Vedangi takes us on a romp through the fast and furious world level 2021 XC racing, and takes a peek into the future.
(Featured image credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
The 2021 XC season has been a nail-biter. With the Olympics sandwiched into the season and all the athletes peaking for that, it showed us an interesting side of the sport and brought plenty of surprises with it.
The season started at Albstadt – a course known for its big climbs and some technical downhills. In the short track race, we saw Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Mathieu Van Der Poel take a win. Annie Last had a remarkable top 3 finish. With several notable under-23 riders making their first elite World Cup appearances, surely it’d take them a few more races to find their feet in the game? Well…. Not so much. Loana Lecomte started off the season with her first ever Elite World Cup win and for the rest of the season, she’d be the woman to beat. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot finished second and Haley Batten, another young rider riding her first elite World Cup, finished in third. In the men’s field, let’s be honest, all eyes were on Tom Pidcock, starting 11 rows back, riding his first elite World Cup and only 21 year of age. He finished in 5th place with Viktor Korentzky taking his first ever World Cup win, Nino Schurter finishing second and Mathias Flueckiger finishing third. Mathieu Van Der Poel finished 7th. In the under-23 women’s field Mona Mitterwallner finished first with a huge margin to take the win, ahead of Caroline Bohe and Kata Blanka Vas. In the men’s field, Cater Woods, a Canadian nation racing his second year in the category finished first, ahead of David List and Simone Avondetto. Another incredible highlight from Albstadt was Catharine Pendrel’s exceptional return to elite racing only 3 months after having given birth.
Nove Mesto na Morave, Czechia
Whilst it was a nice and warm day to race at Albstadt, Nove Mesto was incredibly wet and muddy. Rooty, technical climbs and singletrack descents made for an exciting short track race. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot had a nasty crash resulting in an injury to her abdomen from her saddle and did not finish the race. Haley Batten took a win by a huge margin, considering the XCC standards, ahead of Loana Lecomt and Jenny Rissveds. In the men’s field, Mathieu Van Der Poel did not disappoint, finishing first, ahead of Tom Pidcock and Jordan Sarrou in a photo finish. The excitement of the short track race very much continued into XCO, with all eyes on Pauline for a much needed comeback. Loana led the ride from the very start, and with other riders struggling to cover that gap in between, she took an obvious win. Kate Courtney had an unfortunate day riddled with a crash and a puncture, finishing the race with a broken arm – madness! Fellow American Haley Batten put down an absolutely incredible performance by finishing second, ahead of Rebecca McConnell, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Evie Richards who, for the rest of the season, would work her way up the podium. In the men’s field, Nino Schurter had a rough start after a minor crash towards the beginning of the race. Tom Pidcock led the race right from the start, putting in some unreal effort that nobody seemed to have an answer for, and winning by a huge margin ahead of Mathieu Van Der Poel and Mathias Flueckiger. In the Under 23 field, Mona Mitterwallner put down another incredible win in the women’s field, with Carter Woods taking the U-23 men’s win by a huge margin.
With grassy flat sections, long steep climbs and technical descents, this course suited some riders more than the others. In the short track race, Loana Lecomte took her first Elite XCC win, ahead of Rebecca McConnell who displayed an incredibly strong ride alongside Jolanda Neff. With Mathieu Van Der Poel and Tom Pidcock absent, and a slipped pedal leading to a wobbly start by Nino Schurter, it was an interesting beginning to the men’s short track race. Mathias Flueckiger took his first elite XCC win, ahead of Ondrej Cink and Milan Vader.
The XCO women’s race was led by Loana Lecomte from start to finish. Jenny Rissveds finished second, with her first podium finish this season and Laura Stigger finished third, taking her best ever elite World Cup finish. You’ve gotta feel sad for Jolanda, though, as she had a nasty crash during the race just when she was doing really well. She still finished 4th through the pain and tears.
With a stacked men’s field at the XCO race, Ondrej Cink and Mathias Flueckiger were yo-yoing their places throughout the race with Flueckiger taking the win. Anton Cooper finished third, displaying a very brave ride.
Mona Mitterwallner, once again, took the U-23 women’s win, with Riley Amos taking the men’s U-23 win.
Les Gets, France
The women’s short track race showed us a very strong performance by Jenny Rissveds who led for most of the race, but got overtaken by the legend that is PFP on the last climb, followed by Laura Stigger with the three of them finishing in that order. After a comeback from the broken arm, Kate Courtney finished eighth and after a tough race, Loana finished 11th. Mathias Flueckiger showed an incredible performance, taking his second back to back short track win after his perfect weekend at Leogang. Jordan Sarrou finished second and Ondrej Cink third. Tom Pidcock crashed mid-way through the race, catching someone’s rear wheel, ending up with a DNF.
