The UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Val di Sole (25-29 August) have crowned their first champions: France edged the Team Relay ahead of United States and Germany. Italy fourth and just short of the podium
The wait is now officially over: on Wednesday, August 25th, Val di Sole was back to breathing the air of great mountain bike events after two years, and the challenge offered by the riders in the opening Team Relay certainly did not disappoint the expectations, and bodes very well for what’s next to come in Daolasa di Commezzadura, Trentino.
France won the opening race, and that’s hardly a surprise, as this marks the seventh time the Marsillaise was played for the Team Relay World Championships, and the second straight time after 2020. The French team played big cards like reigning Cross-Country World Champion Jordan Sarrou and Junior Men’s #1 ranked Adrien Boichis in a lineup that also included Lena Girault, Mathis Azzaro, Tatiana Tournut and Line Bourquier. The Bleus contained the initial outburst of the United States (+0.48) and then of Sweden, which took early advantage from sending their three men riders in the opening three laps.
From the fourth lap, Junior Tatiana Tournut took over the lead for France, and Bourquier handed the baton to Sarrou for the final stint with a one-minute cushion that the World Champion could manage confidently. Behind them, the United States took advantage of a very good ride from Elite Kate Courtney and a final comeback from junior Riley Amos to close the gap to Germany (+0.49) and pip them in the sprint for the second place. The German team could be proud of another solid performance, ending in a bronze medal after securing the same placement in the European Champs’ Team Relay a few days ago.
“It's nice to be back to the World Cup and wear this jersey once again - explained Jordan Sarrou. - I think we put on an excellent team effort, with each of our riders."
“This year I have spent in the rainbow jersey has passed quickly, but I feel ready for the challenge of defending my Cross-Country title on Saturday. As for any World Championship, though, you know all the competition will line up at its best, so it’s sure to be an open and contested race."
Kate Courtney also sounded satisfied with the USA’s silver medal: after recovering from a bad injury suffered in Nove Mesto and an unfortunate Olympic race, the American hopes to regain her smile in Val di Sole: "I believe a race like this is the perfect way to enter the atmosphere of the event, and I am satisfied with what we have managed to do, both individually and as a team. I will be competing in both Short Track and Cross Country, but the latter will be my main focus and goal," commented the World Champion of Lenzerheide 2018.
Italy’s fourth place left a bitter taste in the home fans’ mouth: the recently crowned European Champion of Team Relay nurtured medal ambitions, but eventually fell short. The very good start by Luca Braidot was spoiled by underwhelming performances by Juniors Betteo and Cortinovis, and Zanotti’s final comeback was not enough to get on the podium.
On Thursday, August 26th, four titles will be up for grabs: in the morning of Daolasa, the athletes of the Junior Men and Women categories will compete for the rainbow jersey, with the French riders once again starting with high expectations.
In the afternoon, it will be the very first time of the Cross-Country Short Track World Championships: 40 men and 40 women competing on the 950-meter long, technical and winding track, which already proved extremely spectacular on Tuesday’s qualifying rounds. In the men's field, Avancini (Brazil), Cink (Czech Republic), Cooper (New Zealand), Hatherly (South Africa) and Marotte (France) will be among the athletes to watch, with home fans’ chances relying on Gerhard Kerschbaumer, Daniele Braidot, Nadir Colledani and Gioele Bertolini.
Among Women, Ferrand-Prevot (France), Neff and Frei (Switzerland), Richards (Great Britain) and Courtney must be regarded as the main favorites, with Italy’s hopes on Eva Lechner, Chiara Teocchi and Greta Seiwald.
The access for Thursday’s races is free of charge (subject to availability), as well as for the events of Friday, while tickets (on sale on www.valdisolebikeland.com) will be required for the days of Saturday, August 28th (Cross Country) and Sunday, August 29th (Downhill). The spectators coming from UE Countries will be allowed upon showing their Green Pass, whilst Extra UE spectators will have to present a recognized vaccination certification or the result of a negative Covid Test within the last 48 hours.