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ALPECIN-DECEUNINCK DO THE DOUBLE IN VAL DI SOLE UCI CROSS-COUNTRY SHORT TRACK WORLD CUP

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ALPECIN-DECEUNINCK DO THE DOUBLE IN VAL DI SOLE UCI CROSS-COUNTRY SHORT TRACK WORLD CUP

4 weeks ago

In the Women’s Elite UCI Cross-country Short Track World Cup races, multiple accelerations from Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) depleted the hill and set the Dutch rider up for the win over Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Ineos Grenadiers). A closer men’s race saw five riders approach the finish together, with UCI World Champion Sam Gaze (Alpecin-Deceuninck) out-sprinting the rest to the line.

 PUCK PIETERSE PUTS ALL TO THE SWORD

A bad start from Alessandra Keller (Thömus Maxon) in the middle saw her drop down from the front row of the grid. Jenny Rissveds (Team 31 Ibis Cycles Continental) in contrast, exploded off the line, while Italian riders Chiara Teocchi (Orbea Factory Team) and Martina Berta (Santa Cruz Rockshox Pro Team) also wasted no time in the opening loop. 

UCI World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Ineos Grenadiers) found herself boxed in going into lap two, and a little further down the pack than she would have wanted. Teocchi led from Rissveds up the hill but at a steady pace, which meant the field was more bunched than strung out going into the third lap of ten.

After a cagey first five minutes, riders began to jostle for position, as Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) muscled her way to the front and began to wind up the pace. Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing - Pirelli) and Ferrand-Prévot knew they would need to be alert to not lose position.

Midway through the fourth lap Pieterse put in the first visible attack, stretching out the field. Approaching halfway through the race, Rissveds experienced a problem that saw her slip out of the top ten but was able to recover and regain her place among the elite of the elite. Teocchi seemed determined to control the pace, returning to the front with five laps remaining.

Lap 6 brought the first appearance at the head of the race from US National Champion Savilia Blunk (Decathlon Ford Racing Team.) Pieterse looked to use her as a launchpad, putting in another attack that did significant damage and allowed a front group of five to briefly pull clear.

That became twelve riders with three laps to go, as Pieterse eased off the gas, but it was surely a lull at best. Another kick from the Dutch rider on the short but punchy mid-loop climb was one that only Ferrand-Prévot and Blunk could handle. With just a couple of minutes of racing to go, the Frenchwoman had ominously not shown her hand for a second.

By the bell Teochhi had been able to close the gap to the front and it was almost anyone’s race. Pieterse, who had spent most of the race at the front, had one more chance to break the bunch but taking it only played into the hands of Ferrand-Prévot.

The UCI World Champion’s one and only move came in the closing metres and meant it would be a two-up sprint between Pieterse and Ferrand-Prévot. The Dutch rider had the more explosive kick and proved she had succeeded in her early and continual efforts to hurt her rival. 

Five seconds behind Savilia Blunk was able to win the race behind for 3rd, beating South African Candice Lill who achieved her best result of the season so far.

Afterwards Pieterse spoke proudly of the improvement she had made from the previous WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series round to this one:

I think Nove Mesto wasn’t my weekend, I wasn’t there yet,” she said. “Here I played my own tactic by riding on the front. I’m so happy I could play it smart in the final and take the win in the end.

I thought I would use everything in the course that was hard to spread out the field and make sure I was racing for the podium

Ferrand-Prevot suggested she possibly could have played things differently:

It was fast but a comfortable pace,” she said, “and I was waiting waiting waiting, but in the end I was waiting too long. Puck attacked many times and was so strong. In the end she deserved the win.”

TACTICAL MASTERCLASS FROM GAZE TO TAKE SECOND WIN IN RAINBOWS

With the wind picking up, the sun shining and game faces on, the elite men’s XCC got underway.

The UCI World Champion Sam Gaze got off the line quickest, leading Simon Andreassen (Cannondale Factory Racing) and Filippo Colombo (Scott-Sram MTB Racing Team) into the first corner.

Victor Koretzky (Specialized Factory Racing) had a bit of early work to do, and he made a point of doing it. Nino Schurter (Scott-Sram MTB Racing Team) had successfully elbowed his way into the top five by the end of lap one.