With a super technical course to tackle for the XCO race, the rain certainly didn’t help the riders. Just about every rider had sketchy moments throughout the race with Jenny Rissveds, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Evie Richards all crashing. Loana Lecomte took a 4th XCO win in a row, ahead of Jenny Rissveds who finished after a nasty crash and a very strong ride into second place. Evie Richards was third with her best XCO result yet. PFP finished 4th after having clearly a hard day in the office. The men’s field was led by Mathias Flueckiger for most of the race as we saw him have an incredibly strong ride. He became only the second man in history to take a second double win in a row. Ondrej Cink finished second and Jordan Sarrou third.
In the Under-23 category, Mona Mitterwallner, once again, showed an epic performance by taking the win in women’s field, with Simone Avondetto taking the win in the men’s. Young Brit, Charlie Aldridge had a remarkable top 10 in the men’s Under 23 race.
Val Di Sole World Champs
For the first time in history, there was a short track world championship event this year, where Sina Frei from Switzerland took the win during a sprint finish between her and Evie Richards. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot had to settle for third. In the men’s field, US rider Christopher Blevins took the win, ahead of Henrique Avancini from Brazil and Max Brandl from Germany.
For XCO World champs, in the U23 racing, Mona Mitterwallner took an incredibly dominant win, finishing ahead of Laura Stigger by over two minutes. Caroline Bohe finished third 1.5 mins back of Laura Stigger. The U23 Men saw a big win as Martin Vidaurre Kossmann finished the race over a minute ahead of Juri Zanotti.
In the Elite field, Evie Richards took a massive win and became the first British woman to win Elite XC World Championships. Anne Terpstra showed a strong ride, finishing over a minute behind Evie, with Sina Frei taking the bronze medal. Loana Lecomte did not start this race and Jolanda Neff finished fourth, ahead of Maja Wloszczowska. In the men’s race, Nino Schurter became a 9-time world champion with his historic first place finish. Mathias Flueckiger finished second and Victor Korentzky third.
As with all XC World Championship races, this one was a nail biter.
The women’s short track race was as intense to watch as we’re sure it was to ride. Jenny Rissveds put down an incredible performance, digging deep and taking her second ever short track win, finishing ahead of Evie Richards who felt the pressure of not yet having won a short track race this season. Jolanda Neff, the local Olympic legend, finished third. The men’s race saw multiple attacks by Mathias Flueckiger but Henrique Avancini barely went beyond a bike length of him throughout the race, before he overtook him and won his first XCC victory since 2018. Flueckiger finished second and Victor Korentzsky finished third.
In the women’s XCO field, Loana Lecomte came into the race knowing that a top 6 finish would make her the overall champion. The pressure that this put her under showed throughout the race. It all paid off in the end as she became the 2021 overall WC champion in this race at the age of 21.
Evie Richards broke away mid way through the race and finished to take her first ever World Cup win, very nicely following her world champs win! Rebecca McConnell finished second followed by Jenny Rissveds finishing third.
The men’s race was led by Nino Schurter towards the beginning of the race, before he fell back a little, letting Korentzsky take the lead. A very close race that ended with Viktor Korentzsky taking the win, followed by Nino Schurter in second place and Mathias Flueckiger in third.
In U-23 category, Mona Mitterwallner took another incredible win by a huge margin in the women’s field with Martin Vidaurre Kossmann taking the men’s win. British rider Charlie Aldridge finished 5th.
Loana Lecomte sat out from this race, after already claiming the crown as the overall World Cup winner, so the women’s field came into the last race of the season fighting for second place. Fellow French rider Pauline Ferrand-Prevot also sat out of of the Snowshoe round having started her off season in an effort to rest her body.
Jenny Rissveds and Evie Richards were neck and neck towards the beginning of the race with Jolanda Neff riding close by. Evie got her first short track win of the season, with Jolanda in second place and Jenny in third. Kate Courtney had an unfortunate crash towards the beginning of the race. The men’s elite race was a hell of a nail-biter with Flueckiger only needing a top 12 finish to become the overall World Cup winner of this season. With an intense last lap, Viktor Korentzky took his first ever elite short track win, with Henrique Avancini finishing second, ahead of Filippo Colombo.
Elite Women’s XCO race started off with a massive crash in the front pack with Laura Stigger taking a huge blow. Evie Richards broke away from the pack fairly early on in the race and took her first ever perfect weekend and a second overall WC finish. Rebecca McConnell put down an incredibly strong ride despite a puncture, finishing second. Anne Tauber finished third.
