UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz in Lenzerheide: First Cross-Country gold in 17 years for the USA, home-town hero defends title
The fourth day of racing at the 2018 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz in Lenzerheide saw the Cross-Country Elite Men and Women battling it out for the title. Following a cloudy and cold day, the Women’s and Men’s races went ahead under the brilliant late summer sun of the Swiss Alps with nothing but rainbows in the forecast. The 24,000 Swiss fans who made the pilgrimage to the shore of picturesque Lake Heidsee in Lenzerheide, were hoping for another successful day after three days of racing that all saw Team Switzerland winning gold. In the end Kate Courtney took the first Cross-Country gold medal for the USA since 2001 and local hero Nino Schurter (SUI) made history by winning on home soil to take his 7th UCI World Championship individual title in a close fight with Italian Gerhard Kerschbaumer.
Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney battle it out for gold
In the women’s race the Swiss fan’s hopes lied on defending UCI World Champion and 2018 UCI Overall World Cup winner, Jolanda Neff (SUI). At the sound of the start gun, it was however 2016 UCI World Champion Annika Langvad (DEN), who set the early pace leading Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA) and Kate Courtney (USA) up the first climb. Langvad kept the pace incredibly high throughout the lap and crossing the line into the second lap, was already 13 seconds ahead of Courtney and Canadian Emily Batty in second and third. The big favorite Neff finished the first lap 49 seconds off the pace in a distant 8th.
Langvad kept pushing hard and by the third lap the Danish power house was riding a lonely race at the front a full 35 seconds ahead of Courtney and Batty. Half way through the third lap, Langvad took a hard fall, losing 30 seconds in the process. A bloody arm was not enough to slow her down though, as she once again quickly pulled away from her pursuers. The next two laps saw no changes to the Top 5 as Langvad continued to set a high a pace. Meanwhile 20 seconds behind Langvad, the American Kate Courtney managed to shake off Emily Batty, who was now followed by Jolanda Neff in fourth.
In lap five Courtney upped the pace and started to close in on Langvad. Unlike the 2016 UCI World Champion, Courtney kept choosing the technical A-lines and, motivated by seeing the Danish rider right in front of her, continued to catch up until both entered the final lap wheel-to-wheel. Langvad made full use of her powerful legs to shake Courtney and giving everything she had on the first climb, once again distancing herself from the young American.
Entering the very demanding rooty off-camber ‘Motorex Climb’, Langvad seemed comfortably ahead but a small mistake saw her back wheel slipping, forcing her to jump off the bike and run up the remainder of the climb. Courtney jumped at the golden opportunity, raced past Langvad and continued to push with everything she had. Once again taking the technically demanding but faster A-lines, the American quickly opened a gap of 12 seconds. Realizing the she couldn’t catch the American again, Langvad backed off the pace and Kate Courtney crossed the finish line with tears in her eyes to win her first race at the Elite level and the first XCO gold medal for America in 17 years. Canadian Emily Batty managed to fend off Jolanda Neff to win bronze, Maja Wloszczowska (POL) rounded out the Top 5.
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Words / Interviews provided by UCI, photos by Piotr Staron / Christian Egelmaier