Great drama, a surprising winner and a dominant Frenchwoman
The XCO Sunday in Lenzerheide offered the more than 10,000 visitors almost everything that could be expected from a successful World Cup day - only the big happy ending was not to be found. While in the women's competition Loana Lecomte finally confirmed that she is back in top form and Alessandra Keller also made the Swiss fans cheer, the elite men offered a drama of unimagined proportions. Nino Schurter and Mathias Flückiger shot each other out of the race while in the lead. Smiling third was the strong Italian Luca Braidot, who celebrated his first World Cup victory.
Lecomte finally back in the mountains - Keller makes home crowd cheer
At a cool 12 degrees Celsius at 1,500 metres, the elite women showed an exciting cross-country Olympic race over a long distance. Already in the rather cautious start lap, the usual suspects established themselves at the top, from which a quintet of Jenny Rissveds (SWE), Jolanda Neff (SUI), Loana Lecomte (FRA), Alessandra Keller (SUI) and Martina Berta (ITA) broke away in the course of the first lap. Just like in Leogang, the decisive attack should come from Lecomte again. Only Rissveds and Keller were able to keep up at first. By the end of the first lap, the trio was already leading by almost 30 seconds. This top 3 would continue to dominate the women's peloton with alternating lead work for the next three laps, until the French hill climber sought the decision again in the longest climb of the fourth lap and was able to break away from Keller and Rissveds. Despite the rather short climbs in Lenzerheide, the 2021 overall World Cup winner managed to extend her lead and ultimately celebrate an unchallenged victory. In the battle for second place, Alessandra Keller, who fought sacrificially, had to admit defeat in the flat and rooty last section of the course to Jenny Rissveds, who crowned her victory in the Short Track with second place over the Olympic distance.
But not only the decisions in the top trio were hard-fought. Behind them, a whole series of top riders fought gripping duels in changing constellations in the first two chasing groups. The podium was completed by Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA) and Anne Terpstra (NED), who decided the order in the final sprint. Jolanda Neff finished in sixth place after an intermittent but strong performance. World Cup leader Rebecca McConnell (AUS) seems to be still searching for her form after her perfect start of the season and has to hand over the leader's jersey after finishing 14th to Loana Lecomte, who now leads the overall classification by one place. Best Austrian was Mona Mitterwallner in 13th place, while Leonie Daubermann was the best German in 28th place.
«I am very happy. To be honest, I didn't think I would win today. It is the first time I win here - a great weekend. I was a bit tired, didn't feel very good and just tried to have a good race. Taking the overall lead is great, but won't change my plans for the season.» - Loana Lecomte
«It was so tiring and hard, but good. I like it here in Lenzerheide like every year, yes and it was good!» - Jenny Rissveds
«Well, the atmosphere and the people gave everything for us! There were so many cheering for me as Swiss Champion and I tried to take that in and use it as extra motivation. I am very happy with my performance this weekend, especially my third place today. I mean, this is my best World Cup finish so far and I'm very excited to be back next year.» - Alessandra Keller
XCO women results top 5:
1st Loana Lecomte (FRA) 1:17:31
2nd Jenny Rissveds (SWE) 1:17:39
3rd Alessandra Keller (SUI) 1:17:55
4th Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA) 1:19.37
5th Anne Terpstra (NED) 1:19:37
XCO Women's World Cup Overall Top 5:
1st Loana Lecomte (FRA) 1204 points.
2nd Rebecca Mcconnell (AUS) 1203 Points
3rd Jenny Rissveds (SWE) 975 Points
4th Anne Terpstra (NED) 890 Points
5th Alessandra Keller (SUI) 832 Points
Luca Braidot and Alan Hatherly blow up Swiss party in crazy finish
Of the 113 riders competing in the men's elite over the Olympic distance, local hero Nino Schurter (SUI) was the main focus of attention. Before the race, he was only one victory away from the sole record for the most World Cup victories. And Schurter showed right from the start that he wanted to celebrate this record at home and rode ahead at high speed. A small leading group consisting of Schurter, Filippo Colombo (SUI) and Alan Hatherly (RSA) had a bigger group around Mathias Flückiger (SUI) right on their heels - the top 16 were separated by less than 15 seconds.
In the course of the second lap, in a tight race, a group of four consisting of Schurter, Flückiger, Colombo and Hatherly finally pulled further away until the strong Italian Luca Braidot joined them in the middle of the race and directly took the lead.
Due to his reduced pace, the Spaniard David Valero Serrano was also able to catch up. Towards the end of the fourth lap, Flückiger looked for the preliminary decision and pulled away together with Schurter. While Braidot and Hatherly fought their way back, Colombo and Valero Serrano fell back.
