Top 10 For SA’s Lill and Hatherly in Nové Mĕsto


South African champion Candice Lill achieved her best result at the UCI Mountain Bike World Series when she finished an outstanding seventh in the XC Short Track and sixth in the longer XCO race in o Na Moravĕ, Czechia over the weekend.

Lill qualified for the front row of the grid when she finished just eight seconds behind Alessandro Keller in the XCC and then followed up just one position off the podium 2:35 behind French legend Pauline Ferrand Prevot in the XCO.

“Now that I realise that I was that close to the podium, I’m thinking ‘come on’ I could have done more,” Lill said afterwards. “Not in my wildest dreams did I think I could be here but today I pulled it off. I can’t wait for the next one.”

The 32-year-old Lill is now ranked seventh on the World Cup rankings.

After finishing sixth in the short track, Hatherly led the men’s XCO in the early laps before fading to, a still credible ninth, 1:15 behind eventual winner Tom Pidcock. The South African now lies fourth overall in the XCO standings.

“My ears are still ringing from the support out on the route,” Hatherly said.

Women’s Race

The final races of the 2024 WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series weekend the UCI Cross-country Olympic (XCO) World Cup produced the same women’s podium as the short track in a different order. UCI World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Ineos Grenadiers) rode away to gold by more than a minute, with Haley Batten (Specialized Factory Racing) in second, and UCI XCO World Cup gold medalist Alessandra Keller (Thömus Maxon) taking bronze.

The men’s was won in similarly dominant style by Pidcock to make it an Ineos Grenadiers double. After a hard first few laps, Pidcock made it to the front midway through the race, battled briefly for the lead with Nino Schurter (Scott-Sram MTB Racing Team) before riding away to a 30 second victory.

In her race Ferrand-Prévot did not get off to the best start, dropping down the order from the front row of the grid, as Jolanda Neff (Trek Factory Racing – Pirellli) and European champion Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) both bolted off the line to lead the pack into the woods.

As the course narrowed, just before it became a single track, Ferrand-Prévot had filtered through the field onto the wheel of Pieterse with Batten moving up as well. Ferrand-Prévot hit the front just ahead of the heavily rooted steps, always picking the right line, before gaps began to open up behind her on the next technical climb. As the rainbow jerseylooked to be heading out of sight, Batten took up the pursuit with Pieterse following on the long downhill. Alarm bells were starting to sound.

Batten negotiated the rock garden well to gain ground on Ferrand-Prévot and make it back on to the French rider’s wheel going into the first full lap. Pieterse and Martina Berta(Santa Cruz Rockshox Pro Team) were able to regain contact to briefly make a quartet of leaders. Behind them the pack was fully strung out.

Ferrand-Prévot took the climbs from the front and made them count as Pieterse struggled to hang on. On the WHOOP Super Climb Ferrand-Prévot stretched the elastic, before piling more pressure on her rivals on the descent with Pieterse dropping back a few bike lengths. Halfway through the lap Ferrand-Prévot had a measurable lead over the rest and was beginning to stamp her authority on the race.

Pieterse fought to stay in touch and into the second lap was even taking time out of the leader, while Batten rode a more patient, measured race, twenty seconds back in third. Strong work on the climbs helped Keller to keep in touch with the podium places.

The middle, power section of the course, featuring almost road-style climbs, suited Ferrand-Prévot better, and was where she was able to increase her advantage. The technical parts of the course favored Pieterse but not enough to prevent her from losing ground over the leader. After two full laps the gap was 17 seconds, with a three-rider chase group including Keller, Batten and Laura Stigger (Specialized Factory Racing) a further 20+ seconds down.

Less than a lap later Ferrand-Prévot had doubled her lead as Pieterse began to pay for her early effort but refused to give up the pursuit. Onto lap 4 Pieterse was joined by the Batten group offering a chance for them to work together to claw back the leader, but with Ferrand-Prévot out of sight also the risk that they would lose time through infighting.

