Snowshoe: Richards wins final round of XCO World Cup – Cyclingnews.com
World Champion moves to second overall in final standings
Evie Richards (Trek Factory), the world champion, completed a perfect weekend on Sunday, at Snowshoe, West Virginia, winning the final round of the XCO MTB World Cup season after winning the Short Track on Friday. Together, these were enough to move her up to second overall in the final standings, behind Loana Lecomte (Massi), who had already mathematically won the title coming into the final round, and did not start. Rebecca McConnell (Primaflora Mondraker XSauce) was second in the cross country event and Anne Tauber (CST PostNL Bafang) took third.
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.
This is the end of a long Olympic season, impacted by ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, and it has taken its toll, with only 36 riders starting the final XCO. Missing from the start line bseides Lecomte, were Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Absolute-Absalon-BMC) and Emily Batty (Canyon Collective), among others.
The race started on the cobbled main street of the resort village, with a crash taking down riders from the second row barely 100 metres into the race where the fencing narrowed abruptly. Laura Stigger (Specialized) and Laurie Arseneault (Canyon Collective) both went down hard, with Stigger cradling her wrist and eventually withdrawing. Arseneault recovered a few spots, but then had to stop in the pits to get her seat post replaced.
At the front it was a furious pace, that burned off all but six riders by the halfway mark of the first lap of six. By the end of the lap it was down to Richards, McConnell, Linda Indergand (Liv), Jenny Rissveds (Sweden), who came into the race in second overall, and Olympic silver medalist Sina Frei (Specialized).
McConnell then attacked on the main climb and only Richards could go with her at the start of the climb, with the Australian champion then dropping Richards before the top to open a 15-second gap. It looked like McConnell might be on route to her first-ever World Cup win at the Elite level, but disaster struck in the form of a front flat. She limped into the pits still in the lead, but was passed by Richards and then chasers Rissveds and Frei before she could get going again.
McConnell quickly caught the two chasers and dropped them, and looked to be reeling Richards back in, but the world champion began to pull away; slowly at first, but by the end of the fourth lap it was nearly a minute, and at the finish line a minute and a half.
McConnell was solidly in second, but behind there was a battle for the remaining podium spots. Tauber bridged up to join Frei and Rissveds on Lap 4, and then Rissveds started to fade, eventually finishing sixth and dropping to third in the overall standings. Frei tried to attack Tauber in the final lap, but the Dutch rider pulled her back and counterattacked to take her first top three of the season. Anne Terpstra (Ghost Factory) also overtook Rissveds for the fifth and final podium spot.
“I can’t believe it,” said Richards, “It sounds crazy that I am up to second in the overall. I did not think in Albstadt [Germany, the first round, in May] that this would be my season. I was quite stressed in the race because it was hard to hear the splits because the crowds were so noisy. So I was just trying to do consistent laps but also save something for the end in case someone came up to me. I love being in America, they really do lay on the best races.”
Lecomte, after winning the first four rounds, was uncatchable with 1550 points, but Richards went from fifth before the XCC to third, and then to second after the XCO, 35 points ahead of Rissveds. McConnell remained in fourth, while Frei took the final top-5 spot, with the former third-placed rider – the absent Ferrand Prevot – dropping to seventh.
“I’m very happy to win it,” said Lecomte, who is actually an Under-23 rider, racing up in the elite category. “I didn’t expect this at the start of the season, so I’m happy, surprised and will enjoy this. It was not easy, but I did it.”
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