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Two outstanding performances earned the top step at the MTB cross country World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on Sunday, with Mathieu van der Poel beating Nino Schurter in the men’s, and former Olympic Gold medallist Jenny Rissveds winning in the women’s.
Rissveds overcomes nerves and two years of difficulty
Having won Olympic Gold in 2016 before struggling in 2017 and stepping away from racing in 2018, Jenny Rissveds announced her comeback with an emotional victory in Lenzerheide over Anne Terpstra and Pauline Ferrand Prevot.
“I have so much emotion after two years away,” the winner said. “Two years ago I didn’t even want to be alive, and I just want to say that it is possible and never give up. Just never give up, ever.”
The Swedish Olympic champion went out hard and lead the bunch into the first climb, but crashed on a technical downhill soon after, dropping her back several spots. Jolanda Neff too up the challenge and soon formed a small gap over the chasers.
“I was nervous before the start because I had to start in the front row, it was a new situation for me, and that’s why I crashed in the first lap because I was so nervous,” said Rissveds. “I just had to knock myself down and come back, and that’s what I did.”
Ferrand Prevot, Rissveds and Terprsta soon bridged over to her, and one lap after, Ferrand and Prevot fell off the pace. Terpstra and Rissveds remained locked together, with the Dutchwoman piling on the pressure. However, on the short, rooty first climb of the final lap, Rissveds accelerated and Terpstra was unable to respond. She chased hard, but was unable to pull the Swedish rider back.
Rissveds finished 25 seconds ahead, and burst into tears as she crossed the line. After two years away from the sport with personal struggles, it was a huge moment for her, and having placed third and fifth in recent World Cup rounds, marks an incredible comeback to racing.
“I worked really hard,” second place Tersptra said after the race. “I felt really insecure on my bike all this week. If you don’t have the skills on this course you’ll not get it together.”
Kate Courtney finished in seventh, 2:34 back.
1st. Jenny Rissveds: 1:21.09
2nd. Anne Terpstra: +25
3rd. Pauline Ferrand Prevot: +1:19
Van der Poel takes his hat-trick
Mathieu van der Poel continued his incredible season, having won Amstel Gold Race on the road, dominated the cyclocross season, and won two mountain bike World Cup rounds so far this year.
Van der Poel beat Nino Schurter with an attack on the course’s long asphalt climb, with two laps remaining. The Dutchman continued riding hard through the final laps and despite a strong chase, Schurter was unable to bridge.
“It means a lot [to win],” said van der Poel. “I think this is one of the most difficult ones to win because Nino [Shurter] is also super motivated to win here in front of his home crowd.”
Schurter was aggressive through the first half of the race, attacking almost immediately. Van der Poel and Henrique Avancini were able to hold the pace, but the remainder of the field were gapped.
“I was just thinking I need to get on his wheel and stay there,” van der Poel said of his opponent’s early attacks. “He was really strong and made a lot of long efforts on the road climb; I had to dig deep to catch up with him. The rest of the course suits me really well and I had to hurt him as well, and I managed to do that.”
Mathias Flueckiger was able to slowly bridge across to form a four-man lead group.
After several attacks from van der Poel and Schurter, Avancini and Flueckiger fell back in the third lap. It was on lap four that van der Poel launched his stinging attack, and soon built a seven-second gap. He continued building on his lead through the race, finishing 25 seconds up on the Swiss rider.
“He [van der Poel] attacked where I had most strength, but he was definitely stronger,” Schurter said. “It’s no shame to finish second behind van der Poel, and I’m still happy with my second.”
With just one round of the world cup remaining, van der Poel leads the overall standings, 21 points ahead of Schurter. However, he will not race the final round in Snowshoe in September as he will be focussing on preparing for the road world championships in Yorkshire at the end of that month.
“It’s not nice if someone is missing from a tight battle,” said Schuter of van der Poel’s future absence. “He would be the favorite so it’s sad he’s not racing.”
1st. Mathieu Van Der Poel: 1:17.50
2nd. Nino Schurter: +25
3rd. Mathias Flueckiger: +1:13