Evie Richards surprises everyone and becomes 2021 XCO World Champion
On the Val di Sole circuit, Evie Richards has just been proclaimed 2021 XCO World Champion. The British rider has taken the rainbow jersey after her best XCO race so far in the elite category.
Evie Richards wins the 2021 XCO World Championships
After the Tokyo Olympics, where Jolanda Neff took gold, it was time for what is usually the most important race of the year: the World Championships. And this time it was more open than ever, with at least 5 riders in a position to take the victory and few counted on Richards.
The start is becoming more and more decisive in XCO races and in Val di Sole Australian Bec McConnell was the fastest to reach the first turn and take the lead. She led herself up the first climb followed by Italy's Eva Lechner, France's Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Kate Courney of the USA. The group was still very compact and Jolanda Neff, one of the undisputed favourites, was riding between 5th and 6th position.
The first passage through the new Rock Garden of Val di Sole managed to stretch the peloton and leave a large group of riders in the lead. But the most anticipated duel was not long in coming and after finishing the initial loop with Jolanda Neff passing in first position, Pauline Ferrand Prevot launched an uphill attack with which she began to distance herself from the rest and only the Swiss Jolanda Neff was fighting to avoid being dropped.
Again, as we saw at the Olympics, the race was going to be between Jolanda Neff and Pauline Ferrand Prevot, and the Frenchwoman was trying to go solo from lap 1, out of 5 in total. At the timed intermediate pass on lap 1, the Frenchwoman had already managed to get 18 seconds on Jolanda Neff, and it looked like her attack was consolidating.
But Jolanda Neff was unable to defend her second place, and before the end of the first lap she was overtaken by Great Britain's Evie Richards and Sina Frei.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot started the second lap leading the race and was already more than half a minute ahead of Evie Richard and Sina Frei who were increasing the pace trying to close the gap. In fourth place was Anne Terpstra from the Netherlands, 52 seconds behind and leading a group that included Jolanda Neff, Poland's Maja Wloszczowska and Bec McConnell.
It was not the first time that Pauline had used the strategy of launching her attack at the start of the competition and leading the race alone until the end, and once again it seemed to be working for her. Although Evie Richards seemed not to have said her last word and on lap 2 it was enough for her to make contact with the Frenchwoman and overtake her, the fight for the rainbow now seemed to be between the two of them.
Lap 3 started with Evie Richards asking Pauline for a relay, but the Frenchwoman didn't seem to be willing to wear herself out and let the Briton continue to set the pace of the race. Behind the chase group remained very compact with Anne Terpstra, Jolanda Neff, Maja Wloszczowska, Bec McConnell and Sina Frei 42 seconds behind.
At the front, Pauline Ferrand Prevot seemed to be going through a moment of fatigue, something that Evie Richard was able to read well and took advantage of to increase the pace in a small downhill area and open a small gap. Something that could become psychologically devastating for the Frenchwoman.
It was undoubtedly the best performance of the British rider in an Elite XCO event so far, after having made her mark last year in the Short Track category with 2 victories in the World Cup. And in fact in few pools Evie appeared as a candidate for victory in this World Championships.
Behind, Dutch rider Anne Terpstra broke away from the chasing group and her gap to Pauline Ferrand Prevot was 16 seconds before the end of lap 3.
At the end of lap 4, Evie Richard was still leading the race with authority while Pauline Ferrand Prevot was fighting to keep second place against Anne Terpstra. The Dutchwoman managed to do so on the first uphill section of the circuit. Only 40 seconds separated Terpstra from the first place.
Despite being in the lead and with an advantage over second, Evie Richards held nothing back on the downhills and on lap 4 she was still one of the fastest and most aggressive on the more technical sections.
The bell rang for the last lap and the situation in the race left Evie Richards going for her first rainbow jersey, Anne Terpstra consolidating her second place but without getting close to the British rider for the moment, and Pauline Ferrand Prevot being caught by the group of Sina Frei, Maja Wloszczowska and Jolanda Neff. Between them they would have to compete for the bronze medal.
The rain made its appearance in the middle of the final lap, but nothing seemed to stop Evie Richards. Terpstra remained solid in second position, and the battle was on for the bronze medal, where Sina Frei had broken away from the group and only Jolanada Neff was able to follow her to fight for the medal with her compatriot.
With a lead of more than 50 seconds, 24-year-old Brit Evie Richards finished first to become the 2021 World Champion. Anne Terpstra took the silver medal and Sina Frei won bronze in a sprint to Jolanda Neff.
Results 2021 XCO World Championships Women
Evie Richards UK 01:23:52
Anne Terpstra NED +01:03
Sina Frei SUI +01:08
Jolanda Neff SUI +01:08
Maja Wloszczowska POL +01:47
- Pauline Ferrand Prevot FR +02:35
- REbecca McConnell AUS +02:45
- Anne Tauner NED +02:56
- Malene Degn NOR +03:17
- Alessandra Keller SUI +03:20