What looked like a Swiss double victory with a possible record for Schurter until the end of the last lap turned into an unbelievable drama: After first Flückiger was able to pass Schurter in the last, wide climb in the tech zone, the counterattack of the record chaser followed on his heels. Schurter ahead of Flückiger ahead of Braidot and Hatherly went into the last root section in the forest, from which the Italian and the South African surprisingly came out in first and second place and forced the decision in the finish sprint. The two big Swiss rivals had taken each other out of the race when Flückiger tried to overtake again. While Flückiger spoke afterwards of an unfortunate crash, which was, however, part of racing, Schurter severely reproached his compatriot for having downright shot him down by this manoeuvre in a place that actually does not allow overtaking.
In the end, Luca Braidot crowned his strong performance with his first, albeit surprising, World Cup victory and Alan Hatherly can be happy about second place. The two men, who had dominated the entire race, have to settle for third and fourth place at their home World Cup. Nino Schurter will be able to continue the record chase already next weekend in Andorra, while Mathias Flückiger will have to wait further for his first World Cup victory on home soil.
The Best German was a strong Luca Schwarzbauer in 9th place, with Max Foidl (AUT) finishing 29th.
«This is magical. I still can't believe it. I still see Nino and Flückiger in front. Those two fell. We passed them. Then Hatherly and I were left. I had pain in my leg and the sprint was very hard. Tomorrow I might realize what I have achieved here.» - Luca Braidot
«A really tactical race today. Nino, Flückiger and Colombo rode a strong race and tried to break up the peloton and get away. I just stayed patient and confident, It's really hard to keep a high pace here at this altitude. I stayed further back each time to save energy. I waited for the sprint and actually expected a 4-man sprint, but it became a 2-man sprint between me and Luca due to the crash between Nino and Mathias. I'm second, it's my best World Cup result at Olympic distance, and there are many more World Cups to come, I can't wait for the next ones.» - Alan Hatherly
«In the last bit of woods on one of the last passages, he tried to overtake where he just couldn't and shot me down. It's sad! We would have been on one and two, and I would have pretty much won. There couldn't have been a better situation for my record. It's a bad response from him, I can only interpret it as he couldn't cope with last year's defeat and just shot me down because of it. I really don't understand it!» - Nino Schurter
«That's racing. We passed each other several times throughout the race. It got tighter and tighter between us after each overtaking manoeuvre. Then we touched each other and crashed. It's not nice to finish the race like that, but it is what it is. That's just what can happen in racing.» - Mathias Flückiger
XCO men results top 5:
1st Luca Braidot (ITA) 1:17:32
2nd Alan Hatherly (RSA) 1:17:32
3rd Mathias Flückiger (SUI) 1:17:36
4. Nino Schurter (SUI) 1:17:44
5th Filippo Colombo (SUI) 1:18:04
XCO Men World Cup Overall Ranking Top 5:
1st Nino Schurter (SUI) 1154 points.
2nd Alan Hatherly (RSA) 942 Points
3rd Mathias Flückiger (SUI) 936 Points
4th Vlad Dascalu (ROU) 882 Points
5th Maxime Marotte (FRA) 691 Points
Pedersen and Vidaurre Kossmann win U23 competitions
The U23 women were the first of the day to tackle the Olympic distance, with Denmark's Sofie Pedersen coming out on top, just ahead of overall World Cup leader Line Burqier. A strong third place went to Puck Pieterse (NED), who won the last race in Leogang. With this result, the young Frenchwoman Line Burqier remains at the top of the overall standings with a commanding lead of 145 points, while Sofie Pedersen takes over second place and Puck Pieterse slips to third.
The last riders of the day were the U23 men, after most of the spectators had recovered from the thrilling and dramatic elite race. As in Leogang, there was once again no way around Chile's Martin Vidaurre Kossmann, who was able to extend his lead in the overall World Cup accordingly. Carter Woods from Canada and Charlie Aldridge from Great Britain followed in second and third place.
Bike Kingdom Games celebrate big mountain bike festival with almost 30,000 spectators
The big drama at the very end did not dampen the excellent atmosphere at the Bike Kingdom Games. A total of over 27,000 spectators made their way to the World Cup in Lenzerheide to support their heroes throughout the weekend. As expected, spectator numbers peaked on XCO Sunday, when around 11,500 mountain bike fans watched the Swiss parade discipline live on site. OC head Christoph Müller draws a correspondingly positive balance:
«Basically, we are very satisfied with the weekend. We had a record number of visitors, which is very nice after the years with Covid-19. From a sporting point of view it was a highlight as always, from the Short Track race on Friday to Downhill on Saturday and today on Sunday the Cross Country race. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for a Swiss victory here this weekend, but we hope it will be the case next year. It all worked out. Like the whole weekend, the weather was right today, but unfortunately, we didn't have the necessary luck to celebrate a Swiss success today.»
For all those who could not be there live at the double World Cup, there is the possibility to enjoy the elite final races in the replay on Red Bull TV.