UCI Mountain Bike World Championships: Forchini & Cooper claim Under 23 cross-country titles
Torrential rain began just before the start of the women's race, turning the course into a treacherous mess of mud and slippery rocks and roots. The conditions made the race almost 20 minutes longer then expected, with riders collapsing after they came across the finish line.
World Cup champion Jenny Rissveds (Sweden) took her usual place at the front on the opening lap, but Forchini and Olga Terentyeva (Russia) were steadily moving up at their own pace. Forchini caught Rissveds on the second lap, and the two rode together for a lap before the Swiss rider began to pull away. Terentyeva was also getting closer to Rissveds as the Swedish rider faded, starting the final lap only ten seconds back, and then moving ahead on one of the climbs to claim the silver medal, 39 seconds behind Forchini and 22 seconds ahead of Rissveds.
Based on the conditions the women faced, the men's race was shortened by a lap. The rain had stopped by the time the men started, but a cold mist was rolling in, and the mud was getting sticky as it dried, forcing the riders to work harder.
Sam Gaze (New Zealand), the silver medalist in the Eliminator a few days earlier, charged off the front of the field on the first climb, with team mate Cooper just behind. They were joined initially by Titouan Carod (France), but he dropped back on the second lap, just as his team mate Victor Koretzky was moving up.
Koretzky joined Cooper at the front, and the duo commenced an incredible battle for the rest of the race. Cooper would power away on the climbs and Koretzky would pull him back on the technical descents. Neither could gain more then ten seconds on the other before they came back together.
Behind, Grant Ferguson (Great Britain), the winner of the final round of the World Cup two weeks earlier, was steadily moving up through the field, catching Gaze to move into third, and then clawing his way to within sight of the leaders on the final lap, leading to speculation that the finish might come down to a sprint.
However, Ferguson had reached his limit, and it was down to Cooper and Koretzky for the title. Into the final steep climb with 300 metres to go and Cooper attacked again, eking out a slim two second gap by the top, which he was able to hold for the final 150 metres to the finish line. Ferguson took the bronze medal, 22 seconds in arrears.
Action continues Saturday with Elite XCO going live on www.uci.ch