All photos: Piper Albrecht

The UCI Cross-Country World Cup returned to Europe this weekend, after the first round took place in Brazil. With short track on Friday night, Bec McConnell showed she was the fastest woman there, winning the sprint ahead of Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. New Zealander Sam Gaze won the men's short track - but many wondered if he'd have the fitness for the Olympic distance race on Sunday. You can catch our report right here.

Sunday drew clear and warm(ish) with a faster running course in the hilly forest at Albstadt (Germany). Again, McConnell was a class apart and sealed a perfect weekend as she followed up her thrilling Friday XCC victory with an easy Sunday victory over the stacked field. 

She led from the start with former Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds alongside her and French duo Loana Lecomte and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot less than a minute behind as young Austrian Mona Mitterwallner and Swiss rider Alessandra Keller joined the chasers in the middle laps. McConnell and Rissveds built nearly a one minute lead early on, leaving two world-class chase groups behind.

McConnell finally broke Rissveds on the penultimate lap and held her nerve over the closing lap to record back-to-back XCO wins and become the fifth woman ever to have the perfect XCC/XCO weekend.

Sweden's Rissveds hung in to finish second with 2021's U23 world champion Mitterwallner third as Lecomte banked fourth place to leave her in fifth place overall and Keller fifth to round out the podium.

McConnell, 30, said: "It is just incredible. Jenny and I have very different strengths. She can play games more and I need that consistent speed throughout the race. I just tried to be patient and then I thought I needed to give it a shot. When I made my move, I was able to make it stick."

"I felt comfortable being on Rebecca's wheel," said Rissveds. "My strategy was to not start too fast. I also had a plan to increase the speed on the second to last lap, but I cooked myself."

Pidcock back to MTB

Reigning men's Olympic XCO champion Tom Pidcock banked his second UCI Mountain Bike World Cup victory in Albstadt. Much like his contemporaries Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, cyclo-cross world champion Pidcock is splitting his time between bike disciplines this season and missed the Petrópolis XCC/XCO opener with Kiwi Samuel Gaze holding off France's Jordan Sarrou for Friday's XCC win.

The first few laps saw the main contenders weighing each other up before the British rider put the hammer down with his rivals unable to keep pace as he pulled away to win comfortably by 20 seconds.

XCO legend Nino Schurter came in second to extend his overall World Cup lead with Romanian Vlad Dascălu close behind in third, France's Titouan Carod fourth and Spaniard David Valero Serrano fifth.

Pidcock, 22, said: "I found myself at the front after they set off really fast on the first few laps. Nino was pushing really hard. I just thought I would test the water and see where everyone was really at, and got a gap. I want to win the world title and maybe the Euros as well."

Dascălu had a busted seat but managed to chase back into contention. "The mechanics did a great job to change it (his saddle) so fast. I didn't lose so much time and I went as fast as possible. The legs were good today. Super happy with the result."

Mathias Flueckiger had an unfortunate rear flat, while in the chase group. It's another year of poor luck and great form at Albstadt for the Swiss rider.

U23 Aussie action

The U23 racing had a bunch of Australians in it, and in the women's race Zoe Cuthbert came in 17th, with Izzy Flint 36th, Holly Lubcke 45th and Katherine Hosking 58th.

In U23 men, Sam Fox had his best World Cup finish with 13th. Domenic Paolilli was 89th, Tom Cheesman 102nd and Isaac Fletcher raced to 131st.

The World Cup circus moves east to the Czech Republic, for another big weekend of