Round eight of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano saw close battles continue in almost every category contested. The first triple of the year, in Val di Sole, Italy, brought together the downhill, 4-Cross and cross-country athletes for the first time this season.
Anneke Beerten (Suspension Center) took her second straight win of the season, while Jared Graves (Yeti Fox Shox) locked up the men's overall title despite finishing fourth behind Swiss champion Roger Rinderknecht.
Beerten was clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the women's field. Unlike the rest of the riders, she was clearing the same big jumps as the men on the lower half of the course, and easily took the final. Austrian Anita Molcik, her rival for the overall title, did not have the same ability on the more technical aspects of the course, but used her very fast start to win her semifinal and then take second to Beerten in the final. Beerten now leads Molcik by 45 points in the standings, with one race remaining, so this competition is not over.
In the men's event, Rinderknecht had the rare distinction of beating Graves for the number one seed in qualifying. Both riders advanced steadily to the final by winning all of their heats, and were joined by Tomas Slavik (RSP 4 Cross) and Michal Prokop (Agang Racing) in the men's final. In the final, Graves took the lead, but tangled with Rinderknecht in the second corner, falling back to fourth. With Slavik - Graves' only potential rival for the overall title - finishing second, Graves now has 535 points to Slavik's 400 and, with 125 points for a win, it means that the Australian has won the men's title with one race remaining.
The cross-country World Cup once again saw the standings shuffled after round five in Val di Sole, Italy on Saturday. In the women's race, there was a fifth winner in five events, with Maja Wloszczowska (CCC Polkowice) outsprinting Canada's Catharine Pendrel (Luna) to win only the second World Cup of her career. Pendrel regained the lead in the overall standings after losing it a week earlier in ChampÃ©ry, Switzerland. On the men's side, it came down to World Champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) against World Cup leader Julien Absalon (Orbea) in a sprint, and Schurter both won the race and took over the World Cup lead. This makes it three times now that Schurter has beaten Absalon in a sprint, in the past 12 months.
Pendrel now leads the women's World Cup with 794 points, followed by Lechner at 740 and Willow Koerber with 735. In the men's competition Schurter now has 936 points to Absalon's 910, with European champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Rubena-Birrel-Specialized) third at 790.
Emmeline Ragot (Suspension Center) took her second successive World Cup victory in two weekends in the women's competition, with World Cup leader Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis-Rocky Mountain) finishing second. Ragot's victory denied Jonnier the opportunity to lock up the women's World Cup title, and the duo will have to battle it out at the final in Windham, New York later in the month.
On the men's side, Gee Atherton (Commencal) and Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) continue to battle for the World Cup lead. Marc Beaumont (GT) took the victory, with only the second World Cup win of his career, but behind him Minnaar took second and Atherton third. After points from qualifying runs were factored in, Atherton took the leader's jersey from Minnaar by a mere seven points, setting the stage for a huge battle in Windham.
Photo : Victory of Nino Schurter (SUI) in the cross-country