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As with the men’s cross-country race Sunday, a Swiss rider, Nathalie Schneitter, topped the podium in the women’s event at Champéry, Switzerland. But it was Eva Lechner and American Willow Koerber’s respective second and third-place finishes that meant the most in the big picture.
Four races into the six-race World Cup season, the Italian Lechner (Colnago Arreghini Sudtirol) leads Koerber (Subaru-Trek) by just 15 points (655 to 640) in the overall standings. Koerber wore the series leader’s jersey going into the third race of the season at Offenburg, Germany but lost it to Canada’s Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team).
Next weekend, World Cup 5 goes to Val di Sole in Italy, Lechner’s home turf. The World Cup finale on Aug. 28 is at Windham, New York, which should favor Koerber.
Pendrel was the World Cup leader prior to Champéry, but was bumped down to third place with 594 points after finishing 16th at nearly eight minutes behind. Schneitter, a teammate of Lechner, sits tenth in the World Cup overall.
For other North American women at Champéry, race-day results were mixed, especially for Subaru-Trek’s Heather Irmiger, who was tangled in a crash and twisted her handlebars. Irmiger ended up 43rd on the day.
Slotting in front of Pendrel at 16th were her Luna Pro Team cohorts Katerina Nash in fifth place and Georgia Gould in eleventh place. Immediately behind Gould were Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven) and Marie-Helene Premont (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain).
American Katie Compton finished 22nd followed immediately by Emily Baty of Canada. Amanda Sin was 28th; Sandra Walter, 41st; Chloe Forsman, 49th; Catherine Vipond, 72nd.
A silent but consistently successful force on the 2010 World Cup cross-country circuit, Jaroslav Kulhavy kept Saturday’s contest in Champéry, Switzerland from being a clean Swiss sweep in Alpen mud.
Kulhavy (Rubena-Birell-Specialized), of the Czech Republic, lodged himself into second place, 11 seconds behind winner Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower) of Switzerland and 24 seconds ahead of Swiss national champ Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower). Coming in fourth was Switzerland’s 22-year-old Mathias Flueckiger (Trek World Racing), who was 48 seconds off the lead.
Two-time Olympian Julien Absalon (Orbea) was fifth more than a minute back, but the Frenchman still leads the World Cup overall with 710 points. Trailing Absalon in the World Cup rankings are Schurter (686 points) and Kulhavy (660 points).
Only 149 of the 175 riders at the start were able to finish the 29km XC course. Even though the race took place under sunny skies, the track was still humid and muddy in several sections.
The race at Champery was a proving ground of sorts for American Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant Offroad), who placed 14th in his first World Cup race since having knee surgery last winter. Showing strong legs, Craig managed to work himself from 22nd with two laps remaining to finish a respectable 14th.
Riding in his newly earned U.S. cross-country national champion’s jersey, Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Racing) was the best-placed American in 12th, 4 minutes 27 seconds behind the winner.
Placings of North American racers were: Geoff Kabush (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) 21st; Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru Trek) 22nd; Michael Broderick (Kenda-Seven) 42nd; Sam Schultz (Subaru Trek) 48th; Russell Finsterwald (Subaru Trek) 109th; Jack Hinkens, 119th; Dana Weber, 134th; Kerry Werner, 135th.