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KELLER AND HATHERLY LEAVE IT LATE IN LES GETS HAUTE-SAVOIE, BOTH COMING FROM BEHIND FOR SHORT-TRACK WINS

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KELLER AND HATHERLY LEAVE IT LATE IN LES GETS HAUTE-SAVOIE, BOTH COMING FROM BEHIND FOR SHORT-TRACK WINS

1 week ago

Alessandra Keller (Thömus Maxon) and Alan Hatherly (Cannondale Factory Racing) employed almost identical tactics to take similar sized victories in the women’s and men’s UCI Cross-country Short Track races in Les Gets, Haute-Savoie (France). Both waited until their opponents were weakening before attacking on the final circuit. In the men’s UCI World Champion Sam Gaze (Alpecin-Deceuninck) took a tumble on the first lap but fought all the way back to claim a hugely impressive 3rd place.

PIETERSE HITS HARD AND EARLY BUT CANNOT LAND KNOCK-OUT BLOW 

Les Gets (Haute-Savoie) is known for having one of the hardest short-track courses on the circuit with a particularly fast start/finish. Dry conditions, as the riders faced on Friday, only made it faster.

At the front row in the women’s UCI Cross-country Short-Track (XCC) World Cup, Val di Sole winner Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) wore the bruises to show how hard she had pushed it in practice.

That wasn’t going to stop her in the race proper, however, as she shot off the line. As did Alessandra Keller (Thömus Maxon), but all raiders got away cleanly as they headed up the hill. Savilia Blunk (Decathlon Ford Racing Team) drifted back from the front row to 12th place. Ciara Teocchi (Orbea Factory Team) surged around to the front on the right, leading going into the traverse jumps.

Jenny Rissveds (Team 31 Ibis Cycles Continental) held onto second place into the rocks, with Pieterse coming through to take over at the front after one completed circuit. In the early part of lap two, it was Pieterse from Teocchi and Rissveds, before Martina Berta (Santa Cruz Rockshox Pro Team) launched her way up the middle. The Italian’s attack was almost too successful, as it carried her into first place.

Prematurely? Perhaps. Certainly, she gave the place back to Pieterse at the completion of the second lap. Pieterse was in no mood to hang around, stringing out the field over the top of the climb. All kinds of damage was done by her first serious acceleration.

Onto lap 4, Pieterse had given herself clear air and was building her advantage towards the double digits. Candice Lill, Gwen Gibson (Trek Factory Racing Pirelli), Rebecca Henderson (Primaflor Mondraker Racing Team), and Blunk were deciding how much of an alliance to form when Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing Pirelli) blasted her way towards the front of the chasing group.

Halfway through and while Pieterse looked strong her task job was far from complete. Had she gone too early? Was Alessandra Keller letting her hang herself out to dry?

The man-made rock garden caused problems for the pack, with Candice Lill losing her chain on the 6th time over, effectively ending her race.

Onto lap 7, Pieterse led by 11 seconds. Evie Richards turned on a tractor beam, positioning herself low over her bars and pedaling hard in pursuit of her quarry. Keller was happy to let the Brit do the lion’s share of the work, as Rebecca Henderson hung a further bike length back.

Two to go and it was three riders vs one, until Keller fired herself past Richards as she was beginning to fade. On the descent Keller was a single short bend behind Pieterse, just three seconds separating them. Keller had the choice to shoot past as they hit the grass climb but opted instead to pause on Pieterse’s wheel.

With one lap to go Richards had found something in her reserves to put four of them in contention for the victory. Pieterse kept riding her own rhythm as Keller took the lead in the race for the first time. She made it hurt on the climb, and count on the descent. 

She was almost out of sight on the switchbacks and by the rocks was all but clear, with two sets of stones separating her from Pieterse. Times later showed Keller had measured her effort perfectly, with her 2’17 last lap the fastest of anyone in the race.

Even as Pieterse was gassed by the early effort and extended solo spell, Henderson couldn’t displace the Dutch rider from 2nd, and was forced to settle for 3rd. Richards lost contact again on the last lap but did enough for a good 4th place as Gibson came home in 5th.

Puck went, because she likes to make the race fast,” explained Keller afterwards, “while I thought to save some energy. My team manager told me to focus on second. Getting through the second last lap I thought it was going to be close. We closed the gap, I tried to make the others work, and we worked together pretty good. We caught Puck again and I made the move through the attack zone.”

As well timed as it all appeared, Keller insisted “I didn’t have a plan.”

HATHERLY HANGS BACK AND HITS HARD

In the men’s XCC, Luca Schwarzbauer (Canyon CLLCTV XCO) and Martín Vidaurre (Specialized Factory Racing) started best of all. Charlie Aldridge (Cannondale Factory Racing) was looking strong, but it was Schwarzbauer who led onto the uphill switchbacks, ultimately leading them all across the line at an almighty clip.

