Photo Report: Rissveds and Van der Poel Win Lenzerheide Cross-Country
The Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Lenzerheide finished with high stakes Cross- Country racing, hard-fought battles and plenty of emotions. Jenny Rissveds (SWE) and Mathieu van der Poel (NED) captivated the gathered spectators with high-pace racing, filled to the brim with risky moves and strategic choices. Nino Schurter and Mathias Flueckiger finished strong in second and third place, giving the gathered mountain bike fans reason for celebration.
A dry track and a lightly overcast day set the scene for Sunday, a day that would prove to be filled with some of the finest racing the Cross-Country world has to offer. The hopes of the 13,000 gathered fans laid with Swiss speedsters Jolanda Neff and Nino Schurter (both SUI), but the day would take another, much more emotional turn. After four second-place finishes in 2019, Neff had only one mission: to get her first World Cup win of the season, in the town where she’s never won before – Lenzerheide. Right from the start, the defending Overall World Cup Champion attacked the 4.2km / 2.62mi long track and held that pace for the first three laps. Dutch racer Anne Terpstra consistently increased her pace and in the third of five laps managed to pass Neff, taking the lead and setting the new pace. Only Jenny Rissveds (SWE) and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA) were able to keep up with Terpstra. One lap later, the French Short-Track winner would also face the consequences of the high pace set by the Dutch racer, but made sure that she would still finish within the Top Three. The fastest time of the race would be put down by Jenny Rissveds who, after a crash in the first lap, saved her final attack for the long climb at the start of the fifth and last lap. She overtook Terpstra and then started putting distance between her and now second-placed Terpstra, racing towards an emotionally overwhelming second World Cup victory. Already on the home straight, Rissveds could barely hold back her emotions. At the finish she let her tears run wild.
For two years, Rissveds battled with depression, which she openly admits, and all but dissappeared from the mountain bike world. The 2016 Olympic Champion returned to the World Cup earlier this year, making her comeback at Nové Mesto. In Vallnord (AND), she would return to the podium with a fifth-place finish and placed third in Val di Sole (ITA). Her breathtaking comeback season reached new heights in Lenzerheide, where the 25-year-old rode to a convincing win. “This victory means so much to me. The last two years were extremely difficult – I had an extreme crisis. My success here should also be seen as a message for all those who find themselves in a similar situation as I was then: never give up! With this win, I completed a circle. It’s been such a journey,” said an emotional Rissveds, who also won her first World Cup in Lenzerheide in 2016.
In the finish area, runner-up Terpstra celebrated with her rival. “I’m extremely happy for Jenny. After all that she’s been through, it’s amazing to see her win. For me, this whole week was hard work. I need to thank my team (Ghost Factory Racing) for their amazing support, because without them and without their help, I would not have been able to finish in second place today on this technical course, because I didn’t feel good on the bike at the start of the week,” said the Dutch speedster. Neff would lose her fourth place, which looked safe until the very last lap, due to a mechanical issue with her rear wheel. She even had to watch as her Overall World Cup ranking rival Kate Courtney (USA) would pass her in the final lap and finish seventh. With an eighth place finish, Neff’s lead in the overall ranking shrinks to 73 points, with only Snowshoe (USA) still left as the World Cup final on the calendar. Fourth place, and the best Swiss result in the women’s race, was taken by Sina Frei. Catharine Pendrel (CAN) finishes the podium proceedings as fifth.
Van der Poel makes it two for two – Swiss riders in second and third
With Rissveds’ win, all hopes for a Swiss home win were with Nino Schurter, who would make his speedy intentions clear right from the start. The furious start of the Swiss speed machine, who has two World Cup wins to his name this season, pulled the field apart early. Early on, the leading pack would consist of Schurter, Henrique Avancini (BRA) and Mathieu van der Poel (NED), the same trio that dominated proceedings on Friday. Mathias Flueckiger found his pace during the first laps and fueled by the gathered Swiss crowds, would join the trio at the front of the pack. As soon as the second lap, van der Poel would start showing his cards and attacking – starting the race-long duel between him and Schurter. No pursuer was able to keep up with the incredible pace set by the pack leaders, who would trade race leader positions more than once during the next four laps. Until the penultimate round, the two racers would stay within a bike length of each other, but van der Poel would engage the afterburners heading into the final lap – putting some serious distance between him and the Swiss cruise missile – putting twenty-five seconds into Schurter over the two final laps. How fast the Dutch cycling phenomenon actually is was proven by how fast he completed his last lap – which he rode faster than the shortened warm-up lap. After 1:17.50 on the track, 24-year-old van der Poel would set a new record – becoming the first rider who would win both the Short-Track and the Olympic distance race twice in a row. It was also his eighth win of the season and the third in Olympic Cross-Country, having already won in Nové Mesto and Val di Sole.
“This win is incredible. It is probably the most difficult win of the season because Nino was racing in front of his home crowd, which motivated him a lot. Even though the Overall World Cup title is a topic, I’m sticking to my plan and not traveling to Snowshoe. I still have other goals. I’m extremely satisfied with my mountain bike season,” said van der Poel. Schurter finished 25 seconds behind his Dutch rival and grudgingly acknowledged van der Poel’s achievement. “It was extremely tough today. Mathieu was stronger and it’s no shame to finish behind him. My plan was to go full-speed from the start to hopefully put some distance between us, but that unfortunately didn’t work. Nevertheless, I had a good race and it’s always amazing to start here. That van der Poel is not traveling to the season finale is of course a shame, as he’s an extremely capable mountain bike rider,” said the reigning World Cup Champion following the race.
The strong Swiss performance was rounded out by Mathias Flueckiger (SUI), who finished third. “I’m very pleased with my race. I didn’t want to overpace at the start and was surprised that I reached the lead pack pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep up, but the crowd gave me so much power that I was able to still complete a great race and finish in the Top Three, which I’m extremely happy with. I won’t be going to Snowshoe, as I’m preparing for a big marathon race.”
While the Swiss speedsters didn’t win their home race, the two podium spots were enough to make the crowd beam with pride.
U23: Eibl wins Overall World Cup – Colombo scores home win
Sunday’s Cross-Country proceedings were kicked off by the U23 women, where Ronja Eibl (GER) took second place, behind Martina Berta (ITA). With three wins and three second places this season, the German prematurely secured the Overall World Cup Title. American Haley Batten finished third. In the final race of the weekend, the U23 Men, Switzerland’s very own Filippo Colombo made sure that the last rider on top of the podium would be a Swiss one. Colombo managed to outsprint Romanian racer Vlad Dascalu, winning his second race of the season. Jofre Cullell Estape (ESP) finished in third.
MTB Festival inspires spectators
The mountain bike festival at the foot of the Rothorn once again lived up to its reputation: action, drama, excitement and high-stakes racing – this weekend had everything that more than 28,500 mountain bike fans from around the world wanted to experience.
“We did not know what to expect,” said OK President Christoph Müller. Other event organizers reported that the interest of an audience waivers when it’s not a World Championship. “For us, that was not the case, actually it was quite the opposite,” said Müller, smiling. “The spectator numbers, which are almost at 30,000, defy any expectations we had. The Short-Track race on Friday was an additional highlight which brought in many fans and can be described as very succesful. The atmosphere was amazing this weekend and we’re already looking forward to next year.”
The thrilling Elite Women’s and Elite Men’s races are available on-demand, anywhere, any time on www.redbull.tv.