Val di Sole produced another cracking race in the XCO World Cup.
After a wet and muddy short track race on Friday night, the skies were clear and the dust was well and truly settled for the main event on Sunday for cross-country specialists at Val di Sole in Itay. France’s Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Holland’s Mathieu Van Der Poel took their respective elite category wins but it wasn't without a fight!
The XCO track near Trento has featured on the international calendar for many years but the 2019 incarnation was perhaps the toughest yet. It has often been known to not be too technical, but really hilly. The climbs had been lengthened and rocks exposed to ensure that the race would be amongst the toughest of the year.
In the elite women’s race, riders warmed up in ice vests as temperatures began to soar. Heavy rain earlier in the weekend insured that the track conditions were virtually perfect with enough grip left in the earth without the dreaded arrival of dust clouds.
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot was in no mood for hanging around and attacked right from the start. She left her rivals in her wake with the closest to her being Jolanda Neff and Jenny Rissveds, with Bec McConnell sitting inside the top 5 in the opening laps.
At one stage the gap was out to 48 seconds but with two laps to go Neff set off after the leader. With one lap to go the Swiss rider, still seeking her first win of the season, was right on her multi-titled rivals wheel. But Ferrand-Prevot recognised that she needed to be in front at the top of the last descent and fended off an attack to drop in with her nose just in front. They arrived on to the final straight together and when Neff kicked for an attack Ferrand-Prevot once again covered her off and rode home to her first win since Windham 2015. Rissveds held on to secure a superb third place. Bec McConnell finished 7th, capping off her 4th place in short track for a super successful weekend of racing.
Big battles in elite men
Nino Schurter has won more races in the North of Italy than anyone else and started the day undoubtedly amongst the favourites. But the Dutchman Mathieu Van Der Poel had other ideas.
The newly-crowned European champion attacked early and by the end of the first few laps was in a group of three with Schurter and Mathias Flueckiger. Schurter let the pair in front of him trade blows and looked as though he may have been keeping his powder dry but when the Dutchman attacked on the first climb of the last lap, the Swiss rider could not keep up.
Van Der Poel rode home to his second XCO win of the year and his second of the weekend having already tasted victory in Friday night’s short track XCC race. Flueckiger managed to gap the reigning World Champ to take second place whilst Schurter rode home to third.
Dan McConnell came home in 48th in the hot field, with Cam Ivory 74th and Sebastian Jayne in 82nd.
In U23 men, Matt Dinham lead the Australian charge in 48th, with Cam Wright in 68th and Callum Carson in 83rd.
The action keeps coming next weekend in Lenzerheide, with World Champs at the end of August.