What a race to the fourth World Cup of the year in Swabian Albstadt. With perfect conditions and more than 15000 spectators in the stands, the race of the XC elite started yesterday and promised some exciting fights. At first it was not foreseeable that it would end up being a solo by Frenchman Julien Absalon.
The situation at the seats was as usual: Julien Absalon and Nino Schurter led the field together with his compatriot, Fabian Giger, and determined the pace. And that's what Schurter's Kryptonite was supposed to be. In round three of eight it was Giger who decided to attack and break away from the two top favorites. However, he made the bill without Absalon. He followed the Swiss, but Schurter lost touch and was on his own for the time being. “Julien was in a league of its own today. For me, second place is the maximum that was possible today. Of course, I could have called longer, but then I would have exploded,” explains Schurter.
However, Absalon was a size too big for Giger in Albstadt. Already in the following lap he loses touch and falls behind. From now on, Absalon contests the remaining four laps solo and has a considerable lead of 1:19 minutes. “I like the course and the race here and I was very motivated for Albstadt. It's easier for me here than in Nove Mesto, for example. Of course it's great to win three World Cups in the spring. Perfecting the 29th victory here was particularly nice. It also makes the decision to continue my career easier. Now I want to keep up my form at the European Championships next week and then take a break.", said Absalon at the finish.
Nino Schurter swallows Giger as the race progresses and Stephane Tempier also overtakes the Swiss. “I felt great and, unlike last week, wanted to drive offensively. When Julien then increased his pace, I was at the limit and decided to relax.", Giger describes the situation in round four. Nevertheless, he is satisfied with his fourth place: “I am very satisfied and was able to compete in the race with a good feeling. I like the event, great atmosphere, there were many spectators, including many Swiss, who cheered me on."
Manuel Fumic and Moritz Milatz were in the second chasing group. Together with Daniel McConnel they tried to close the gap, but they didn't succeed. Milatz launched his attack on lap six and finished a very good fifth place. "I've already noticed that I'm the strongest in the group, but I couldn't get rid of them. When I saw Marotte approaching from the front and therefore fifth place within reach, I attacked and shifted up a gear at the top to create a real gap. Then I went all the way", said Milatz after his second World Cup podium within eight days.
Manuel Fumic had to admit defeat to McConnell in the fight for sixth place, but was nevertheless satisfied with his performance. "When we saw that we could reach the podium, that's when the fight started. Moritz was a bit stronger, but for me it was an improvement. It's definitely going up again. Great to drive here in front of this crowd”, explained Fumic, who was 2:25 minutes behind.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot repeated her win from Nove Mesto with an impressive performance. From lap one she led the field and in an outstanding solo she built up a lead of almost three minutes. "I'm in great shape at the moment. Of course it won't go away in a week either, so I was very confident for Albstadt. Of course I was under more pressure here than in Nove Mesto, but I tried to be relaxed at the start. I wanted a good start because otherwise you're quickly left behind in the elite. I succeeded. It was important for me to have a big head start in case something happened”, the 22-year-old commented on her impressive solo performance.
Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa went into pursuit alone, if you can call it that, on the second lap, but was still within striking distance of the following group of five. However, the record World Cup winner rode a constant pace and was no longer in danger of losing second place. "Pauline is flying at the moment, it's impressive and I'm happy for her because I know the feeling. I'm in good shape, but not great. I've had a cold this week, but if you're in good shape and you don't have a fever, you'll get over it. In any case, I am very, very happy with my spring. I am the only rider who has always been in the top three”, explained Dahle-Flesjaa.
The battle for third place was really gripping. Five riders kept attacking each other and constantly changing positions. In the last lap Jolanda Neff passed Adelheid Morath and in front of the German in the technical passage Teufels-Corner. Morath's front wheel slipped away there, causing her to roll over. "I was dazed for a moment and then had to quickly take my bike away because the others were coming", Morath tells of the situation that cost her a place on the podium. Tanja Zakelj and Catharine Pendrel passed Morath before she could get back on her bike, while Neff used her advantage to comfortably finish third.
"I thought maybe I could still get to Gunn-Rita and that's why I attacked. I can't keep up with Pauline at the moment, but I had a much better feeling than last week. I was able to drive through safely”, explained Neff after the race.
1. Julien Absalon (BMC Racing Team) 1:29:24
2. Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) +1:19
3. Stephane Tempier (BH-Suntour-KMC) +1:24
4. Fabien Giger (Ginat Pro XC Team) +1:40
5. Moritz Milatz (BMC Racing Team) +2:02
1. Pauline ferrand Prevot (Liv Pro XC Team) 1:30:59
2. Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) +2:59
3. Jolanda Neff (Liv Pro XC Team) +3:19
4. Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools Team) +3:39
5. Catherine Pendrel (Lunar Pro Team) +3:53