and with Brian Lopes, hot off a recent string of victories at Crankworx in Whistler, coming out of World Cup racing retirement to try and steal a win. Check back here at Bikemag.com for full coverage.


////// Elite Men XCO /////////

1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 2:04:39

2 Julien Absalon (France) 0:00:03

3 Florian Vogel (Switzerland) 0:00:58

4 José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain)

5 Geoff Kabush (Canada) 0:02:04

6 Cédric Ravanel (France) 0:02:35

7 Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) 0:02:59

8 Todd Wells (United States Of America) 0:03:06

9 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 0:03:22

10 Christoph Sauser (Switzerland) 0:03:45

11 Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) 0:03:56

12 Stéphane Tempier (France) 0:04:09

13 Martin Gujan (Switzerland) 0:04:24

14 Sven Nys (Belgium) 0:04:30

15 Chris Jongewaard (Australia) 0:04:35

16 Roel Paulissen (Belgium) 0:04:44

17 Emil Lindgren (Sweden) 0:04:51

18 Adam Craig (United States Of America) 0:05:03

19 Filip Meirhaeghe (Belgium) 0:05:16

20 Inaki Lejarreta Errasti (Spain) 0:05:22

21 Ruben Ruzafa Cueto (Spain) 0:05:23

22 Max Plaxton (Canada) 0:06:07

23 Moritz Milatz (Germany) 0:06:36

24 Carlos Coloma Nicolas (Spain) 0:06:45

25 Milan Spesny (Czech Republic) 0:06:53

26 Jelmer Pietersma (Netherlands) 0:06:58

27 Tony Longo (Italy) 0:07:08

28 Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Spain) 0:07:28

29 Samuel Schultz (United States Of America) 0:07:31

30 Rudi Van Houts (Netherlands) 0:07:32

31 Rubens Valeriano (Brazil) 0:07:48

32 Daniel Mcconnell (Australia) 0:08:19

33 Karl Markt (Austria) 0:08:30

34 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (United States Of America) 0:09:01

35 Ben Henderson (Australia) 0:09:16

36 Jan Skarnitzl (Czech Republic) 0:10:31

37 Derek Zandstra (Canada) 0:10:46

38 Manuel Fumic (Germany) 0:11:00

39 Sid Taberlay (Australia) 0:11:01

40 Michal Lami (Slovakia) 0:11:07

41 Liam Killeen (Great Britain) 0:11:16

42 Seamus Mcgrath (Canada) 0:11:37

43 Lukas Flückiger (Switzerland) 0:11:48

44 Maxim Gogolev (Russian Federation) 0:11:52

45 Anton Gogolev (Russian Federation) 0:12:07

46 Kohei Yamamoto (Japan) 0:12:14

47 Jianhua Ji (People’s Republic Of China) 0:12:36

48 Bjorn Brems (Belgium) 0:12:41

49 Hannes Metzler (Austria) 0:13:09

50 Pavel Boudny (Czech Republic) 0:13:18

51 Marc Bassingthwaighte (Namibia) 0:13:29

52 Fabio Hernando Castaneda Monsalve (Colombia) 0:13:50

53 Edivando De Souza Cruz (Brazil) 0:13:52

54 Carl Decker (United States Of America) 0:14:27

55 Dylan Cooper (Australia) 0:14:53

56 Periklis Ilias (Greece) 0:16:46

57 Stuart Houltham (New-Zealand) 0:16:51

58 Ivan Seledkov (Russian Federation) 0:17:09

59 Cristobal Silva Ibaceta (Chile) -1 lap

60 Ricardo Pscheidt (Brazil) -1 lap

61 Andrew Blair (Australia) -1 lap

62 Keiichi Tsujiura (Japan) -2 lap

63 Shufeng Zhang (People’s Republic Of China) -2 lap

64 Kirill Kazantsev (Kazakhstan) -3 lap

65 Michael Broderick (United States Of America) -3 lap

66 Alban Lakata (Austria) -5 lap

67 Ken Onodera (Japan) -5 lap

68 Marios Athanasiadis (Cyprus) -6 lap

DNF Bas Peters (Netherlands)

DNF Evgeniy Pechenin (Russian Federation)

DNF Johnny Cattaneo (Italy)

DNF Brendon Sharratt (New-Zealand)

DNF Klaus Nielsen (Denmark)

DNF Michael Northcott (New-Zealand)

DNF Marcin Karczynski (Poland)

//////// Elite Womens XCO /////////

1 Irina Kalentieva (Russian Federation) 1:43:20

2 Lene Byberg (Norway) at 0:00:13

3 Willow Koerber (United States Of America) 0:00:52

4 Sabine Spitz (Germany) 0:01:30

5 Anna Szafraniec (Poland) 0:01:37

6 Catharine Pendrel (Canada) 0:02:36

7 Cécile Rode Ravanel (France) 0:03:07

8 Esther Süss (Switzerland) 0:03:40

9 Eva Lechner (Italy) 0:03:58

10 Heather Irmiger (United States Of America) 0:04:12

11 Blaza Klemencic (Slovenia) 0:05:03

12 Marie-Helene Premont (Canada) 0:05:15

13 Magdalena Sadlecka (Poland) 0:05:50

14 Katherine Compton (United States Of America) 0:06:32

15 Georgia Gould (United States Of America) 0:07:01

16 Margarita Fullana Riera (Spain) 0:07:03

17 Petra Henzi (Switzerland) 0:07:28

18 Anja Gradl (Germany) 0:07:41

19 Laura Metzler (France) 0:07:46

20 Katrin Leumann (Switzerland) 0:07:55

21 Mary McConneloug (United States Of America) 0:08:31

22 Laura Turpijn (Netherlands) 0:09:43

23 Annika Langvad (Denmark) 0:10:11

24 Kate Potter (Australia) 0:10:13

25 Rie Katayama (Japan) 0:10:16

26 Amanda Sin (Canada) 0:10:24

27 Rowena Fry (Australia) 0:10:42

28 Oksana Rybakova (Russian Federation)

29 Githa Michiels (Belgium) 0:10:49

30 Adelheid Morath (Germany) 0:10:52

31 Janka Stevkova (Slovakia) 0:12:15

32 Joanna Harrington (Australia) 0:13:00

33 Pavla Havlikova (Czech Republic) 0:13:08

34 Katherine O’Shea (Australia) 0:13:12

35 Nicola Leary (New-Zealand) 0:13:34

36 Monique Zeldenrust (Netherlands) 0:13:45

37 Laura Lorenza Morfin Macouzet (Mexico) 0:14:22

38 Wei Fang (People’s Republic Of China) 0:14:59

39 Judy Freeman (United States Of America) 0:15:22

40 Jodie Willett (Australia) 0:15:23

41 Joanna Wall (Australia) 0:16:08

42 Elena Gogoleva (Russian Federation) 0:17:52

43 Suzanne Clarke (Great Britain) 0:18:10

44 Zoe King (Australia) 0:19:08

45 Jeanette Gerrie (New-Zealand) -2 lap

DNF Nathalie Schneitter (Switzerland)

DNF Marielle Saner-Guinchard (Switzerland)

DNF Maria Osl (Austria)

DNF Mical Dyck (Canada)

DNS Maja Wloszczowska (Poland)