• Jolanda Neff in Action. (Rob Jones)Source: Rob Jones
Mont-Ste-Anne, Canada, is a legendary stop on the mountain bike circuit and is considered one of the most prestigious to win. It has been part of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup since its inception in 1991, and has hosted the world championship twice - and will host for the third time next year.
Rob Jones

Cycling Central
14 Aug 2018 - 9:12 AM  UPDATED 14 Aug 2018 - 5:49 PM

It is a classic style of venue - no Bike Park here - with riders facing roots, rocks, steep climbs, rough descents and, in this edition, punishing heat. After a one-kilometre start loop, riders raced six laps (women) or seven laps (men) of the 4.1km circuit.

World champion Jolanda Neff (Kross Racing) took her second World Cup win of the season in the Elite women with a dominating performance. With her win, Neff solidified her lead in the overall standings with one race remaining.

Neff took an early lead and never looked back, increasing her time gap every lap and setting the fastest lap splits for every lap but one. It was her third win at Mont-Ste-Anne, tying her with Canada's Marie-Helene Premont, and one win behind Canadian Catharine Pendrel.

Behind Neff, Specialized team-mates Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney rode together for the first three laps before Langvad dropped her American team-mate. Batty caught and dropped Courtney on Lap 5, and the fading American champion eventually dropped to sixth. Batty was slowly reeling Langvad in but ran out of laps.

"I've been dreaming of this win for a long time," said Neff. "This is my 11th [World Cup] win ... I was so close earlier this year in Nove Mesto, Val di Sole and Vallnord, and I've been working so hard for this. Today was so hard; in the third lap, I felt like I was stunned because it was so hot. I had to keep telling myself to slow down because the heat was so extreme. The last three laps were just about managing my speed to keep a gap."

In the overall standings, Neff now has 1600 points, followed by Langvad at 1458. Maja Wloszczowska (Kross Racing) remains in third at 1077, but Batty jumps from eighth to fourth, only seven points behind Wloszczowska.

The Elite men's race saw multiple lead changes, as leading contenders crashed or suffered mechanicals. In the end, it was Mathias Flueckiger (Thomus RN Racing) that prevailed, taking his first ever World Cup victory. World champion and World Cup leader Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM) wrapped up the overall title with one race remaining in the Series, despite finishing seventh after breaking his chain while in the lead.

A large group of riders headed out from the start loop at the front, which was gradually whittled down over the first couple of laps to just Schurter and New Zealand champion Anton Cooper (Trek Factory). The pair rode together until Schurter broke his chain on Lap 4, leaving Cooper alone at the front. He was joined by Flueckiger, Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Torpado Gabogas) and Titouan Carod (BMC) by the end of the lap.

Kerschbaumer crashed on the sixth lap, and Carod lost contact, leaving just Cooper and Flueckiger at the front. Coming down the rocky Beatrice descent, Cooper crashed hard, losing his bike off the side of the hill and having to scramble down to retrieve it. Flueckiger safely navigated the final lap to take his first win, with Kerschbaumer recovering to finish just in front of Carod.

"I'm so happy to win because I've had bad luck before at World Cups," said Flueckiger. "In my career, I've had many podiums and been close many times, but today everything came together. I felt good on Friday after getting third in the short track, but it's a really hard track here and the other guys were strong. In 2010 I won the Under-23 world championship here, so this track is really special for me."

"It was super stressful from the beginning," admitted Schurter. "I had not the best start and it took some time to get to the front. When I was finally at the front I felt pretty good and then I broke my chain and my chances were over. But I'm happy with my performance, and that's racing."

In the overall standings, Schurter has an insurmountable lead with 1546 points, 466 more than second place Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), who did not race at Mont-Ste-Anne. It is a record sixth World Cup title for Schurter.

Atherton and Bruni win Mont-Ste-Anne, Pierron locks up men's overall
With her win, Rachel Atherton (Trek Factory) padded her lead in the women's standings, while Amaury Pierron (Commencal/Vallnord) mathematically wrapped up the men's title by finishing fourth.