SPECIALIZED SMASH UCI CROSS-COUNTRY SHORT TRACK WORLD CUP IN ARAXÁ

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SPECIALIZED SMASH UCI CROSS-COUNTRY SHORT TRACK WORLD CUP IN ARAXÁ

3 months ago

Day two of the second round of the 2024 WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series featured the men’s and women’s elite UCI Cross-country Short Track (XCC) World Cup and with wins for Haley Batten and Victor Koretzky, and a second place for Christopher Blevins, it was another day of celebration for team Specialized in Brazil.

Hot on the heels of a hugely entertaining weekend in Mairiporã, the second round of the 2024 WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series also took place in Brazil, in the town of Araxá in Western Minas Geras region, and marked the 40th UCI Mountain Bike Short Track World Cup race. On an exciting and varied course, the riders put on a show, with plenty of tail whips on display on the jump series and some explosive, attacking racing.

BATTEN THROWS DOWN THE GAUNTLET

The women’s short track (XCC) saw Italy’s Chiara Teocchi (Orbea Factory Team) and Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing-Pirelli) quick off the mark to battle it out for the early lead on the short opening lap, before the US native Batten showed her intention with an early move to the front, following her strong showing in last week’s UCI Cross-country Olympic (XCO) World Cup in Mairiporã.

On lap one, Swiss Alessandra Keller (Thömus maxon), Brit Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing-Pirelli) and Swede Jenny Rissveds (Team 31 Ibis Cycles Continental) gathered at the front of the race, but the bunch came back together heading into lap two. Keller was determined to take the race on and hit the front once again, but a well-timed attack from American Savilia Blunk (Decathlon Ford Racing Team) on the steep section of the course saw the lead change hands once again.

The importance of positioning heading into the climb could not be underestimated, and it was never more evident than on lap 4, as Batten, Richards and Keller rode shoulder-to-shoulder on the lead-up to the ascent. Batten and Richards came out on top, with Keller falling on her way up and holding up Rissveds and more. The mishap worked in favour of Linda Indergand and Kate Courtney (Scott-SRAM MTB Racing Team); the Swiss and the American took advantage of the chaos to close in on Batten and Richards, the latter of which took the lead for the first time in the race.

The quartet had a small gap as they moved into the final lap, but a huge attack from Batten took the others by surprise, and with Batten flying out into the lead, Indergand passed Richards on the climb to move into second.

Batten crossed the line to take her first victory on the season, four seconds ahead of Indergand. Blunk out-sprinted Keller to take third place, with Richards crashing just shy of the finish line, only able to come in ninth.

Following the race, Batten moves into the lead in the overall standings, with Richards in second, and Keller third.

Speaking after the race, Batten said:

That course was really tricky, positioning was so key, but it was really hard to execute because the swarm was just constant throughout the race, so sometimes I took the front maybe a bit more than I should have. But I felt really strong and I just tried to be smart about my effort and the key lap. That last lap I knew was crucial and that’s what I train for. I train to win, and I think it’s just about executing when it gets to the races.

I was just trying to read Evie’s body language and the riders around me and figure out when was the moment, and sometimes you just have to go as hard as you can. It worked out really well. I knew that final grass section would be hard to pass so as long as I could just keep it together to the end, I knew I had a good chance of taking it away.

KORETZKY SCORES WITH SPEED AND STYLE

It was another fast and furious battle among a huge group of contenders in the men’s elite UCI Cross-country Olympic (XCO) World Cup. Chilean Martín Vidaurre (Specialized Factory Racing), who played a major role in last week’s race, led the bunch off at the head of the group, but it was Britain’s Charlie Aldridge (Cannondale Factory Racing) who put in an explosion of power on the start loop to take the lead, his ferocious pace meaning he was in the perfect position to hit the steep climbing section first. No sooner had Aldridge opened a small gap though, he crashed, wiping out on the dirt track to lose his lead, and around 16 riders pushed on in his stead in a bunch led by Jordan Sarrou (Team BMC).

Just behind the race leaders, last week’s winner, UCI XCC World Champion Sam Gaze (Alpecin-Deceuninck), lurked menacingly, along with nine-time overall champion Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM MTB Racing Team). Schurter had a troubled start to the Series, crashing in the Cross-country Olympic (XCO) race last Sunday in Mairiporã, as he seeks his tenth overall victory.

It was the Dane Simon Andreassen (Cannondale Factory Racing) and Frenchman Victor Koretzky who looked liveliest on lap two though, both moving up on the climb to take the front of the race. Going into lap two however, a big bunch grouped together again, and it was last week’s second place rider Luca Schwarzbauer (Canyon CLLCTV XCO) who took control, leading for a sustained period.

Heading into the penultimate lap, Koretzky and Sarrou both looked poised to make a move, but it was XCO winner in Mairiporã Christopher Blevins (Specialized Factory Racing) who struck, surprising his teammate Koretzky and the rest as he maximised his output on the climb.

While Sarrou moved briefly into the lead with an injection of pace, it was the Specialized duo who finally put paid to Schwarzbauer, as they struck almost simultaneously to take control of the race. The final time up the climb, Blevins hit out for home, with his teammate Koretzky chasing him down and a sizeable gap opening up to the rest of the field.

The two teammates duked it out for victory head-to-head, and coming onto the final straight Koretzky put in a burst of speed as Blevins looked the other way, and the Frenchman rode to his first victory of the 2024 season. Blevins cruised in in second place, with South African Alan Hatherly (Cannondale Factory Racing) coming through in third.

With that victory, Koretzky moves into the lead in the overall standings, with Gaze in second and Schwarzbauer third after two races.

Koretzky said:

It was full gas till the finish line. Chris was super strong, and he did an amazing job for the final, but because it was super-fast at the end, for me it was easy on the wheel compared to him. We are happy to both be on the podium, it’s amazing for Specialized team again. Haley won for the girls, I won for the men, Chris finished second, so it’s super nice, and the atmosphere here in Brazil is amazing. We enjoyed it a lot, I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Christopher Blevins said:

Victor was smart, he set me up perfectly for that climb. I went by him on there, looked back… and he’s like a cockroach, he doesn’t die. There are so many moments where he's like, ten metres back, and then he'll close the gap. So, I knew he was going to come back to me.

BÖHM AND AMOS UNBEATEN IN U23

Kira Böhm (Cube Factory Racing) and Riley Amos (Trek Factory Racing-Pirelli) both continued to dominate the U23 ranks in the U23 UCI Cross-country Short Track (XCC) World Cup on Friday. The German launched an early attack and took Canadian Emily Johnston (Trek Factory Racing) and another German, Carla Hahn (Lexware Mountainbike Team) clear with her, but she once again showed her strength to take the win, with Johnston second and Hahn third.

In the men’s race the American Amos beat his compatriot Bjorn Riley (Trek Future Racing), making it a one-two for Trek teams on the podium. Like Böhm, Amos put on yet another superior display after victory in both UCI XCC and XCO World Cups in Mairiporã last weekend. Switzerland’s Luke Wiedmann (Thömus maxon) finished third.

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