In the Elite Men’s race, once again, it was a fight for the second overall. Very early on in the race, our 2021 men’s Elite WC champ Mathias Flueckiger got a rear flat, quickly followed by Viktor Korentzsky getting a front flat. Nino Schurter was on the attack for most of the race, until he got overtaken by Christopher Blevins who, in the end, took the win on his home soil, being the first American to take a win in nearly 30 years as well as his first ever World Cup win. Vlad Dascalu got his best ever World Cup result by finishing in second place, and Ondrej Cink finished third.
The Under-23 women’s win was taken by Mona Mitterwallner, putting down an unbelievable performance ahead of Caroline Bohe in second place and Savilia Blunk in third.
Martin Vidaurre Kossmann took a back to back win for this last World Cup race of 2021, with Simone Avondetto finishing second and Joel Roth third.
2021 XC Season Highlights
- The overall elite World Cup wins were taken by Loana Lecomte and Mathias Flueckiger. At the age of 21, Lecomte displayed an incredible performance taking 4 back to back wins being the first woman since 2003 to have done this.
- Evie Richards may have had a wobbly start to the season but she absolutely dominated the tail end of the season. She’ll be the one to watch in 2022!
- Jenny Rissveds, Jolanda Neff, Sina Frei, Linda Indergand, Laura Stigger and Anne Terpstra had an incredibly strong season. The women’s field is stacked!
- Pauline Ferrand-Prevot had a tough season (compared to last year’s) and yet managed to be on the podium several times.
- Kate Courtney had tough luck for most of the season with breaking her arm during a crash at Nove Mesto and yet finishing the race, and then crashing on the hard tarmac during the last XCC race at Snowshoe.
- The 2019 under 23 world champion and a young British rider, Charlie Aldridge, had a couple of top 10 finishes.
- Nino Schurter narrowly missed on his chance to equal Julien Absalon’s record of 33 XC World Cup wins.
- Nobody had an answer for Mona Mitterwallner’s incredible strength as she absolutely dominated the World Cup races in the women’s under-23 category.
- Catherine Pendrel was back into Elite racing just 3 months after having given birth.
- Former World Champion and 2X Olympic silver medallist Maja Włoszczowska retired from elite World Cup racing after a fantastic career.
- Mathias Flueckiger became the second person in history to ever have two perfect weekends in a row.
- Tom Pidcock showed us how it’s done towards the beginning of the season (as well as at the Olympics but we all know that already!).
- Looking back at the 2021 XC season, we have no doubt that 2022 is going to bring in some extraordinary performances and our eyes are peeled to see what Evie does next!
2022 – What’s Coming?
With potentially a couple more years in the Under-23 category left for Mona Mitterwallner, it will be interesting to see if she decides to jump into the Elite category earlier, like Loana. This isn’t just because of her perfect 2021 season in the category but also because she’s proven that she can rub shoulders with the elite, seeing as she won in the Swiss Cup race in Leukerbad with Kate Courtney finishing second and PFP third, all with a comfortable margin, back in May 2021.
With the statement from Pauline Ferrand-Prevot on her social media about the break-up with Julien Absalon, will there be a change in teams for her next season or will she continue riding for Absolute Absalan?
We’ve seen Evie Richards and Jolanda Neff really shine in some proper techy terrain. But we’ve also seen Loana tackle all of those races and even win some of them. Having seen how ferocious Pauline is with her training and how well she can perform when it’s needed, it will be interesting to see who comes out on the other side stronger – Pauline, Loana, Jolanda or Evie, with the CX season keeping some busy during winter!
April 8-10: Petropolis, Brazil (XCO/XCC)
May 6-8: Albstadt, Germany (XCO/XCC)
May 13-15: Nové Město, Czech Republic (XCO/XCC)
June 10-12: Leogang, Austria (DH/XCO/XCC)
July 8-10: TBC (DH/XCO/XCC)
July 15-17: Vallnord, Andorra (DH/XCO/XCC)
July 29-31: Snowshoe, USA (DH/XCO/XCC)
August 5-7: Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada (DH/XCO/XCC)
August 24–28: UCI Mountain Bike World Championships – Les Gets, France
September 2-4: Val di Sole, Italy (DH/XCO/XCC)
Has Vedangi picked your favourite moments? Missed your stand out ride? And what do you think is coming in 2020? She’ll be bringing us race analysis throughout next year’s XC World Cup and World Championships – stay tuned!
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