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Alessandra Keller mastered rainy and muddy conditions to take her first-ever World Cup XCO race in Snowshoe, West Virginia on Sunday.
As fog set in over Snowshoe Mountain and rain loomed close, it seemed as if it would be a battle of the United States versus Europe.
Jenny Rissveds led the first lap followed by Jolanda Neff, Anne Terpstra, and Alessander Keller. Rissveds and Neff mastered the muddy, rooty, and slick technical singletrack sections, but the race came back together at the feed zone.
By the second lap, four Americans had organized themselves into a chase group consisting of recently-crowned national champion Savilia Blunk, Friday’s short track winner Gwendalyn Gibson, Kate Courtney, and Haley Batten. Neff dropped back, not able to match the pace at the front of the race.
Blunk and Batten moved up into fourth and fifth positions on the next lap, while Moana Mitterwallner chased her way up, picking off riders. The Austrian eventually caught up with Batten, and Blunk fell off the pace.
As the race went on and the rain continued to fall, Keller and Rissveds only solidified their gap. On lap 6, Rissveds opened a gap on Keller, but the Swede began to blow up and Keller made her way back. Rissveds led on the final lap, but slipped out on a slick grassy corner and Keller made her race-winning escape.
“I managed to not crash, to basically ride smooth and obviously it was the fastest,” Keller said.
“She [Rissveds] crashed twice, and when I saw her crash in the last lap, I just took the opportunity and went all in. I knew there’s still a bit of energy in my body for the uphill so I tried to push as hard as possible. To be honest she was definitely faster on the downhills so I just managed to do the best overall and that’s what it is for the win.”
Rissveds placed second, and Terpstra was third. Rissveds said that the slick conditions and a lack of focus led to her crash on the last lap.
“It was quite a lot more slick on the last lap compared to the first couple of laps, Rissveds said. “I lost the focus for like two seconds because I was listening for Alessandra, I thought she was on my wheel.”
Blunk was the top-placed American in sixth followed by Batten and Gibson. Courtney finished tenth.
Terpstra’s result was enough to take away the overall World Cup series leader’s jersey from Rebecca McConnell, who slipped a pedal at the start and couldn’t make her way back to the front. Terpstra is the first Dutch woman to ever wear the World Cup leader’s jersey.
“Usually I’m not the best rider in mud, so I’m super happy to see in this race I think I stepped up my game,” she said. “There’s still some work to do but I was competitive today.”
- Alessandra Keller: 1:24:35
- Jenny Rissveds: 1:25:12
- Anne Terpstra: 1:25:25
- Mona Mitterwallner: 1:25:42
- Jolanda Neff: 1:26:59