This weekend, the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup made its second North American stop, in Windham, New York, approximately one hour north of New York City in the beautiful Catskill mountains.
The cross-country course was little changed from last year, except for the start, which was in the center of town and took the riders over the one bridge that survived the Hurricane Irene flood last August.
The 5.5km route should have been straightforward – a long climb to the highest point, fast descent to the start-finish and, due to the long opening climb, no start loop required to spread out the field. However, riders battled extreme heat and a dusty course.
Catharine Pendrel led a 1-2-3 finish for the Luna team in the women's elite race, wrapping up the World Cup title in the process. Georgia Gould (Luna) had come close to taking the first World Cup of her career a week earlier in Mont Sainte-Anne, but faded in the last lap and was overtaken by teammate Pendrel. This time, on home soil, she was inspired, riding away from early leader Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain) to carve out a 50 second lead with a lap to go in the five lap race.
Chasing were her two teammates – Pendrel and Katerina Nash – who had dropped Premont. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) passed Premont to move into fourth, while the Canadian was holding off a late charge by American Olympian Lea Davison (Specialized).
Cresting the final climb, Gould looked to have the win, but then suffered a pinch flat in a rocky section. She quickly used an inflation cartridge, but the tire went flat again almost within sight of the finish, and she started to run. Pendrel and Nash were surprised to come upon their teammate with less than 100m to go, sweeping around her and sprinting to the line, with Pendrel getting the victory. Gould hung on for third.
Georgia Gould (Luna)
"I was really sad [about catching Gould in final meters]," commented Pendrel. "I did not want it to come down to that. Georgia rode so well, she was obviously riding the best both up and down today. She deserved the win."
The drama continued in the men's elite race, which became a case of the last man standing taking the win. A combination of heat and technical problems decimated the field, with Burry Stander (Specialized) taking only the second World Cup win of his career.
A small group of favourites took the lead in the early laps of the six-lap race, including Stander, Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory), Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized), Florian Vogel (Scott-Swisspower), Sergio Mantecon (Wildwolf-Trek Pro Racing), Rudi Van Houts (Multivan Merida), José Hermida (Multivan Merida), Fabian Giger (Rabobank-Giant) and Marco Fontana (Cannondale Factory).
Riders gradually fell away, with it coming down to three riders: Stander, Mantecon and Fontana. Then Stander upped the pace with a lap and a half to go, steadily increasing his lead on Mantecon, with Fontana holding onto third. The three finished in this order, with Stander taking his first World Cup win since 2009.
Todd Wells, Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez, Burry Stander, Marco Aurelio Fontana and Mathias Flückiger
"I have always done well on this course and always been in the lead group," explained Stander, "but then had problems at the end. This is a course where it is easy to crash, because it's very high speed; easy to push too hard and get a flat tire. Today I just decided to ride my own speed and not worry about anyone else, just ride controlled. I made sure at the top of the climb I went into the singletrack first and I could control the speed on the way down, not taking any chances. Then, toward the end, I knew with the endurance coming into play and the heat it would be good for me."
For full results, reports and photos of the Mountain Bike World Cup at Windham, visit Cyclingnews.com.