The women's race was an exciting and action packed affair, that came down to the wire. It was Olympic and World Champion Julie Bresset who, on the comeback trail following a fractured collar bone in April, signalled her intentions early into lap 1 with a strong tactical move on the Marmotte (the main climb on the course). Bresset, perhaps predicting the bottle neck that followed her, attacked at the base of the climb and rode her way to the front of the pack. In second place, Eva Lechner fumbled one of the corners setting off a cascade effect where all riders behind her were forced to dismount. This played straight in to the hands of Bresset who simply rode away from the pack. At the end of lap 1, Bresset had established a 22 second lead on Maja Wloszczowska and Lechner, with Katerina Nash and World Cup Leader Tanja Zakelj close behind.
Bresset extended her lead in lap 2, demonstrating her improved form and strong technical skills on both the climbs and the descents. By the end of lap 2, Nash and Wloszczowska were 36 seconds in arrears, with the 2nd chase group of Lechner, Zakelj, and 20 year old Jolanda Neff a further 10 seconds back. Things were looking fairly similar at the end of lap 3, with Bresset holding onto a 21 second lead over Nash and Wloszczowska, with Zakelj at 30seconds and Lechner at 53 seconds. The main contenders began to eat in to Bresset's lead on lap 4, but it wasn't until the penultimate climb on lap 5 where 4 riders (Bresset, Nash, Wloszczowska, Zakelj) came together raising excitement levels amongst fans and spectators around the course. By the end of lap 5, it was Wloszczowska (the 2010 World Champion at Mont Sainte Anne) in front, with Bresset firmly attached to her wheel. Nash and Zakelj were working hard to close the gap of a mere 6 seconds.
The final lap of the race was where all the action was to take place. Wloszczowska attacked early leading up to the Marmotte climb and managed to gain a gap on Bresset, who was starting to feel the effects of a relative lack of race endurance compared to her competition. Nash was next to attack, with Zakelj responding, driving both riders past a tiring Bresset. Nash attacked again at the base of the switchback section and gained a small lead over Wloszczowska, which was extended when Wloszczowska faltered on the 2nd corner of the climb. Once Nash had a taste of victory, there was no looking back, and the USA based Czech rider simply rode away from her competition, crossing the line with a healthy 17 second gap over 2nd placed Wloszczowska, with Zakelj riding a strong and consistent race for 3rd. Bresset, whilst perhaps not the result she wanted, sent out a big warning sign to the other women by holding on to 4th place. With recent steady improvements in form, everyone is now wondering what the French rider will be able to accomplish in 3 weeks time in South Africa. The USA champion Lea Davison filled the last spot on the podium. Lechner, and Neff were 6th and 7th, while Catharine Pendrel rode a great comeback race following her fractured collar bone for 8th place. Langvad and Batty completed the top 10.
But today was all about Nash. The popular and talented athlete, who has been to 4 Olympic Games (twice for cross country skiing, and twice for mountain biking), finally secured the World Cup victory that had eluded her for so long. After 2 consecutive 2nd World Cup placings, this was a well deserved win for an elated Nash.
In the men's race it was Jaroslav Kulhavy who set the early pace, with Nino Schurter on his wheel and Julien Absalon leading a chase pack. Absalon accelerated over the second half of the lap and bridged the gap to join Schurter and Kulhavy by the end of lap 1, forming a lead group of 3. With 29 riders all within 1 minute, nothing was certain however.
On lap 2 Schurter took the lead with Absalon glued to his rear wheel – a picture we have become very accustomed to in recent years. Kulhavy, Ondrej Cink, and Marco Fontana formed the first chase pack, still well in contention only 10 seconds down. A similar scenario played out on lap 3, however the two favourites extended their lead to 50 seconds over the chase pack which had now been joined by a fast moving Jose Hermida, the 2010 World Champion on a slightly different version of this course. A large chase group followed, 10 seconds further in arrears.
It was on lap 4 that Absalon, eager for a good result following his unlucky race in Vallnord, made his move. His powerful attack on the Marmotte climb, for which Schurter had no response, gave an indication of Absalon's form leading in to the World Championships. It has been 6 years since Absalon has worn the rainbow jersey, and he was clearly signalling his intentions for that today. An unfortunate rear tyre puncture coming off the technical descent for Schurter only served to increase Absalon's lead, and sent Schurter back to the fast moving chase pack of Hermida, Cink, Fontana, and Stephane Tempier.
Heading in to the penultimate lap, Absalon had extended his lead to 1:32 over Hermida and Schurter, with a chase group of 4 (Tempier, Cink, Ralph Naef, and Fabian Giger) at 1:51. Daniel McConnell, 2nd in World Cup Standings prior to this race, was moving up the ranks and sitting comfortably in 11th place at 2:12 behind Absalon. At the end of the 6th lap Absalon, seemingly untouchable today, had extended his lead further to 1:41 over Hermida and Schurter. McConnell continued to steadily progress up the ranks, now sitting in 8th place.
Like the women's race, the final lap is where a lot of the action took place. Hermida attacked on the Marmotte climb, managing to gap Schurter. McConnell also attacked, enabling him to break away from his pack of 4, and move in to 5th place. But in the end the day belonged to Absalon. His early celebration an indication of just how much his first World Cup win of 2013 meant to him. Hermida stormed home for 2nd place, and in doing so narrowed the gap from Absalon to 1:04. Schurter had to be content for 3rd, with World Champion Eliminator rider Naef hot on his heels in 4th place, recording his best result for some time. McConnell again showed his consistency, and earned his second World Cup podium with 5th place. Giger, Tempier, Fontana, Max Plaxton, and Manuel Fumic rounded out the top 10. Czech riders Cink (12th) and Kulhavy (16th) faded towards the end of the race, but their early pace showed that they cannot be discounted as contenders for the World Championships in 3 weeks time.
In the U23 category, Australian Rebecca Henderson took the victory in the women's race, moving her into 1st position in World Cup standings. In the men's race it was the promising young 18 year old rider from New Zealand, Anton Cooper, who dominated the field, and became the youngest rider to ever win a U23 UCI World Cup race.