There was no doubt that American Kate Courtney silenced a lot of non-believers last week with her impressive victory in the opening UCI Mountain Bike World Cup race in Albstadt (GER), especially in the difficult weather conditions.
In Nove Mesto (CZE), the conditions were better and Courtney showed that she will hard to handle this season with a come-from-behind victory that turned into a runaway at the end.
Courtney, the reigning (but surprise) World Champion, had a flat tire in the beginning of the race, then managed to move to third for most of the six laps. Once she got going, she turned in the fastest laps in the field on circuits 3-4-5 and passed Dutch rider Anne Tauber on the final lap to take the lead.
She was not to be headed and when Tauber suffered a bike breakdown and fell back, Courtney sailed to a 36-second win over Rebecca McConnell (AUS) and 42 seconds ahead of Haley Smith (CAN). “I got off to a bit of a rocky start,” she said afterwards.
“I think I started a little hard, and when I had my flat it was a little bit of a tough mental day for me. I was able to reset and focus on my own pace, and I’m truly kind of amazed at how it worked out. It took every ounce of what I had and I’m really proud I was able to stay focused, stay calm, and keep believing.”
The men’s race became a one-on-one duel between Olympic and World Champion Nino Schurter (SUI), now 33, and 24-year-old rising star Mathieu van der Poel (NED). They rode essentially together for most of the seven laps, breaking away from the field by more than a minute and a half starting the final circuit.
With only a quarter of the final lap remaining, van der Poel accelerated and Schurter could not match him, ending up second by 19 seconds. Last week’s World Cup winner, Mathias Flueckiger (SUI) finished third.
For van der Poel, it was his first career World Cup victory, coming after a single bronze during the 2017 season and three bronzes in 2018. He opened the 2019 season with a silver behind Flueckiger and now has a victory to call his own.
Van der Poel has indicated he will race in Mountain Bike in the Tokyo Games, but he is also a star on the UCI World Tour road race circuit. He won Dwars Door Vlaanderen and the Amstel Gold Race this year; could he do both in 2020? Summaries:
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup
Nove Mesto (CZE) ~ 24-26 May 2019
(Full results here)
Men/Cross Country (30.1 km): Mathieu van der Poel (NED), 1:21:54; 2. Nino Schurter (SUI), 1:22:13; 3. Mathias Flueckiger (SUI), 1:23:47; 4. Henrique Avancini (BRA), 1:23:55; 5. Ondrej Cink (CZE), 1:24:06.
Men/Cross Country Short (12.0 km): 1. Van der Poel (NED), 20:49; 2. Maxime Marotte (FRA), 20:49; 3. Avancini (BRA), 20:50; 4. Schurter (SUI), 20:50; 5. Carlos Coloma Nicolas (ESP), 20:50. Also in the top 25: 13. Keegan Swenson (USA), 20:54.
Women/Cross Country (26.2 km): 1. Kate Courtney (USA), 1:27:31; 2. Rebecca McConnell (AUS), 1:28:07; 3. Haley Smith (CAN), 1:28:13; 4. Sina Frei (SUI), 1:28:16; 5. Malene Degn (DEN), 1:29:04. Also in the top 25: 12. Lea Davison (USA), 1:30:19; … 18. Chloe Woodruff (USA), 1:32:10
Women/Cross Country Short (10.8 km): 1. Woodruff (USA), 22:08; 2. Annie Last (GBR), 22:16: 3. Jolanda Neff (SUI), 22:16; 4. Courtney (USA), 22:17; 5. Pauline Ferrand Prevot (FRA), 22:17. Also in the top 25: 19. Davison (USA), 22:24.