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Mairiposã mayhem: Blevins shines in XCO World Cup season-opener showdown

Mairiposã mayhem: Blevins shines in XCO World Cup season-opener showdown

The elite men’s XCO season opener turned into a thrilling battle of speed and strategy on Sunday in Mairiporã, Brazil. The course was new to World Cup racing and, in its debut, delivered a sensational showdown. After an exciting three-way battle in the women’s race, Christopher Blevins of the United States finessed a stunning strategic victory in the elite men’s race.

Young guns lead off the line

Off the start, it is Chile’s great XC home, Martin Vidaurre (Specialized Factory Racing), putting himself on the front of the race. Canada’s Carter Woods (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) makes sure the maple leaf jersey is right up there, riding just outside the top-10 over a tightly packed start loop.

The first hint of how tactical this race could be comes when Sam Gaze (Alpecin-Deceunenick), XCC World Cup winner 24-hours before, bobbles near to top of the same steep uphill that forced every field to foot all weekend. That briefly splits the front of hte race. More chaos follows on the next steep climb, though slightly futher back in the field. Pivot Cycles-OTE’s Raphael Auclair is among the riders forced to run briefly in that mess.

Vidaurre’s pace up front starts to create splits. A front group of eight forms. Woods sits in the second group, holding the wheels of Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) and Gaze, in around 12th position as the start loop concludes.

A quartet, briefly

On the first lap, the groups come back together. Adrien Boichis (Trinity Racing), Woods’ rival in last year’s u23 racing, takes over the lead briefly. Victor Koretzky (Specialized) took over. With Joshua Dubau (Decathalon Ford) joining, there are three French riders on the front. Like in the women’s race, there is a race to qualify for the Paris Olympics that is animating the racing in Brazil.

On lap two, Pressure from Vidaurre starts to spread out the field. Woods is still clinging to the back of the top 20. Up front, though, it’s Dubau just holding on to a front group of four led by Vidaurre, with Filippo Colombo (Scott SRAM) and Koretzky.

That quartet continues to blow the field apart, with groups splintering around the course behind them. By lap four of seven, as their lead grows and they start looking around at each other, the U.S.A.’s Chris Blevins (Specialized), Alpecin-Deceunick’s Sam Gaze and another French rider, Jordan Sarrou (BMC)  re-join the front of the race.

A sextet? Two two trios?

That makes a front group of six comprised of both three French…

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