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Gunnar Holmgren flies to first World Cup XCO top 10 in Nove Mesto

Gunnar Holmgren flies to first World Cup XCO top 10 in Nove Mesto

The race to the Paris Olympics kicked into overdrive on Sunday, creating wild and fiercely contested racing in the elite men’s and women’s XCO. Nove Mesto was the final World Cup in the selection period for the 2024 Olympics. That saw some riders surge to seize their last chance at going to the year’s Games while other’s watched that dream fade.

Gunnar Holmgren was one rider seizing the opportunity. The Ontario racer landed his first-ever elite World Cup XCO top 10 when it mattered the most. With that result, he puts himself in position to qualify for Paris.

For Jenn Jackson, Nove Mesto served up the opposite emotions. Riding in the front group early on, the Liv racer faded slightly out of qualifying position before a mechanical issue pushed her further back in the field.

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot put Puck Pieterse in the rear view in Nove Mesto. Photo: WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series

Elite Women: Ferrand-Prevot perfect in Nove Mesto

Nove Mesto marked the return of several heavyweight players to the elite women’s field. Puck Pieterse (Alpecin Decuninck), the World Cup winner in 2023, looked eager to announce her return and led off the line. Jolanda Neff (Trek) then Loana Lecomte (Canyon Cllctv) took turns on the front, making it clear the last event in Paris selection had a lot more riding on the finish than a single World Cup win. Jenn Jackson (Liv), hunting for a 12th place to meet Cycling Canada’s selection criteria, was looking comfortable in the front group in the early laps.

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Ineos), though, did not wait long to put the rainbow stripes of her world champion’s jersey on the front of the race. It was also the French woman’s first World Cup of the season and, before the start loop finished, she stepped into the lead.

Haley Batten (Specialized), current World Cup leader, and Pieterse, took off in pursuit. While they briefly made contact with Ferrand-Prevot, the French racer wasn’t waiting around. She soon dropped Batten, then Pieterse and set off on her own.

Ferrand-Prevot would never look back. While she did put a foot down on Nove Mesto’s slippery roots and rocks on occasion, she never put a foot wrong. Her lead over Pieterse and Batten grew every lap all the way to the finish line.

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot wins her first World Cup of 2024, emphatically, in her first appearance this season.

Elite women’s XCO World Cup podium in Nove Mesto. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

“It was a…

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