Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA) - 2019 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz - UCI Women Elite XCO©Michal Cerveny
With 63 riders representing 30 nations, many expected a head-to-head between reigning UCI World Champion Kate Courtney (USA) and 2017 UCI World Champion Jolanda Neff (SUI). But a number of competitors had other ideas, including Anne Terpstra and Anne Tauber (NED), Rebecca McConnell (AUS), a resurgent Jenny Rissveds (SWE) and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA) - XCO World Champion in 2015, with an amazing record across not just cross country, but also road and cyclo-cross, having worn rainbow jerseys in all three disciplines.
On the first of six laps, the three early leaders were Neff, Courtney and McConnell with Tauber and Terpstra fourth and fifth. Rissveds and Catharine Pendrel (CAN) were paired in sixth and seventh. McConnell and Neff were soon swapping first position, Courtney started to feel the pace while Ferrand-Prévot was on the move, putting the hurt on the Dutch and American riders and inching towards the lead pair.
While Neff had led, she faltered on lap 3’s Marmotte climb, and McConnell passed and pulled out a 7sec gap… and pushed again on the downhill section, stretching the lead out to 18sec at the start of lap 4, with Ferrand-Prévot at +30 and Courtney in sixth, a minute back.
Ferrand-Prévot had the momentum and as she passed Neff the Swiss rider’s head seemed to drop. Could the Frenchwoman reel in the Australian’s 29sec advantage? With a slip from McConnell on the “Hell of Saint-Anne”, Ferrand-Prévot brought the gap down, then passed her to start lap 5 with a 3sec advantage. As that lead grew out to 41sec, a resurgent Neff got sights on McConnell, drew her in, and at the top of the switchbacks climb, made her move.
Ferrand-Prévot took the win, crossing the line with a French tricolor in 1:28:51, before collapsing into the arms of Julien Absalon. Neff took the silver medal and a proud McConnell winning Australia’s first medal of the championships.