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  1. Kate Courtney World champion Courtney was imperious and the American moved clear on lap two to forge a gap to the field that never looked in danger of being closed. Reigning World Cup champion Jolanda Neff suffered a horror start, however dug in to fight back to seal second place that keeps her 175 points behind Courtney. Jolanda Neff German Elisabeth Brandau secured her best ever World Cup finish in third with Neff's Swiss compatriot Sina Frei fourth and home rider Pauline Ferrand Prevot fifth. Sina Frei Courtney, 23, said: "Today I rode my own race, focused on my objectives and I am really happy it worked out. Race within myself and not let the pressure get to me. Of course having a rider like Jolanda - who is so strong on the climbs but also a maniac on the descents - behind you puts some pressure on but I just tried to stay focused and keep on the gas." Neff, 26, added: "The first lap cost me a lot. I am super happy I kept it together until the finish. We still have three races to go and I am starting to feel better the longer the season goes on." Sina Frei, Jolanda Neff, Kate Courtney, Elisabeth Brandau, Pauline Ferrand Prevot stand on the podium at UCI XCO World Cup in Les Gets, France. In the men's race, it was nip and tuck with six-time World Cup champion Schurter unable to drop Brazilian Henrique Avancini and Italian Gerhard Kerschbaumer until the last lap when he pulled clear late on. Nino Schurter His 32nd World Cup victory leaves him one short of Frenchman Julien Absalon's record of 33 with Avancini matching his best ever result with third place again. Henrique Avancini Gerhard Kerschbaumer Mathieu van der Poel could only finish 16th, leaving Schurter over 200 points clear of both the Dutchman and Avancini whose consistency is rewarded in second. Ondrej Cink Schurter, 33, said: "Tough course, really physical. Gerhard was super strong. Second to last lap I was surprised that I dropped him. It is hard to get gaps and, for a long time, it was an open race. This victory today was a big step towards overall victory. I really like the Val di Sole track and it would be awesome to catch up Julien's record." Stephane Tempier, Gerhard Kerschbaumer, Nino Schurter, Henrique Avancini, Ondrej Cink stand on the podium at UCI XCC World Cup in Les Gets. UCI MTB World Cup women's XCO at Les Gets result: 1. Kate Courtney USA 1:26.29 2. Jolanda Neff SUI +0.33 3. Elisabeth Brandau GER +1.05 4. Sina Frei SUI +1.15 5. Pauline Ferrand Prevot FRA +1.32UCI MTB World Cup women's XCO overall standings: 1. Kate Courtney USA 1265 points 2. Jolanda Neff SUI 1090 3. Anne Terpstra NED 815 4. Elisabeth Brandau GER 625 5. Sina Frei SUI 615 UCI MTB World Cup men's XCO at Les Gets result: 1. Nino Schurter SUI 1:22.10 2. Gerhard Kerschbaumer ITA +0.04 3. Henrique Avancini BRA +0.38 4. Stephane Tempier FRA +0.48 5. Ondrej Cink CZE +0.48 UCI MTB World Cup men's XCO overall standings: 1. Nino Schurter SUI 1160 points 2. Henrique Avancini BRA 915 3. Mathieu van der Poel NED 899 4. Mathias Flueckiger SUI 883 5. Jordan Sarrou FRA 698
  2. The first American World Champion for 17 years. Not many had Kate Courtney on their shortlist for a medal at World Championships. Although she won Cape Epic and the US national title in her first year as an elite pro rider, she was considered to be a dark horse only by some optimistic experts that knew about her potential. However, with the ride of her life, she not only surprised her competition but also the whole mountain bike community. The SCOTT-SRAM team trusted in her talent already prior to the World Championships and believes this was just the first spark of a firework to come. Welcome Kate! Born at the base of Mount Tamalpais, Marin California, Kate's home-trails are the ones known to be the first ones in the history of mountain biking. Photos: SCOTTKate is known as a person who knows exactly what she wants and is ready to give 110% to reach her goals. The World Champion title came unexpectedly early even for her, but she did believe in herself at all times and worked hard towards the rainbow stripes. The future will bring a lot of changes to her. New team, new bike and high expectations that come with her status. She explains where she is heading to. "I am very excited to join the SCOTT-SRAM Team. This team represents an incredible opportunity for me to work with the legendary Thomas Frischknecht and ride alongside talented teammates, notably current Men’s World Champion Nino Schurter. The team has a very unique atmosphere