The Austrian resort of Leogang hosted the 2020 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
The track in Leogang was brand new but was soon looking worse for wear as heavy rain during the week rendered the steep climbs and natural descents almost unrideable. Thankfully, favorable conditions On Saturday made for an undeniably tough but rideable track.
In the Elite Women’s Race Pauline Ferrand-Prevot came to Leogang as defending World Champion and off the back of winning the World Cup in Nové Město na Moravě last week. With the number one bib on her bike and a new gold Red Bull helmet to mark her gold medal in Mont Sainte Anne, the pressure was on. However, if she felt it, she didn’t show it. From the moment the lights turned green, the Frenchwoman was in control. Just as she had done last Sunday, Ferrand-Prevot took the race on and showed that she was the rider to beat. The lead crept up and any doubts about her ability to retain the rainbow stripes disappeared.
Unfortunately, it was a bad day for a number of the pre-race favorites. Dutch champion, Anne Terpstra, had to pull out early in the race due to breathing problems and Kate Courtney had a hard crash and withdrew herself a little while later with a suspected concussion. There was also bad luck for Yana Belomoina who, whilst riding in the bronze medal position, suffered mechanical issues that dropped her out of contention.
Initially it looked like it would be a silver medal for Australia’s Rebecca McConnell, with the battle for bronze playing out between Eva Lechner from Italy and Sina Frei, the 2019 U23 World Champion from Switzerland. However, just as the bell rang out to signal the final lap, Lechner was able to close in on McConnell and the two began a frantic fight.
McConnell once again seemed to have secured the silver, but a crash brought Lechner back into contention. The two came onto the finish straight together and just as the Australian looked to have finally claimed it, Lechner was able to surge past in the final few metres to take the silver.
1. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (FRA) 1:27:33
2. Eva Lechner (ITA) +3:01
3. Rebecca McConnell (AUS) +3:01
It has been a year of change, challenge and uncharted territory, and for Jordan Sarrou, the top step of an Elite World Cup or Championship was not a space he had yet occupied.
The Frenchman, who already had a gold medal to his name from this Championship as part of the winning French team relay squad, rode the wave of French glory to devastating effect. Having watched Loana Lecomte ride away with the Women U23 race, and then Pauline Ferrand-Prevot dominate the Women Elite, he rode into the rainbow jersey in the final race of the day.
On the start loop, Sarrou was riding in second place behind the fast-starting Dutchman, Milan Vader, but a crash ultimately ended his chances of a top result and he slipped back down the field. Sarrou took the lead followed by fellow Frenchman and teammate, Titoan Carod, who was joined by Henrique Avancini, Mathias Fluckiger and Luca Braidot to form the chase.
Each rider in this quartet looked at one point the strongest and at another the weakest. Avancini was the first to really drive the pace, but it was Fluckiger who sustained the pace and finally split the group. The Swiss rider had his head bobbing and shoulders rolling on the final lap as he desperately tried to shake off Carod. The young French rider was tenacious and it wasn’t until the final few corners that Fluckiger could sit up, smile and secure silver with Carod crossing the line 10 seconds later to take a surprise bronze.
1. Jordan Sarrou (FRA) 1:25:37
2. Mathias Fluckiger (SUI) +0:45
3. Titoan Carod (FRA) +0:55
Credits: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool