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Crashes and returning stars shake up Nove Mesto XCC World Cup

Crashes and returning stars shake up Nove Mesto XCC World Cup

While weather had improved from Friday’s under-23 short track mud fest by the time the elites took to the XCC course on Saturday, conditions in Nove Mesto were still slippery. Greasy roots proved to be as major players in the elite XCC races as several big-name stars making their 2024 World Cup debut in the Czech Republic.

Keller shines, Rissveds crashes

The elite women’s race started the day off and, for the first few laps, 2016 Olympic XCO champion Jenny Rissveds (Team 31) controlled the pace. The action started right away, though, when a touch of wheels sent Puck Pieterse crashing hard into the wheels of the riders behind her. It was the 2023 World Cup overall winner’s first race back after a spring on the road and it was not off to a great start. Covered in mud but looking otherwise uninjured, Pieterse chased back to the main group without too much drama.

On lap four of eight, Alessandra Keller (Thomus Maxon) launched her first attack up the main hill. While the Swiss woman was reeled back in, the pace for the whole group was lifted and the race was very much on.

As soon as the group turned back downhill, Rissveds crashed hard. The Swedish racer touched a greasy root as the bunch fought for position near the front and was sent violently over the bars at a solid pace. Rissveds was slower to get up and was eventually helped to walk off the course and out of the race. Commentators would confirm later on that she is still a question mark for Sunday’s XCO.

Back at the front of the race, Pieterse had made her way to the front with Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Ineos) in her wheels. The two stars clearly are looking to stay out of trouble in their return to racing.

On lap seven of eight, though, Keller again launched a blistering uphill attack. Laura Stigger (Specialized) and Haley Batten (Specialized) initially chased but, finding little help behind, Keller was left to ride away while the group looked at each other.

Batten, the current World Cup leader, eventually started the chase in earnest. Ferrand-Prevot moved by her and continued to close the gap. While the two were closing in rapidly, they ran out of room.

Alessandra Keller fought hard to the line to take the win.

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“I felt really strong,” Keller said afterwards. “I decided I should attack with two laps to go, had a little gap, and just went all in. Everything worked out perfectly, but it was very hard for the last lap.”

Ferrand-Prevot, looking happy…

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