Mountain bike World Cup pro Eva Lechner (Colnago-Südtirol) put in a strong showing at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday. She finished within seconds of making the elite women's podium.
Lechner wrapped up her mountain bike season at the Langkawi International Challenge in Malaysia at the end of October. Then, she started her 'cross season at round 4 of the UCI World Cup in Roubaix, France, where she finished ninth. Her form improved as she logged two more top 10 finishes at the World Cups in Namur and Rome, and she defended her national 'cross title again, collecting what was her fourth Italian jersey.
Returning to the World Cup in Hoogerheide, Netherlands one week later, Lechner proved her abilities by finishing off the podium on fourth place and she won the pre-Worlds tune-up 'cross race at the Gran Premio Guerciotti in Milan, where she distanced the rest of the field. On top of the podium there, she left Milan highly motivated for the big day in Louisville.
At 'cross Worlds, Lechner started in the second row, but managed to position herself, together with Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (France), right behind the World Cup leader and favourite Marianne Vos (The Netherlands). Vos distanced everyone on lap one after Chainel-Lefevre made a mistake. Unfortunately for Lechner, she did not get around the French woman and found herself riding also with Sanne Van Paassen (The Netherlands) in a chase group of three.
Two laps before the finish, World Cup winner Katie Compton (United States) caught and passed Lechner and her group. Czech's Katerina Nash also joined from behind, which left four riders battling for the final podium spot and bronze medal.
On a slippery track, Lechner's front wheel was all over during the penultimate lap, and she slipped and had to get off her bike. She lost contact with the bronze medal group, but determinedly clawed her way back up. She finished in sixth place, just seven seconds behind bronze medal winner Chainel-Lefevre, who overtook Nash in the final meters after the Czech rider had chain problems just meters from the finish line.
"Eva did a great job. She had positioned herself in the medal ranks throughout the race," said Colnago-Südtirol's Team Manager Edmund Telser. "Unfortunately, a small slip in the last lap prevented her from standing on the podium. Luck was not with us today, but we are content to know that we did everything right in the build up of Eva's form for these world championships."
Lechner will not have to resume World Cup mountain bike racing until mid-May, when the UCI's series kicks off, a bit later than most other years, in Albstadt, Germany.