Green stains showed Sam Gaze (Alpecin-Deceuninck) had gone down on the grass and the UCI World Champion found himself dead last with a massive amount of work to do to get back into contention. Fortunately, he had seven laps to do it.

Thomas Litscher (Lapierre Mavic Unity) wasn’t letting go of the German’s wheel but nor was he keen to push him out of the way. In fact, no-one was, though Aldridge looked sorely tempted to attack.

The off-camber climb was slipperier than it looked, and the race began to string out as it approached the halfway point. As Hatherly moved up, Schwarzbauer punched the pedals to let him know he wasn’t losing power. 

On the fourth time up the climb, the race was perfectly poised, with no big gaps between groups. 

Onto Lap 5, Schwarzbauer led Litscher, Hatherly, Aldridge and Vidaurre. Neither Filippo Colombo (Scott-Sram MTB Racing Team) nor Chris Blevins (Specialized Factory Racing) were quite out of it. Gaze had made it into the top 20 with more than half the race remaining.

Schwarzbauer signaled for someone else to take a turn on the front, which Litscher graciously accepted. At this point there was a good group of seven, but it was time for games to start being played, perhaps presenting opportunities for those behind.

Gaze continued head-hunting and was up to 14th with three and a half laps left. Hatherly took over in the G1 engine room, as Blevins and Vidaurre began to fade. The South African asked probing questions of Schwarzbauer on the climb but he won’t have liked the answers, as the German clung to his wheel. Charlie Aldridge was the sole rider from the front set still to put his nose in the wind.

As they hit lap 9 he moved onto Schwarzbauer’s shoulder, but preferred 2nd to third for their penultimate ascent. Gaze had made it up to 6th place, making him first of those riders not in the front group. An easing of their pace seemed to serve as an invitation to the Kiwi. At the bell he had almost accepted it, which was the moment Aldridge picked to attack. Only his team-mate Hatherly could go with him, as the Cannondale pair briefly duked it out before Hatherly said farewell ahead of the short descent.

Hatherly increased his lead, and it seemed only Gaze could get the better of him. But Hatherly had boxed clever, making it through the rock garden cleanly and coming home four seconds to the good. Aldridge’s sprint made it a team 1-2, while Sam Gaze delivered a remarkable 3rd. Schwarzbauer, who had perhaps put too much work in, finished 4th, with Litscher making up the podium. Colombo was the rider from the original quintet to miss out.

It’s been a long time coming and I’m super happy that it paid off today,” said Hatherly, whose last short-track victory came in Brazil in 2022.

He continued: “I had the confidence to make it hard before the last lap to take the edge off the guys. I kept something in the tank to give it that final squeeze.”

 

SECOND U23 SHORT-TRACK WORLD CUP WINS OF 2024 FOR HOLMGREN AND RILEY

The men’s and women’s U23 races were similar, and similarly hard-fought affairs. In the women’s UCI Cross-country Short-Track World Cup, Isabella Holmgren beat overall leader Kira Böhm (Cube Factory Racing) for her fourth UCI World Cup win of the season across both competitions.

Holmgren went clear of the field by putting in a big dig midway through the race, before hanging on to win by three seconds from Böhm. Sina Van Thiel (Lexware Mountainbike Team) was right behind her compatriot, a storming performance delivering her best result of the year. Olivia Onesti (Trinx Factory Team) and Ginia Caluori (Wilier-Vittoria Factory Team XCO) rounded out the podium in 4th and 5th.

As much intent as her move seemed to contain, Holmgren said she “didn’t really go into it with a plan, because it’s such a technical course with all the rocks and everything. I just felt it and thought it would be better to go sooner rather than later. One lap I had a mishap on the rocks, and you never know if that will happen again.”

In the U23 men’s XCC, Bjorn Riley (Trek Future Racing) battled it out with Finn Treudler (Cube Factory Racing) over ten laps to take his second UCI XCC World Cup win in three weeks. The victory was by the modest margin of three seconds.

At no single point did I think I had [Treudler],” said Riley afterwards. “Maybe on the rock garden but I was just hoping, begging that I had enough beans to give it on the two straight sections and then not mess up the rocks at the end.”

He didn’t, and he openly admits to love what he’s doing for a living:

I was super relaxed all week, because I love this course,” he continued. “I was super happy and just decided to shred with all my mates. I’m so proud of what I’ve done this year that whatever comes out of it I’m happy with it. Knowing that I’m secure in this career makes me the happiest man on earth. To win is just a bonus.”

Five riders came in together behind them, with Rens Manen Van Teunissen and Oleksandr Hudyma (both KMC Ridley MTB Racing Team), and Martin Groslambert (JB Brunex Superior Factory Racing) making up the podium.

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