On lap two Colombo looked to stretch things out, as Gaze played a more cautious game. Charlie Aldridge (Cannondale Factory Racing) led over the line for the start of the third circuit as the early fight for position began in earnest. After five minutes of racing Gaze had not spent a second out of the top three.

The fourth push up the hill was where Luca Schwarzbauer (Canyon CLLCTV XCO) emerged, before handing a turn to Schurter and Jordan Sarrou (Team BMC). Schurter began to boss things.

The race was eight wide as the riders began their fifth lap with few having been shelled. This time up the hill Luca Braidot (Santa Cruz Rockshox Pro Team) launched a bold but very serious attack, pulling out to a visible and measurable lead over the field by the line. That gap only looked larger and was only increasing as the riders behind looked around at each other. 

Four laps from the end and Braidot was nine seconds to the good. Sebastian Fini (Lapierre Mavic Unity) was doing the donkey work behind, as none of the rest were willing to spend energy they may want later. Despite the valiant effort, Braidot could not have hoped to hold out for that long on his own. He was gradually being brought back over the next couple of rotations and the catch came just before lap 9 of 11.

That was when Schurter decided to play a hand, throwing in a few chips with a testing rather than committed acceleration, that served more to up the pace. Aldridge and Alan Hatherly (Cannondale Factory Racing) were two of those who could not stay with the main field at that speed.

At the bell there were six riders left in contention, as Jens Schuermans (Giant Factory Off-Road Team - XC) hurt everyone with a massive effort on the climb. He ended up leading out the five riders who sprinted it out for the win. 

Sam Gaze had the strongest, longest kick, taking the win from Koretzky and Schuermans, with Nino Schurter in 4th.

For Gaze the win felt “really good. It’s been a lot of work over the last weeks, and I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect coming here,” he said. “I’m just really happy to pull it off, have a good feeling and have as much fun racing my bike.”

Koretzky, who remains the overall leader in the UCI Cross-country Short Track World Cup, was delighted with his podium. The Frenchman has recently been suffering from Covid. 

 I’m really happy,” he said afterwards. “If before the race I’d finish second, I would say ‘yes.’ I’m looking forward to resting and having 100% of my lungs.”

BÖHM AND RILEY CONTINUE TO RULE THE ROOST IN THE U23 CATEGORY

In the women’s U23 UCI Cross-country Short Track World Cup, leader Kira Böhm (Cube Factory Racing) took her third victory of the season. Böhm outsprinted Isabella Holmgren (Lidl-Trek), the only other rider to win a UCI World Cup cup round in 2024, into second, with Emilly Johnston (Trek Future Racing) beating Olivia Onesti (Trinx Factory Team) to third.

It was so much fun today,” said Bohm afterwards. “The first two laps were actually quite chilled and then the last two laps were super hard. The last lap was super hard especially, it was all out. Issy made it super hard for me today.”

The men’s U23 race was won by Bjorn Riley (Trek Future Racing) with a successful solo attack two laps from the end.

I've never attacked in a World Cup before, so two laps to go I just tried,” said an elated Riley afterwards. “I was scared everyone was going to catch me on the flats but when I looked back at the end of the last climb, and I saw how big the gap was, it blew my mind.”

Second place was his fellow American Riley Amos (Trek Factory Racing-Pirelli) with Oleksandr Hudyma (KMC Ridley MTB Racing Team) in third.

Saturday sees the UCI Downhill World Cup Finals from Val Di Sole, Trentino. The qualifiers and semi-finals raced today delivered drama and surprises, demonstrating that early season dominance is no guarantee of continued success. 

Neither Loïc Bruni (Specialized Gravity) nor Valentina Höll (YT Mob) will be last to go in their respective finals on Sunday. Höll was pushed into third in her semi-final by a world class run from Jess Blewitt (Cube Factory Racing) while an early slip from Bruni in his own semi will mean a much earlier start for him in the final than he’s used to.

Both the men’s and women's UCI Downhill World Cup Junior Finals will be broadcast live on the WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series YouTube channel. For the Elite races, check the channels or streaming service available in your country.

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