which both maintains a champion standard and continues to breed enthusiasm and love for the sport on all levels. I am honoured to have the chance to learn from such knowledgeable individuals with a strong passion for the sport and a wealth of experience chasing big goals and achieving Olympic dreams. With their support and a shared vision for the future, I am eager to get to work and see what we can accomplish together in 2019 and beyond." I am very excited to join the SCOTT-SRAM Team. This team represents an incredible opportunity for me to work with the legendary Thomas Frischknecht and ride alongside talented teammates, notably current Men’s World Champion Nino Schurter. Kate Courtney 2018 World Champion SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing 23-year-old Kate Courtney was born and lives at the birthplace of mountain biking in the San Francisco Bay area, where she also graduated from Stanford University before she set her full focus on the sport. The 2 time US National Champion has quite a palmares in her books. In 2017 she won the U23 overall World Cup and a silver medal at the U23 World Championships. Lars Forster- 2018 European Champion Another strong addition to SCOTT-SRAM is Lars Forster. As most of the Swiss riders, the former U23 World Cup Champion was so far a bit in the shadow of Nino Schurter. At this year's European Championships in Glasgow, he stepped out of this shadow when the sun was shining on him, crossing the line first. At the finish-line at European Championship in Glasgow Lars Forster claims his biggest victory so far. Photos: SCOTT / ego-promotion The all-around talent is currently the Swiss Cyclo-Cross National Champion. Lars is familiar to the World Cup podium and is a top 10 UCI ranked rider. His ambitions match with the ones of Kate. Current Swiss National Champion Lars Forster at the start of his first cyclo-cross race in 2019. The 25-year-old Olympic athlete says: "Developing further towards the Tokyo Olympics, it is a huge benefit to be aside of the Worlds fastest Nino Schurter. Since the beginning of my career, I was dreaming to become a member of the team of Thomas Frischknecht, my idol of my early days. Together we can reach the next level." Developing further towards the Tokyo Olympics, it is a huge benefit to be a side of the Worlds fastest Nino Schurter. Since the beginning of my career, I was dreaming of becoming a member of the team of Thomas Frischknecht, my idol in my early days. Together we can reach the next level. Lars Forster, 2018 European Champion SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing Team director Thomas Frischknecht knows Lars Forster very well. Lars not only lives very close to the team headquarters, he is also a training buddy of Andri Frischknecht and close friends with Yanick-the-Mechanic Gyger. After all this time the team is super excited to welcome Lars to the family. Swiss Athlete of the Year- N1NO Schurter Team leader Nino Schurter can look back to another wonderful season. One of his greatest achievements in his career was just recently reached. He is the first mountain biker in history to be voted Swiss athlete of the year. You might think for an Olympic, World and World Cup champion that this isn't a big deal, but you would be wrong! N1NO was nominated 9 times before getting awarded as the best of the best. Finally, he was ahead of Tennis superstar Roger Federer and cross-country skiing legend and Olympic Champion Dario Cologna. Swiss athlete of the year 2018- N1NO Schurter. Photo: Adrian Bretscher The talented 24-year-old Andri Frischknecht completes the men's side of the team. In 2018 he made huge steps towards the top. Two times he reached the Top 10 in the World Cup, at World Championships he placed 13th and at Swiss Nationals he earned a bronze medal. Keep an eye on this young gun! Andri Frischknecht finished twice in Top Ten in 2018. Photo: Sven Martin Unfortunately, SCOTT-SRAM has to say goodbye to two riders. After 4 years with SCOTT-SRAM, Dutch Champion Michiel van der Heijden is looking into a new future. Also Cape Epic winner Matthias Stirnemann will leave the team, he is going to be back with his former team Möbel-Märki. Team director Thomas Frischknecht is super stoked about his future team. He explains: "We are going into the 18th season with this team and the rooster never looked more promising having both World Champions and the European champion in our colours. It's great to have a woman back on the team. Together with our established staff, we are going to have a fun time racing!"
