Race Recap: Olympic Games Women’s XC – The Swiss sweep the medals

Overnight rains bumped up the technical factor as the forests in the Izu MTB Park remained slick and greasy.

Race Results Olympic Games Women’s mountain bike
Neff settled into a fast rhythm early on and was racing with confidence.

38 riders lined up for the 5 lap race on a very similar track to what the men raced yesterday. The most notable alteration was a wooden bridge on the rock step down that allowed riders to roll the feature. Although the rain had stopped the wet and slick course was running a lot slower and the slick rocks, off-cambers and root sections favored the skilled. South Africa’s hopes lay with Candice Lill who started the race in good form. The star-studded field included the defending champion Jenny Rissveds from Sweden, the current World Cup leader Leone Lecomte from France and her compatriot and reigning World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. Jolande Neff who is returning to form after two years plagued by injuries and setbacks, led the strong Swiss contingent.  

How the race unfolded

Lecomte nabbed the holeshot and flew into the start loop but was soon overtaken by the Austrian, Laura Stigger. After five minutes of racing the running order inside the top 10 was Lecomte, Stigger, Neff, Ferrand-Prevot, Indergand, Richards, Frei, Rissveds, Lechner and Vass. Very soon the tricky off-cambers, made yet more treacherous by the mud, began to disrupt the rhythm of some of the stars, including the powerful French outfit of Ferrand-Prevot and Lecomte. The positions changed quite a bit over the next few minutes and then we saw what would be one of the key moments of the race – Neff, on Ferrand-Prevot’s wheel, carried more speed through an inside line that shot the riders up and over a rock wall. As Neff drew alongside Ferrand-Prevot the Frenchwomen lost her line and stalled on the steep rock face. With her bike then tumbling back down the slope she had to walk backward on the course to collect it and restart o the steep slope. The net effect of this mistake was a 26-second loss and she dropped back into sixth. Neff, now upfront and alone had an 18-second lead to work with.

On the second lap, Neff continued to extend her lead but things were changing behind her. Richards was leading the chase group but began to fade and drop back a few places and Lecomte dropped a chain which cost her a few places and valuable seconds. By the end of this lap, Ferrand-Prevot was beginning to fade and fell 46 seconds back from a charging Neff. Frei and Indergand were working together in 3rd and 4th around 10 seconds behind Ferrand-Prevot.

An hour into the race and by now early leaders Stigger had retired and Lecomte was battling through the technical sections and fading. Rissveds lost all hope of defending her title when she had a rear flat and Ferrand-Prevot continued her struggle with the slick conditions. At the head of the race, it was the three Swiss riders who had moved clear of the field and continued with a fast pace stretching the time gaps over the field.

The day belonged to Neff who used her technical prowess, experience, power and bravery to outride the entire field and win by well over a minute. Completing a medal sweep for Switzerland was Frei in second and Indergand in third. South Africa’s Candice Lill did her country proud with a 24th.

Race Results Olympic Games Women’s mountain bike
Evie Richards had a brilliant start and looked to be in medal contention early on. P7 for Evie.
Race Results Olympic Games Women’s mountain bike
Lecomte had a great start and lead the riders into the singletrack but could not repeat her dominating performances from the World Cups. P6 for Loana. Time for a dropper post?
Race Results Olympic Games Women’s mountain bike
On the closing laps, Frei and Indergand rode a good tempo to maintain their 2nd and 3rd positions.
Race Results Olympic Games Women’s mountain bike
As the race progressed Sina stayed out of trouble and moved forward from deep inside the top 10…
Race Results Olympic Games Women’s mountain bike
… but Neff had checked out and was not going to be caught.
Race Results Olympic Games Women’s mountain bike
Neff was untouchable today. What a win!
Race Results Olympic Games Women’s mountain bike
The Swiss podium, from left: Sina Frei (Silver), Jolande Neff (Gold) and Linda Indergand (Bronze).

Full results.


| IMAGES: SWPix, Facebook, UCI |