Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory) took the second Short Track win of her career on Friday at Round 5 of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy. For the first time in the history of the Short Track openers, riders faced wet conditions, with steady day-long rain making the 1.1-kilometre circuit very muddy and slippery.
After a short opening start loop, Rebecca McConnell (Primaflora Mondraker Rotor) took the lead on the first of eight laps. However, she was supplanted on the second by Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Canyon Factory), who would lead for the next three laps.
Sina Frei (Ghost Factory) took the lead on Lap 4 with an attack on the climb, and did again on the next lap, with only Neff able to respond.
The two Swiss riders rode together until the final lap, when Neff attacked on the last climb. She opened a gap but then spun out in the mud, allowing Frei to rejoin her. However, Neff attacked again on the descent and this time managed to stay away. Ferrand-Prévot took third.
"I had a really bad slip on the last uphill," said Neff, "and Sina caught me back; she rode such an amazing race, so much courage just to go for it. I can't believe I won because these uphills are super hard. I tried not to think about the overall, I just knew I needed to ride as good as I could."
With her win, combined with World Cup leader Kate Courtney's (Scott-SRAM) tenth place, Neff cut Courtney's lead in the overall standings to 95 points from 175.
Van der Poel takes fourth Short Track victory
Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) took his fourth Short Track win of the year on Friday at Round 5 of the Mountain Bike World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy.
By the second lap, on a wet and slipper circuit, it had become a two rider race between van der Poel and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory). Avancini was the only other rider to have won a Short Track this season, albeit in Round 3 when van der Poel was absent.
The pair initially opened a small gap on the muddy climb, with world champion and World Cup leader Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) leading the chase group.
The gap to the two leaders grew steadily, to 17 seconds by the start of the eighth lap, but a lap later, as the riders began their last lap, it was down to nine seconds, and van der Poel decided it was time to go, dropping Avancini like a stone on the last climb.
The new European champion increased his lead on the descent to cruise across the line five seconds ahead of his rival, with Belgian champion Jens Schuermans (Scott Creuse Oxygene Gueret) winning the sprint for third.
Cyclo-cross world champion van der Poel admitted that the muddy conditions were to his liking. "I think it doesn't get much better than this for me. It's actually harder to ride in the mud on a mountain bike than on a cyclo-cross bike, but I enjoy these conditions. I think Henrique is my biggest opponent in the short track; he is very explosive and very strong on the not so long climbs. He is deadly to fight against, he is always willing to pull at the front of the race."
Van der Poel's win moved him up to second in the overall standings ahead of Avancini, 206 points behind Series leader Schurter.
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