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Snowshoe: Blevins takes first World Cup win on home soil at men's elite XCO – Cyclingnews.com

By 19 September 2021
Victory ends 30-year drought for American men in World Cup cross country racing
Christopher Blevins (Trinity Racing) took a historic win at the final round of the XCO MTB World Cup on Sunday, when in front of a US crowd he became the first American man to win a World Cup in nearly three decades. At Snowshoe, West Virginia, Blevins became the first American man since Tinker Juarez in 1994 to win an Elite World Cup, his first World Cup victory. 
Vlad Dascalu (Trek-Pirelli) finished second and Ondrej Cink (Kross Orlen) was third. Mathias Flueckiger (Thomus RN Swiss Bike) took the overall World Cup title despite finishing well back in the field after flatting.

Snowshoe, high in the Allegheny Mountains, was host to the World Cup Final in 2019, and riders knew that they would be facing rough, rooty tracks and a mixture of long gravel and short, steep climbs, with many riders suffering flats on the rough track. This is the end of a long Olympic season, impacted by ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, and it has taken its toll, with only 49 riders starting the final XCO.

The race started more tentatively than many World Cups, with 17 riders still in the lead group on the second of seven laps. All the top contenders were there with the exception of Flueckiger, who had suffered a flat on the first lap, and Victor Koretzky (KMC-Orbea), who flatted on the second lap. Flueckiger had already mathematically won the title after Friday’s Short Track, but Koretzky – sitting second in the overall standings – was in a battle with World Champion Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) and Cink for second overall. Koretzky staged a remarkable comeback from near the back of the field to eventually finish eighth and hold onto his second place in the overall standings.

By Lap 3 the front group was down to five – Blevins, Schurter, Cink, Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory) and Luca Braidot (Santa Cruz FSA). A chase group rejoined the leaders on Lap 4, containing Dascalu, Jordan Sarrou (Specialized) and Luca Schwarzbauer (Lexware). Schurter attacked on the next lap, with Schwarzbauer and Sarrou dropped for good, leaving the remaining six to ride together until the final lap and a half.

Avancini was the next to flat, on the last lap after a crash late in Lap 6 forced him to chase hard to get back to the leaders. Then, Blevins attacked through a tight corner to take the lead from Schurter, just around the time the world champion suffered his own front tyre flat. Blevins rode Dascalu off his wheel for the win, while Cink was able to overtake Schurter for third.

“This meant absolutely everything,” said Blevins about his home crowd win. “I’d be lying if I said I expected this or even really dreamed of it. To do it with my family and all the USA fans here … I’m really moved. I wanted it, but I didn’t think it would be this year. It’s so much bigger than me; there’s so much work that has gone into mountain biking in the U.S.

“I just got off an eight-day race on the road [the Tour of Britain] and you learn something about conserving energy in a road race like that. I tried to dodge the wind and hide a little bit, and when it was time to attack, I held absolutely nothing back. I was just waiting the whole race for that moment. When I attacked, I really went all the way in.”

Flueckiger took his first World Cup title with 1573 points, finishing in the top three in every race but the final one. Koretzky’s fierce battle back paid off, as he held off Cink by a single point to take second overall.

“I’m pretty proud,” said Flueckiger about his overall title win. “This has been a fantastic season and I’ve never had any bad luck until today. If I had to choose for one day bad luck, it would have been today. 
“So I’m sad for the race, but really happy for this [the overall title]. I’ve just been building from season to season and, step by step, getting better. Now I’m tired and need some rest, but I’m pretty motivated for next season already.”

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