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1 month ago

Saturday’s U23 Cross-country Olympic (XCO) races were result repeats of Friday’s UCI Cross-country Short Track (XCC) World Cup races. Canada’s Isabella Holmgren dominated the women’s side from the start while Riley Amos (Trek Factory Racing - Pirelli) enjoyed more of a back-and-forth battle with Luca Martin (Orbea Factory Team.) A mistake from Martin allowed Amos to ride clear to victory on the third lap.

Isabella Homlgren hit the front less than four minutes into the opening loop, gapped the field led by Elina Benoit less than a minute later, and rode clear through the fast wooded downhill. Briefly the field regained contact, as Holmgren battled the heavily rooted steep climb, and eked out her lead once more on the descent. The course was all and down, technical descents or sapping ascents, offering very little chance of recovery outside the flat finish straight.

Despite all the rain that fell on Friday conditions it had almost all been either sucked up by the trees or evaporated by Saturday afternoon. Conditions were nigh perfect for cross-country racing and Holmgren was looking unstoppable into her first full lap. Crossing the start-finish she had five seconds on Benoit, nine over Olivia Onesti (Trinx Factory Team) and Kira Böhm (Cube Factory Racing.) Madigan Munroe (Trek Factory Racing) was another six seconds back in fifth.

Into the lap one and Holmgren was disappearing up the road. A chasing group of four riders, behind Benoit and led by Munroe, did their best to stay in touch. They couldn’t do much. Holmgren completed the first full lap in 12’56, 43 seconds quicker than anyone else, and led by nearly a minute.

One lap later and it was almost 90 seconds, as Munroe was on her own in second. Onesti made third her own midway through lap three.

Back down the field the steep roots were causing chaos and forcing riders off. The real racing was for minor places for the rest of the race, although Onesti gained some ground on Munroe the American stayed strong. Holmgren was by far the strongest, though. Hitting the final lap she led by almost two minutes, with gaps even bigger further back.

Fatigue showed on the more technical sections, but Holmgren suffered less than others. A late crash meant a DNF for Ella Maclean-Howell.  

A faultless finale brought Isabella Holmgren home to take one of the most commanding cross-country victories in recent history. Her winning margin at the end was 2’05. As easy as she made it look, Holmgren said afterwards that “it was definitely really hard. I had a front row start which was really nice and helpful because there was a lot of crashing behind me. I tried to stay out of trouble and race my own race. The roots were slippery, so I was making sure to be super cautious on the descents and gave it my all on the climbs.”


The later U23 men’s race unfolded in similar style as series leader, and unbeaten this season, Riley Amos (Trek Factory Racing - Pirelli), rode clear on the first lap, adding a handful of seconds across each completed circuit to stay out for a strong solo victory.

He along with Luca Martin (Orbea Factory Team) were fastest out of the gate and headed into the woods with a clear course in front of them. Alex Malacarne (Trinity Racing MTB) and Dario Lillo (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) also had strong starts to the race. 

The 160 strong field was still all together onto the first climb, and looking like it would be a tight race. A minute later and onto the drops Riley Amos began to demonstrate that a tight race was not the kind he was planning. He punched his way through and onto the second technical climb, riding onto the rocks a handful of seconds to the good. At the start-finish it was up to six and, as in the women’s U23, a chasing group was forming with work to do.

The pressure being put on by Riley successfully strung out and splintered the field in a matter of minutes. France’s Yannis Musy and Dario Lillo fought hard to stay in touch but were taking heavy hits to their endurance in the process. Onto the lap proper and the chasers, led by Marin, were just about able to ride back onto Amos’ wheel, ahead of the technical section of the course through the woods.

A mistake on the roots mean Amos had to dismount, giving up first to Martin with Luke Wiedmann (Thomas Maxon) in third. Amos kept close to Martin’s wheel, as Wiedmann and Bjorn Riley (Trek Future Racing) joined on to form a front four.

Amos retook the lead on the next climb but struggled to maintain momentum and had two further offs, as Lillo made the four a five. Wiedmann took a turn at the front on lap two, while Amos loomed menacingly with the top ten covered by 27 seconds. By the end of lap two Amos and Martin were looking the strongest in the race. They had broken clear by four seconds from Wiedmann, but he recovered to claw himself back in contact.

The second time up the steep rooted climb and it was Martin and Wiedmann who struggled, with both forced to run it.Amos, who didn’t need a second invitation, took a little look back and stamped on the pedals. Wiedmann’s off cost him the most. Halfway through the race he was 25 seconds off the lead, with Martin just four back.

Amos was able to rebuild his momentum, increasing his advantage steadily over the next laps into the double-digit seconds. Riley gave himself some clean air over Wiedmann for 3rd. Onto the last circuit Amos was fifteen seconds to the good, growing in confidence and looking ever more comfortable. At the finish he had time to take in the applause and make a show of counting his season’s six victories on his fingers. Martin was a proud second place 17 seconds down. For Riley another podium in 2024, a further 15 behind.

For Riley, the course presented as many difficulties as his opponents:  It was between muddy and dry today, which is for me the most challenging conditions. So slippery out there,” he said afterwards. “So many of the roots had come through over the weekend.”

He admitted to errors and said he struggled to find a rhythm across the race: I was riding some sections good and then on the next I would make mistakes and give the lead back to Luca. We were going back and forth until he made enough of a mistake that I could get away. I just tried to stay on it and stay clean to the finish. And it worked.”


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