XCC/XCO UCI MTB World Cup 2023, Nove Mesto (CZE)

For a man ‘born to ride a mountain bike’, the 2023 UCI World Cup XC race season couldn’t come soon enough. But before 2023’s first dance at Nove Mesto came a romp through the Spring Classics on the road that saw Pidcock claim a win in the Strade Bianche as well as strong performances in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Amstel Gold. Additionally, in the offseason, Ineos Grenadiers picked up reigning World XCO Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, making for a formidable pair of Olympic length Cross-Country racers on SR Suntour suspension for the season opener in Nove Mesto, CZE.

Short Track (XCC): Full Tilt Boogie
The way to the XC start grid comes through the Short Track, always held on the Friday evening prior to the main event. For those uninitiated, it’s a short, high intensity slugfest on an abbreviated version of the Cross Country (XCO) track. A top 8 place finish in XCC rewards XCO racers with a front row start—a critical advantage in a sport where a win is often measured in milliseconds.

For this edition of the Czech classic, the XCC event served up a delicious appetizer for the two Ineos Grenadiers riders: a fourth place finish for Prevot—good enough for that coveted front row start in Sunday’s main event; and a solid win for Pidcock, despite having done a 3.5 hour training ride in the morning and being relegated to a 40th start position in XCC.

Olympic Cross Country (XCO): Roots, Rocks, and Rain
Ladies first, is the saying, and the world’s fastest female XCO mountain bike racers toed the line in advance of the elite men’s race under threatening skies. Aboard her freshly minted, TACT equipped Pinarello Dogma, Ferrand-Prevot played it smart, staying close to the leaders while getting a feel for the track and her competitors. Lap 3 saw the French woman take advantage of a mechanical from the race leader and seize the lead, with only one rider able to hang onto her wheel. Ferrand-Prevot remained dominant for the remainder of the race but that one rider unexpectedly slipped past her on the final lap and then put in a massive attack. Prevot simply couldn’t close the gap before the finish straight but came home with a solid grip on 2nd place.

Between the elite women’s race and the elite men’s event the skies opened up. By the call up to the start grid enough rain had fallen to give Pidcock the additional challenge of questionable traction on top of Nove Mesto’s roots, rocks, and a stacked field. But his similarly TACT equipped Pinarello was up to the task, as was the Brit. He quickly took command of the race, and was leading by the end of lap one, followed by a who’s who of elites. The slippery conditions from the rain were definitely a factor, though, as Pidcock had a heavy spill on lap four that briefly saw his control of the race waver. But there’s absolutely no quit in Pidcock. Despite a 13-second deficit, he battled his way back to the leader’s wheel on the fifth lap before dancing his way up the steepest climb with a deceptively vicious attack on the sixth and final lap that saw him make it an elite men’s elite XCO hat trick with a third win in as many years at the Czech venue.

Next will be Lenzerheide, SUI, on June 11. Watch this spot for results!

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