The 25th season of the Cross-country series in the Mountain Bike World Cup concluded on Sunday in Val di Sole, Italy, with the awarding of the overall titles for 2015. Jolanda Neff (Stoeckli Pro Team) and Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) maintained their leads in the women's and men's categories, respectively, to become the World Cup champions. While Schurter won in Val di Sole, Neff had to settle for second behind first time winner Annika Langvad (Specialized).
Rain overnight had turned much of the course into sticky mud - referred to by one team manager as 'velcro'. The mud was transferred to many of the rocky sections, making them slippery and treacherous, and causing numerous crashes.
Neff got her usual fast start in the women's race, with world champion Catharine Pendrel and Langvad chasing through the start loop. As Pendrel faded back to the next chase group, Langvad seemed to be getting
stronger, and surprisingly Neff could not open a gap on the Danish rider. By the halfway point the pair were together at the front, and when Langvad attacked on the penultimate lap, Neff could not respond,
leaving the Specialized rider to cross the line with a huge smile as she scored her first win.
"I must say I can't believe it," stated Langvad. "It felt so good out there today. Last weekend I did a race in Leadville [USA] at 3,000 metres. This entire week I was filled with jet lag, I was exhausted, didn't sit much on my bike. I am so happy. I am beyond words."
"This was a really tough race for me," said Neff. "Really hard. Tough climbing. Yeah, it really was a hard race. But I'm really happy I could take the overall."
The men's race saw Schurter and world champion Julien Absalon (BMC) moving to the front by the second lap, along with Florian Vogel (Focus XC) and Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized). Kulhavy was dropped in the fourth lap and would finish solo in fourth, leaving the trio at the front.
It was only in the final descent that Schurter showed his skills, opening a five second gap to take the win. He was partially aided by a soft tire on Absalon's bike, that forced the French rider to be more cautious in the descents to avoid crashing.
"Honestly, I didn't feel that good at the beginning," revealed Schurter, "I was struggling a bit. I was just hanging in there and tried to stay up with Julien and Vogel. Towards the end I felt better and better. I tried to stay on Julien's wheel. I knew if I could get first into the descent I could win again. I'm happy about the World [Cup overall] win also."
In the Under 23 Women's series, Jenny Rissveds (Scott-Odlo) completed an incredible clean sweep of all six events to claim the women's title. In the Men's Under 23 series there was a change in the leadership after the final round, with Titouan Carod (Scott Creuse Oxygene Gueret) knocking Pablo Rodriguez of Spain out of the title spot.