|Norway’s Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå and Italy’s Gerhard Kerschbaumer took wins in their respective elite categories at the Mercedes-Benz UCI World Cup in Vallnord, Andorra.
For the former it was her 30th win which drew her level with the now retired Julien Absalon and cemented her place as comfortably the most successful female XCO racer of all time.
Dahle Flesjå had missed Friday’s short track race due to illness but the high temperatures and high altitude (Vallnord is the highest track of the year at 1900m above sea-level) played to her advantage.
It was the typically fast-starting Jolanda Neff who set the early pace around the heavily revised Andorran track but the Norwegian veteran played her tactics perfectly, bided her time and then hauled the Swiss starlet back in. As she crossed the line, she held her Merida aloft and saluted the crowd. Emily Batty came home third after a mechanical early in the race.
Dahle Flesjå said: “It is like a dream. In altitude you can’t put the gas on too much, I used my experience a lot. The plan before the season was to have my final race this year, but I am not convinced now! I will make my decision after the World Championships.”
In the men’s race, the front row featured eight of the very fastest starters including the winner of Friday’s short track race, Henrique Avancini. Nino Schurter, the reigning World Champ and overall winner set an electric pace and had soon amassed a substantial lead.
The chasing pack soon came back to him however before things eventually whittled themselves down to a straight fight between the Swiss and one of the break through stars of the season, Kerschbaumer.
The Italian national champ attacked time after time on the vertical climbs and with two laps to go had gapped Schurter by nearly 30 seconds, a lead he did not relinquish as he crossed the line for a first victory on the circuit. Dutchman Mathieu Van Der Poel came home in third.
Kerschbaumer said: “It means a lot, one week ago I was second behind Nino but today was amazing. The altitude helped and I like it a lot, I spent two months living at altitude and it works!”
The next stop on the tour is one of mountain biking’s most iconic venues; Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec, Canada.
Vallnord women’s XCO result:
1. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå NOR 1.22.58
2. Jolanda Neff SUI 1.23.23
3. Emily Batty CAN 1.23.45
Vallnord men’s XCO result:
1. Gerhard Kerschbaumer ITA 1.32.05
2. Nino Schurter SUI 1.33.18
3. Mathieu Van Der Poel NED 1.34.11