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Olympic champion Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory) claimed her first XCO World Cup victory since 2018 on Sunday in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada.
Mona Mitterwallner (Cannondale Factory) came back from a crash to edge Haley Batten (Specialized Factory) for third place. Despite her seventh place, Anne Terpstra (Ghost Factory) managed to keep the leader’s jersey with one round remaining.
Neff joined legends Juli Furtado of the United States and Catharine Pendrel of Canada as the only riders to win this oldest race on the World Cup circuit four times.
Mont-Ste-Anne has been part of the World Cup circuit since its inception in 1991, in addition to having hosted three world championships. It is considered a sports monument, one of the only remaining classic natural courses, with roots, rocks, steep climbs and technical descents. It was only made more difficult when torrential rain swept through for 30 minutes in the middle of the race, making the descents particularly dangerous.
One rider who seems to relish the tough conditions is Neff, who started the weekend by winning the XCC on Friday night.
During the first two start loops and the first lap, she was content to follow as former World Cup leader Rebecca McConnell (Primaflora Mondraker Genuins) set a strong pace, opening a small gap on the starting loops, which she held for the first full lap. . Terpstra, Batten, Neff, XCC World Cup leader Alessandra Keller (Thomus Maxon) and Italian champion Martina Berta (Santa Cruz FSA) all caught the Australian on the main climb of turn 2; the steep and rocky switchback climb called ‘La Marmotte’. McConnell faded for the remainder of the race to finish a distant 19th.
Neff then moved away on La Marmotte, pushing aside Terpstra, Keller, Batten and Berta, then really started to open up space when the rain started, entering lap three more than 30 seconds later. Keller was dropped after crashing, eventually finishing fifth, then Berta, who consistently rode fourth, leaving Batten and Terpstra up front.
The pair continued to waste time on Neff, who was the only rider to consistently go through all the technical sections, eventually opening up a lead of over a minute before slowing down for the final lap. Then Terpstra started to fade from her efforts, leaving Batten alone in second place. However, Mitterwallner, the Under-23 World Champion, moving up a category to Elite, began to bamboozle the American.
Mitterwallner, one of the best climbers on the circuit, had crashed heavily on lap three, falling on lap seven, but once launched she was able to join Batten on the final half-lap. This set the stage for a sprint up the final steep climb, with Batten leading on the final flat 70 yards, before Mitterwallner sprinted around her at the finish line.
“It’s been almost four years to the day,” agreed Neff, “so it’s amazing, it’s unreal to win. I knew that on this course there are many sections where I can take a millimeter of advance because everything is so technical so I knew if I was on my own I could make the most of the track I had so much fun today I had so much fun on the bike It became really slippery at one point in the rain – it was crazy, I think even more rain than at Snowshoe [last weekend]. It changed everything, but I kept going, it was so much fun.”
Terpstra continues to lead the overall standings, slightly extending his lead over McConnell to 64 points, with Keller remaining third, 24 points back. Mitterwallner moved from sixth to fourth place. This Series title will be decided during the final in Val di Sole, Italy, at the beginning of September.
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