Pieterse fell out the back of the group and Batten also appeared to be struggling, but the American recovered well going into the final phase of the race. Onto lap five and with Ferrand-Prévot more than a minute to the good, Stigger, Batten and Keller were fighting it out for the podium. Pieterse did well to rejoin them. Batten made her play for silver with an attack on the WHOOP Super Climb, quickly pulling away to a double digit lead, and even bringing Ferrand- Prévot back within a minute.

On the final lap, the French rider could take it easy, while Batten had all but sealed second.  Keller settled the fight for third by showing she had kept the most in the tank, breaking clear of Stigger and Pieterse on the steep ramps.


Men’s Race
The seven lap men’s race came down to a hard-fought, heads-up fight between Pidcock and Schurter.

Luca Schwarzbauer (Canyon CLLCTV XCO) blasted out of the blocks to take a clear line onto the start line alongside Filippo Colombo (Scott-Sram MTB Racing Team) and Saturday’s XCC winner Victor Koretzky.

A high-speed crash further down the grid took out a large number of riders before they’d even made it onto the course. Tom Pidcock safely navigated the opening drama to reach the start loop in around 20th position. Nino Schurter was well-positioned in the top five through the hard-fought early fights.

As in the women’s race, the first climb served to thin the herd and stretch out the field. After the heavy rain that fell on Friday, the course had almost completely dried out and was riding incredibly fast, as Colombo charged on.

As they came onto the first lap proper no big gaps had opened up. British champion Charlie Aldridge (Cannondale Factory Racing) was going well in fourth place, with Tom Pidcock up to 15th, ten seconds behind the leaders.

A long line of riders headed by Koretzky hurtled into the woods, before being jostled by Schurter as he took to the very front of the race. The Swiss legend stomped on the pedals to increase the pace as he charged up the WHOOP Super Climb.

Pidcock had made it into the top ten just before the midpoint of the first lap where, to show off his descending prowess, the strong-looking Hatherly (Cannondale Factory Racing) took over at the front. After one full lap there were still only small gaps opening up. Hatherly, Koretzky, and Schurter had three seconds on Colombo and Aldridge, as Pidcock bided his time.

The UCI World Champion made it onto the back wheel of his compatriot Aldridge to form a group of eight, where he was happy to sit on for a period of recovery. Hatherly drove on up the rooty WHOOP climb, as Pidcock slowly picked his way through the group. Schurter moved back to the front to increase the hurt on everyone else and amplify a gap that had opened up to Pidcock.

As Schurter thrashed on, he could not prevent Pidcock returning to within sight of the front group just after the Shimano climb on the third lap.

He finally became the outright leader of the race with an attack on the course’s road-type climb after 35 minutes. Only Schurter and Koretzky could respond, with the Frenchman struggling to follow the next time the trail headed upwards.

A lap later, Pidcock accelerated again from the same spot to take a six-second lead over the Swiss man. His lead only multiplied as the time elapsed and the day heated up. After an hour of racing, Pidcock was 24 seconds to the good. Schurter was riding strongly and safely in second while a large group, led by Schwarzbauer, were fighting it out for the remaining podium place. As they took the bell, it looked to be between Mathis Azzaro (Decathlon Ford Racing Team) and Mathias Fluckiger (Thömus Maxon).

Marcel Guerrini (BIXS Performance Race Team) had other ideas. As Pidcock rode away to victory, hitting out with a knock-out punch on his favourite climb, Guerrini was putting in his best lap of the race. The UCI World Champion made it a comfortable fourth win in a row in Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ, by 30 seconds later. Two Swiss strongmen, Schurter and Guerrini, followed him onto the podium.

I can be quite pleased with that as my first race of the year,” the winner said afterwards, in his characteristic understated fashion. Pidcock admitted to struggling in the early part of the race but “once I got going, and got to the front, I was able to find my own pace.

READ MORE ON: mountain biking events MTB World Series World Cup

Copyright © 2024 Hearst