• Bec Henderson in action at the 2017 Albstadt MTB World Cup (Robert Jones)Source: Robert Jones
Australian champion Rebecca Henderson continues to improve at the Mountain Bike World Cup, making the podium at Round 2 in Albstadt, Germany, with a strong fifth place finish in the Elite Women, and moving her into sixth overall in the standings.
Robert Jones

Cycling Central
29 May 2017 - 10:41 AM  UPDATED 29 May 2017 - 10:51 AM

Henderson's partner and team mate, Dan McConnell, didn't have quite as strong a result, finishing 31st, however, a crash in Round 1 meant he came into the race with a poor start position. Both are racing as privateers after their team released them at the end of last season.

Women's race

The women's race saw multiple lead changes, with with Round 1 winner Annika Langvad (Specialized) crashing heavily in the dry and dusty conditions and finishing a distant 16th. Yana Belomoina (CST Sandd American Eagle), Maja Wloszczowska (Kross Racing) and Jolanda Neff (Kross Racing) battled for the top spot, with Belomoina passing Wloszczowska in the final lap to take her first Elite World Cup win, and move into the overall leader's jersey.

Wloszczowska was second and Neff third. Belomoina leads with 390 points, followed by Wloszczowska at 350 and Langvad at 324. Henderson has 250 points.

"I cannot believe it," said Belomoina. "It was an amazing day. I just tried to do my best, to save my podium spot. The first laps were so hard for me, but I just want to stay on the podium for fifth place. On the last two laps I just felt I could fly."

Henderson fell back to the mid-teens in the opening laps but began to move forward in the second half of the race, setting the second and third fastest lap splits in her final two laps.

"I'm quite happy with last week's eighth and this week's fifth," she said. "This was a strange race for me; the first couple of laps I felt like I was just pedaling in squares, but I finally found a rhythm. It seems that the best thing for me is to be coming from behind. Not having a team behind us proves to us how much we want to race, so the motivation is pure and we are really happy to be here."

Men's race

There was considerable speculation leading into the Elite Men's race as to how multi-time cyclo-cross world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) would fare, after finishing eighth a week earlier in the first round.

The race quickly became a battle between Round 1 winner and world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) and van der Poel. In the early laps the pair were joined at the front by Matthias Fluckiger (Radon Factory) until he crashed and had to abandon the race.

Van der Poel also crashed but was able to catch up to Schurter temporarily, until the Swiss rider attacked on the fourth lap and steadily pulled away to record his 22nd World Cup win. Anton Cooper (Trek Factory) finished third.

"I made a stupid mistake," admitted van der Poel, "and crashed pretty hard [on Lap 3]. I lost contact with the [front] group and hurt my knee a little bit. It was hard to get my pace back on. I'm very happy with the race, only a bit disappointed with the stupid mistake; otherwise it was a nice battle with Nino. I'm really starting to like it mountain biking, especially when you can start from the first row; I enjoyed it a lot today."

Schurter leads the men's standings with a perfect 500 points, followed by David Valero (MMR Factory) at 350 and van der Poel at 310 points. McConnell sits 47th with 44 points.

"It is a tough course and the conditions today were brutally hot," said Schurter. "It was a hard fight with van der Poel. I got a bit nervous when he [van der Poel] was at the front. I have never raced with him really and this was the first time I saw him race. It is always a bit strange when you have someone with you that you don't know; where his strengths or weaknesses are. I was glad when I was finally able to drop him."

McConnell moved up from the mid-50s in the start loop and first lap, to the mid-40s and, in the final three laps, through the 30s.