The second round of the 2021 Cross-Country Olympic (XCO) World Cup came just one week after the action packed racing in Albstadt, Germany. The world's best riders packed up their campervans, rolled away their massage moon boots and drove east to the Czech Republic, and the infamous rocks and roots of Nove Mesto.

It was a wet week, and the Short Track (XCC) on Friday afternoon saw Haley Batten storm to a World Cup win in the women's while Mathieu van der Poel out sprinted Thomas Pidcock to win the men's. His 40t chain ring may have given him an edge!

Come Sunday, and the course was still wet, with muddy trails in the forest making some of the root sections unrideable.

America’s Haley Batten, winner of the Short Track, made a strong start in the Czech Republic, as did her compatriot Kate Courtney. However, a nasty crash for Courtney left her in pain and in the pits with a major mechanical issue after braking her rear brake lever.

World champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot had spent the evening in hospital after a crash in the Short Track race, but bounced back in impressive style and was 10 seconds off the lead after the start loop. However, the French rider could not sustain her challenge and it was Lecomte who began to move away from the rest of the field, expertly mastering the relentless roots and technical rock features to secure a 29 second lead by the end of the first lap.

The battle for the podium was much closer with Batten eventually powering away to secure second, while Rebecca McConnell took third ahead of Ferrand-Prévot, who had a flat close to the end of the race.

No one could compete with Lecomte, with the Under 23 World Champion finishing more than 90 seconds clear of her rivals to make it two XCO wins from two rounds to keep a firm grip on the leader’s jersey. Just like in Albstadt, she rode away early and built her lead.

The track had dried somewhat for the Elite Men’s race, but the riders still had to put their mud and running skills to good use as they battled the treacherous track as well as each other.

Pidcock narrowly missed out on the win in a tight sprint with Mathieu van der Poel in the Short Track race and these two riders were once again battling for the win on Sunday.

Van der Poel was the first man to take the race on, leading on the start loop, but as the first lap unfolded Pidock was able to move up to the wheel of the Dutch rider and the much-anticipated battle began.

On lap three it was Pidock who put the hammer down and the elbow-to-elbow duel with van der Poel suddenly became a thirty-second gap which grew to over 1:30s in the penultimate lap. The British rider looked incredibly smooth as he mastered the climbs to secure his first elite mountain bike World Cup win.

Van der Poel claimed second place, which was enough for him to secure the leader’s jersey, while Switzerland’s Mathias Fluckiger held off the challenge of home favourite Ondrej Cink to take the final place on the podium.

RESULTS

WOMEN ELITE
1.Loana Lecomte, FRA 1hr25m13s
2.Haley Batten, USA +1.39s
3.Rebecca McConnell, AUS + 1.51s
4.Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, FRA + 2.10s
5.Evie Richards, GBR +2.27s

MEN ELITE
1.Thomas Pidcock, GBR 1hr20m55s
2.Mathieu van der Poel, NED +1.00s
3.Mathias Fluckiger, SUI +1.15s
4.Ondrej Cink, CZE +2.00s
5.Jordan Sarrou, FRA +2.21s