Laura Stigger mastered Snowshoe’s slick technical sections and tough climbs to solo to her first World Cup XCO victory in the homeland of her team, Specialized Factory Racing. The Austrian had already won two XCC races this year, but the longer XCO format saw Stigger finally put all the pieces together in West Virginia in what was possibly the most dynamic race of the season.
- Stigger was aggressive early in the race, leading into the first singletrack section of the race, and she was followed by Martina Berta (Santa Cruz Rockshox), Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing), and Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck).
- Canyon’s Loana Lecomte, Rebecca Henderson (Primaflor Mondraker), and Alessandra Keller (Thömus maxon) also got off to good starts to form the early lead group.
- American favorites Savilia Blunk (Rockrider Ford) and Haley Batten (Specialized) chased onto the lead group. Batten rode into the top five before fading late in the race, and Blunk animated the chase group.
- Root- and rock-strewn technical descents and climbs were slick from rain earlier in the week and caused mistakes from numerous riders, including Pieterse. Kate Courtney (Scott-SRAM) suffered a heavy crash in the same section that gave the Dutchwoman trouble.
- Stigger made her winning move on the long climb back to the start/finish after briding back to Henderson who led for about half a lap.
- The Austrian extended her gap to more than 20 seconds, with Berta chasing in second and Pieterse, Blunk, and Lecomte looking strong chasing for third.
- Lecomte overtook Berta during the penultimate lap and set off for an intriguing pursuit of Stigger. At one point, Lecomte shortened the gap to 16 seconds, but the gap then went out again on the way back to the finish.
- With her sixth-place finish, Pieterse clinched the overall World Cup XCO victory with one race to go.
In contrast to Stigger, Lecomte rode a hardtail, a choice the Frenchwoman has made in order to prepare for the Paris Olympics. The bike choice may have had an advantage on Snowshoe’s smoother climbs but would have been a challenge in the technical sections. However, Lecomte proved a capable pilot with her second-place performance.
Behind Lecomte, Berta showed grit late in the race to hold onto third place, while American National Champion Blunk rode to a career-best fourth-place finish. The inimitable Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing) made up spots throughout the race to claim fifth. Neff won in Mont-Sainte-Anne last year so she’ll be one to watch next week.
With her overall victory, Pieterse further confirmed that she is one of the top XCO racers in the world in just her first season in the elite field. The Alpecin rider has said that she will not race as much cyclocross over the winter to focus fully on the Paris Olympics next year.
The final round of the World Cup takes place up north in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec next weekend.
- Laura Stigger (Specialized Factory Racing)
- Loana Lecomte (Canyon CLLCTV)
- Martina Berta (Santa Cruz Rockshox Pro Team)
- Savilia Blunk (Rockrider Ford Racing Team)
- Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing XC)
- Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck)
- Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing FC)
- Haley Batten (Specialized Factory Racing)
- Jenny Rissveds (Team 31 Ibis Cycles Continental)
- Mona Mitterwallner (Cannondale Factory Racing)
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