Competing in her first ever elite race, French youngster Loana Lacomte stormed to victory 31 seconds ahead of Anne Terpstra (NED) with world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (FRA) finishing 37 seconds behind her compatriot for third place.
The top five was rounded out somewhat unexpectedly by Léna Gérault (FRA +1:15) and 2018 junior road race and MTB champion, 20-year-old Laura Stigger (AUT).
With the number 28 plate on and starting from the fourth-row after DNF'ing the XCC on Wednesday (AEST), McConnell forged a place into the top 10, crossing the line ninth at two minutes and 41 seconds.
"I felt good and was enjoying the slippery conditions," 2019 UCI MTB World Championship bronze medallist McConnell said. "As I knew was possible, the start was crazy and I got caught behind a crash.
"I spent a lot of energy trying to move up early before the gaps completely blew out. Top 10 on any day is a good day and it's a relief to know that my preparation for the season has gone well.
"Two more XC races to try again. And short track again tomorrow to fight for a better start position."
Last year's UCI MTB World Champion silver medallist Jolanda Neff (SUI) finished 17th.
The surprises kept coming in the men's race, with Dane Simon Andreassen claiming his first ever world cup win. Maxime Marotte (FRA) came home nine seconds later with Dutchman Milan Vader grabbing the bronze at 26 seconds. World Champion Nino Schurter finished fourth at 44 seconds.
Australian Dan McConnell finished 32nd after seven punishing laps.
"A bad start put me right back and then concrete legs added to the tough day," he said. "Now it's a race to recover but tomorrow already the short track! I'll keep fighting!"
Click here for the results of the top 30 in each race.