  3. The vastly experienced Langvad and her young 22-year-old American partner combined perfectly despite Sunday’s Prologue being the first time they have raced together as a team. Annika Langvad and Kate Courtney of Team Investec Songo Specialized prepare to win the Prologue of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in Cape Town, South Africa on the 18th March 2018. Photo by Greg Beadle/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS The Investec Songo Specialized pair’s time of 53 minutes 18,5 seconds for the 20km course on the slopes of Table Mountain was 1:12,6 ahead of Langvad’s partner when she won in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Switzerland’s Ariane Lüthi, who has teamed up with Belgium’s Githa Michiels (Spur). Sabine Spitz & Robyn De Groot during the Prologue of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in Cape Town, South Africa on the 18th March 2018. Photo by Ewald Sadie/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS They were followed home by two South African / European combinations, with Robyn de Groot and German veteran Sabine Spitz (Ascendis Health/ WIAWIS Bikes) third, 2:14,2 behind the leaders and in turn just one second ahead of Mariske Strauss and her English partner Annie Last (Silverback – KMC). The first all-South African combination was Candice Lill and Amy Beth McDougall (dormakaba) who are fifth, 3.20,8 behind Langvad and Courtney. Langvad, who added a fourth Mountain Bike Marathon World Championship title to her name in 2017, was very happy with the new combination after a near-perfect day on the bike. “We had a really good strategy in our mind and it played played out to perfection today,” she said after crossing the line. “Kate and I have not ridden as a team together but I was really surprised at how well it worked. I think we had it dialled in from the first pedal stroke – it felt really good. “The course was a bit more dry and loose from all the riders who had gone through, but I knew it was going to be that way. I was a very cautious on the loose areas and then tried to push hard on the other areas.” Courtney was very excited with a stage win on her first ever Absa Cape Epic attempt. “It was an incredible team effort today,” said the USA cross-country champion. “Annika is such a team player and she just made sure we played to both our strengths. Rather than put me in the hurt locker on the first day, she really pushed my pace and brought out the best of both of us. Kate Courtney and Annika Langvad from team Investec Songo Specialized winning the Prologue of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in Cape Town, South Africa on the 18th March 2018. Photo by Mark Sampson/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS “I think it is a really, really long race so our goal today was to dial in our team tactics and put in an effort that was strong but also within ourselves, and so to set ourselves up to race strong throughout. “It is all new for me, so that makes it exciting, and I think gives me some advantages in terms of ignorance is bliss – I don’t know exactly how hard it is going to be and so I am just relying on Annika to be our guide and push as hard as possible. “Talk about good mentorship? She has the experience and has spent a lot of time investing in the partnership and the teamwork to make sure we get through all eight stages and to maximise our potential.” Lüthi was not too disappointed to have given away a minute to her former partner. “I was really happy with second. Racing for an hour is a gear up from what I am used to and to race against the cross-country riders is really hard on a stage like this. “My partner Githa Michiels went super hard. She is such a strong rider I am very pleased to have her on my side. “At the Absa Cape Epic you always have to improvise and trouble shoot a little bit. There are amateur riders out there and you are always passing slightly slower teams, so it is not always smooth sailing out there on the route. You have to be super aware and awake for anything that can happen and we adapted well to anything that was in our way. “Now we just have to take it day by day and not do any stupid things. We are probably a little bit stronger over the longer stages. “But congrats to Specialized, Kate and Annika, they have a lot of pressure on them being the favourites and they executed it excellently today.” Ariane Lüthi during the Prologue of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in Cape Town, South Africa on the 18th March 2018. Photo by Sam Clark/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS. By finishing fifth women’s team, Lill and McDougall are the first ever leaders in the newly introduced Absa African Women’s special jersey category. The pair only teamed up this week after both their partners were forced to pull out, but the combinations seems to have clicked quickly. “After just one ride we can see our strengths and weaknesses and adjust our strategy for the week,” said Lill. “The Prologue was never going to be our strength so I was pretty happy. “It would be an honour to have the Absa African Women’s special jersey, but at the same time we think that if everything goes smoothly we can still get a good result overall.” Lill was not prepared to give a prediction of what position she was aiming for, but did say “... a podium would be really great – we are a new combination and it is a strong field.”
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