Former mountain bike world champion Jolanda Neff announced that she would be racing World Cup cyclo-cross with her new team Trek Factory Racing, and she finished an strong fifth place at the series' sixth round in Namur on Sunday.
Neff started the Namur World Cup in the fifth row because she does not have enough points in cyclo-cross to start further ahead. Her start position didn't seem to affect her race, too much, however, as she quickly worked her way from near the back of the field to the front within the opening laps.
The riders faced a tough circuit that was covered with thick mud, making it a challenge for all competitors. Neff seemed to race through the mud almost effortlessly, and used her world-class mountain bike skills to tackle to technical sections.
Neff caught up to the lead group, however Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) had already made her winning attack. Neff then finished fifth with just 36 seconds behind Brand. World Cup leader Marianne Vos (Waowdeals) was second, Annemarie Worst third and Nikki Brammeier (Mudiiita) was fourth.
It is not her first season racing cyclo-cross. In January, she was forced to end her cyclo-cross season early after a crash at Hoogerheide. She competed in Namur on Sunday, just days after arriving home from a training camp in New Zealand.
"I came back from a training camp in New Zealand only three days ago," Neff said. "So, finishing fifth here is great. I was able to profit from my mountain biking background. I struggled on the climbs but moved up on the technical sections."
Neff has signed a contract to race with Trek Factory Racing, alongside off-road teammates Emily Batty, Ellen Noble and Evie Richards. She said in a video message that she would be racing mountain bike, road and cyclo-cross.
Neff won the elite women's cross country world title in 2017, and the overall World Cup titles in 2014 and 2015, she was also three-time under-23 world champion.
She has also been successful on the road, winning the Swiss championships title in the road race twice, along with overall victory at Tour of Poland and third at Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio. She was also eighth in the road race at the Olympic Games in 2016 and has placed inside the top 10 at the World Championships.
She posted images of her new Trek Boone cyclo-cross bike on Twitter ahead of the race in Namur.
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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