Gunn-Rita Dahle with record breaking 29th career victory. Jaroslav Kulhavy victorious in men’s XCO-race in Lenzerheide.
Gunn-Rita Dahle (NOR) and Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE) take the victory in the Lenzerheide XCO race. While Kulhavy strengthens his arguments for the overall title, Dahle secures herself an entry into the history books. Her 29th world cup victory makes her the athlete with the most career wins in XCO-world cup history.
The women’s cross-country race kicked off under a scorching Swiss sun. Thousands of cheering fans stood trackside supporting the riders as they powered through the heat in what was one of the most exciting races of the season.
It was heralded as Jolanda Neff’s race, the local rider had the advantage of being very familiar with the area and even has an apartment in town. With strong backing from the home crowd she was the firm favourite to be taking the title however, things didn’t quite go to her advantage.
Taking the lead from the start of the race it looked like Neff’s previous domination was about to be repeated, however midway through the first lap Gunn-Rita Dahle and Catharine Pendrel attacked, dropping the Swiss rider back into the pack. Neff struggled through the rest of the lap with other riders taking the advantage to pass the 22year old.
Gunn-Rita and Pendrel lead the pack for the first few laps. The duo making a large headway and breaking away. Neff dropped back to twelth place but she appeared to have recovered from the shaky start by the second lap and began her attack, chasing down riders one by one.
Helen Grobert was holding a strong third position but got a rear puncture, losing her valuable time while the tyre was changed and dropping her back out of the top 20.
With 3 laps to go Gunn-Rita kept on the attack and opened up a 3 second lead between her and Pendrel. Lea Davison and Jolanda Neff were holding up in third and fourth place trying to close the gap between the leading duo. With 2 laps to go Jolanda got back on the attack, trying to break the gap between her and fourth place Lea Davison but Davison stayed close to the Swiss National Champ.
It would be Davison who eventually pulled away from Neff and began chasing down the rainbow stripes of second place Pendrel.
With a lap to go Gunn-Rita held a 1.18 gap above the rest of the field. There was 20 seconds between Neff and Davison and second place Pendrel. On the final lap Davison dropped Neff and breaked away to secure third place. She then kept attacking, gaining on Pendrel with her eyes firmly set on second place.
Pendrel wasn’t giving up her hard maintained second place and the duo battled, with Davison making a sprint break for a lead through the tech zone.
Gunn-Rita managed to hold onto a sizeable lead throughout the rest of the race, eventually crossing the finish line with a one-minute advantage on the field. Davison earned her best ever World Cup result coming in second place.
Pendrel never managed to get her rhythm back after a crash and ended up in third place with home rider Neff getting fourth, two minutes and five seconds back from Dahle who secured her 29th World Cup win.
With Swiss locals Nino Schurter, Florian Vogel and Mathias Flückiger among the top eight in the current UCI world rankings an expectant crowd were hoping for a home victory in the men’s race.
From the off, the signs looked good with Flückiger, Vogel and Schurter all in the mix at the front of the pack along with Frenchmand Julien Absalon.
Vogel crashed during lap two and that put paid to his hopes of springing a surprise victory on home turf while Flückiger found the pace too tough once Jaroslav Kulhavý joined the party up front.
The powerful Czech rider Kulhavý soon upped the pace and he and Schurter began to pull away from Absalon by the end of lap three. The Frenchman was struggling to keep pace with the Czech and Swiss riders in the soaring temperatures.
Behind this top three, Kulhavý’s fellow countryman Ondrej Cink looked strong despite the heat and moved into fourth place on lap five. Manuel Fumic, Maxime Marotte and Flückiger battled it out for places behind him.
The defining moments of this race came in lap six with both Absalon and Schurter suffering flats which allowed Kulhavý to pull away into first place and let Cink jump into third ahead of Absalon.
From there it was a procession to the finish line with Kulhavý winning by 33 seconds from Schurter with a very happy Cink back in third place. Fluckiger and Marotte soon followed Cink finishing in fourth and fifth place respectively.