MONT-SAINTE-ANNE, Canada (VN) — This year, mountain biking celebrates its 30th anniversary as a UCI world championship sport, and it seemed fitting to add the new discipline of E-mountain biking at one of the oldest venues in the sport – Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada – for the world championships.
Alan Hatherly (South Africa) and Nathalie Schneitter (Switzerland) became the first ever world champions for this event on Wednesday, receiving rainbow jersey with a lightning bolt on the chest.
The UCI set basic standards for the bikes: 25 kilometers-per-hour of maximum power assist; no change of batteries during the race; and no throttles (only pedal-assist).
However, there were no restrictions on battery size, which turned out not to matter, as participants reported no problems with range, even at the highest battery assist settings. The course was adjusted on an almost daily basis leading into the event as organizers and the UCI received feedback from riders. Eventually, the racing circuit came in at just over six kilometers in length, incorporating some features of the traditional cross-country circuit, but also E-MTB specific aspects, such as long and extremely steep climbs and extended descents.
Hatherly, the reigning Under-23 men’s cross-country world champion, proved to be unmatchable, riding away from the rest of the field on the first lap to win by over a minute ahead of Jerome Gilloux of France. Multi-time world and Olympic champion Julien Absalon (France) took the bronze medal, a further 19 seconds back.
Hatherly’s win gave his bike sponsor Specialized bragging rights as the first E-MTB world title winning bike. The South African dodged a bit of a bullet, because he was scheduled to be the anchor rider for his country in the Team Relay an hour before the start of the E-MTB event, but the team was pulled since it was too far behind the leaders, so he did not have to ride his leg of the race.
“I had been overtraining, which forced me onto the E-MTB for recovery, and that really worked in my favor as I got used to the bike,” Hatherley said. “It’s definitely not as easy as getting on the bike and going. You really have to be an all-round competitor to do well, as it is a real combination of a cross-country course and a downhill course.”
The women’s race had only eight competitors, but it included world champions Schneitter and Anneke Beerten (Netherlands), as well as cyclocross continental champion Maghalie Rochette (Canada). Schneitter and Rochette proved to be the strongest, riding away from the rest of the field and catching most of the tail end of the men’s.
Rochette was clearly the strongest on the climbs, but Schneitter used superior technical and descending skills to pull her back each time. At the start of the last lap, Rochette had an 11-second lead, but then made a mistake on a technical section of climbing, enabling Schneitter to rejoin her. The Swiss rider then opened a gap on the final rock garden and held on to win by a slim five seconds, providing her bike sponsor, Trek, with a win. Beerten took third, but was 3:31 back.
“I am super disappointed,” admitted Rochette. “I really wanted to win; it is the very first one in history and it would have been really cool to win it here in Canada. I gave it my all but, in the end, Nathalie was better. I’m a bit mad at myself because I made a mistake on the last lap that cost me. On a technical climb I put my foot down, and when I tried to get going again I crashed, and that’s when Nathalie caught me.”
E-MTB World Championships
- Alan Hatherly, South AFrica, 1:04:53
- Jerome Gilloux, France, at 1:10
- Julien Absalon, France, at 1:29
- Charlie Mullins, United States, at 1:41
- Jaroslav Kulhavy, Czech Republic, at 2:09
- Marco Fontana, Italy, at 2:23
- Miguel Martinez, France, at 2:31
- Kjell van den Boogert, The Netherlands, at 3:01
- Flix Longpre, Canada, at 3:20
- Christoph Sauser, Switzerland, at 3:21
- Nathalie Schneitter, Switzerland, 1:11:38
- Maghalie Rochette, Canada, at 0:05
- Anneke Beerten, The Netherlands, at 3:31
- Nadine Sapin, France, at 4:33
- Caroline Mani, France, at 8:18
- Alba Wunderlin, Switzerland, at 17:10
- Courtnay Romkey, Canada
- Kate Anderson, Australia, both -2 laps