Neff makes it three titles in a row at mountain bike Worlds
Swiss phenom celebrates end of stellar season
Switzerland's Jolanda Neff capped off a great 2014 season by winning the Under 23 cross country world championships on Friday in Hafjell, Norway.
"It has been perfect season. I won three World Cups, the overall World Cup and the world championship," Neff happily told Cyclingnews. "This race today means so much to me - it's was after such a good season."
In mountain biking, Under 23 riders may choose to compete with the Elite riders at World Cups, but they are required by the UCI to race in their Under 23 category at the mountain bike world championships. So after winning, the 2014 Elite World Cup, Neff lined up in the Under 23 race on Friday at Worlds.
That didn't mean she wasn't nervous.
"There was a lot of pressure because I'd already won the Under 23 title twice," she said. "It was not the easiest for me going into the race, but I knew my shape was good. I knew that if I could make the race happen like I normally do that it would work."
"Well, it worked," she said in perfect English, beaming, and I'm so happy I'm over the moon."
Neff started fast and led for most of the race although she was challenged for the first two laps by another Under 23 super star Pauline Ferrand Prevot - who races the Elites on both the road and on mountain bikes - until the French woman had not one, but two broken chains.
Neff will race two more races this season with her Liv/Giant team - the Bundesliga finals in Germany and the race put on by her teammate Maja Wloszczowska in Poland. Then she'll make a final appearance with the Swiss national team ahead of a well deserved holiday in October.
Although Neff has proven herself more than capable of beating the Elite riders, she has year remaining as an Under 23 rider.
When asked if she wished she could race with the Elites at Worlds she said," Until now, it was fine. I didn't want to waste energy on doing the Elites and it was special to race the Under 23 race. Now I have won three titles and unless they change the rules, I will race the Under 23 race again next year. It's crazy, I do the races all year with the Elites except for the two biggest ones: Europeans and Worlds - at those I'm required to race the Under 23 event."
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.