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Jolanda Neff and the BMC MTB Racing Team back on top

Mountain Bike World Cup Final

Two-time overall World Cup champion Jolanda Neff has struggled this season, but showed the she is returning to form with her victory at the final round of the 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series in Val di Sole, Italy. While the women’s KROSS Racing Team won the women’s team classification for the first time, the men’s BMC MTB Racing Team did it for the fifth time in a row!

The women raced a start loop plus six laps of the four kilometre circuit, and Jolanda Neff showed her form of old with a fast start that put her into the lead by the end of the start loop. The Swiss rider was initially joined at the front by defending overall World Cup champion Catharine Pendrel, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, and world champion Annika Langvad, but as those riders fell off the pace, World Cup overall winner Yana Belomoina moved up to join Neff. The duo rode away from the chasers by Lap 2, and stayed together until Lap 5, when Neff attacked on a climb to solo away for the ninth World Cup win of her career, with Belomoina finishing 21 seconds back.

"I'm so happy about this," said Jolanda Neff, "to be back racing at the top. I'm thankful to my team, who gave me the time I needed and had the faith that I would come back. I wasn't that confident of beating Yana, because she has won three World Cups this year and is so strong. It was perfect and I'm so happy."

In the overall standings the WINFORCE athlete jumped from 12th to fourth, the same place like David Valero, while his team-mate Pablo Rodríguez finished on position 12 and the Spanish MMR Factory Racing Team on 4.
With three teams only separated by ten points in the overall classification before the last round, things had never been so tight. Both Julien Absalon and Lars Forster missed World Cups this season because of injuries which made the point collection a bit more difficult than in the past years. So before the final round in Val di Sole, Scott Sram Racing was leading the classification in front of Cannondale Racing and the BMC MTB Racing Team, powered by WINFORCE.

The five BMC riders were in shape, motivated and ready to bite the bullet to get the trophy home and they didn’t disappoint. Titouan Carod was the best starter leading the field during the start loop. But the young Frenchman quickly realized he didn’t have the legs to keep much longer at the front with Schurter and Tempier so he waited for the chasing group made of five men including teammates Julien Absalon and Lars Forster (who started with number 50).

The chasing group quickly understood that the first two steps of the podium were out of reach and focused on the third place. At this game, Julien Absalon proved to be the strongest: "I knew my only chance to beat the others was to start the second half of the last lap with a ten second-gap. I attacked at the bottom of the long climb and didn’t look back.” And it worked. He crossed the finish line 47’’ behind Nino Schurter, winner of the race and of the overall classification.

It didn’t take long to see Lars Forster rolling through the finish line, in fifth place, just ahead of Thomas Litscher (Felt) who realized his second best World Cup result ever. “I knew today would be a good day for me!” were Forster’s first words. A bit later he explained: “I had a good feeling before this race. The course suits me and I knew that I could do well if I had a good start. Luck was on my side this time; I started well and was quickly in the top 10. From then on, everything went perfect.”

Despite not feeling at his best, Titouan Carod fought hard till the end to score precious points for the individual World Cup standings and for the Team standings. He crossed the finish line in 8th place scoring the fourth top 10 of his first Elite World Cup season to end up 6th in the overall classification. “Right now I am disappointed because a top 5 in the overall was very close. But I was told at the beginning of the season I would be sixth, of course I would have been more than happy with it.”

With Lukas Flückiger finishing 14th and Reto Indergand 22nd, the BMC MTB Racing Team managed its best World Cup of the season in Val di Sole; the best way to conclude the World Cup season and to be full of confidence for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships that will take place in Cairns, Australia in two weeks.

Source: CyclingNews / BMC Switzerland
Photo: UCI / Cerveney