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    How Jordan Sarrou became World Champion in Leogang 2020

    Words Andy Vathis | Photo Rémy Vroonen

Against all odds, the 2020 World Cup race season finally got the much anticipated green light in the late fall. The first XC final was scheduled just a few weeks before old man winter was to make his appearance. However, for the World Championship event held in the Austrian alps, the snow line was already creeping uncomfortably close to the race tape. Finals day in Leogang had the absolute worst conditions imaginable. The saturated track would have many running their bikes through the rutted sections and impossibly slippery climbs. It became very clear early on that those who managed to get to the front of the pack would fair best.

The elusive rainbow stripes remained just that for many hopefuls that were called up to the start line in Leogang. Up until this point, the Champion’s Jersey draped over the back of a Swiss born rider for five straight years. Nobody has been able to crack the code since 2015 in the Men’s Elite field. Lucky for the French, they’ve been making their presence felt on podium for a while now, eagerly lusting at the top step. Extraordinary circumstances had defined the season thus far and Worlds was plagued to followed suit. The venue was grey and gloomy but France’s Jordan Sarrou rocked up looking to add some colour to his kit. He and about 90 others took to the start boxes, all chasing the same destiny. The course was drying slightly, now considered a greasy mess rather than wet, as the clouds above continued to threaten the venue.


Up until this point, the Champion’s Jersey draped over the back of a Swiss born rider for five straight years. Nobody has been able to crack the code since 2015…

LEFT Having multiple World Champion and Olympic Champion Julien Absalon as a team manager means to have the most professional support from someone who knows how to win prestigeous races. RIGHT Launched in 2019, the AXON34 WERX is the new state of the art XC fork crowned with a World Champion title.

France has produced big names in mountain biking and Jordan Sarrou is high on that list. It goes without saying that a major key to success is focus and Sarrou was resilient during the COVID-19 lockdowns back home. He managed to stay healthy and continued to train hard as he awaited the call to finally go racing. Preparation was arguably going to be the deciding factor among the best in the world as the dubbed short season was set to begin.

Rounds one and two in Nove Mesto came and went. Jordan Sarrou was showing promise, finding himself just off the podium headed into Austria. Everyone knew the weather was going to be the biggest factor at Worlds but nobody was expecting how bad it would truly be. Once there, the course was a wash straight away after a healthy amount of rain fell on the first day of training. It was a rutted slippery mess. The idea of having to navigate such a behemoth surely affected the mindset of many riders. The fact that this was mostly a newly cut course amplified the nerves and uncertainties. Comfort levels were at an all time low.

Confidence and a dash of resilience may have been the winning formula come race day. Well, that and the holeshot. In some sort of World Champs miracle, the menacing clouds above did not act on their intentions until the very last lap. However, those dialled in barely even noticed the changing conditions. Jordan Sarrou’s victory at Worlds was in theory a simple formula yet incredibly difficult execute. He carried the momentum gained in Nove Mesto, keeping the race ahead in sight, not the result. He knew his legs were right for the occasion. Staying with the lead group was going to be vital to his race. If he could achieve that, the result will come. His plan was to start strong and keep a smooth pace throughout.

Jordan leading with no persecutor in visual range behind him.

LEFT Almost forgot to mention that Jordans team mate Titouan Carrod won the bronze medal. Double podium for the AXON34 WERX. RIGHT Working two full seasons on Jordans personal setup finally paid-off.

Green meant go at the start line and the Frenchman was hammering down the watts for the holeshot. The lead pack caught him as the cacophony of struggling derailleurs, cleats being smashed into mud-packed pedals, and heavy breaths entered the first big climb. He fought to stay glued to the few that got by as the pack hurried into the woods. Entering the second lap, Sarrou passed the only man ahead of him, Milan Vader, and charged on. The battle for the remaining podium positions raged on behind him but he was never caught in the crossfire. Not even close. To his surprise, part one of his master plan had worked wonders, showing great strength right off the line. He was now the sole proprietor of the top spot with only a potential for a mechanical or blow out standing in his way. His priority now was to keep a steady pace, fending off any attacks.

The laps wore on and nobody had stepped up to challenge Sarrou. He was running away with it, plain and simple. The SR Suntour kitted BMC hadn’t sustained any mechanicals from the less than ideal track conditions. Sarrou peddled his mud soaked bicycle towards the finish with the clouds finally giving way on the last lap. He held onto his staggering 45 second lead and crossed the line in total disbelief. He achieved the seemingly impossible task of winning World Champs and it was nothing short of a spectacular performance.

He achieved the seemingly impossible task of winning World Champs and it was nothing short of a spectacular performance


Julien Absalon and his team: Jordan Sarrou, Titouan Carrod and the mechanic Julien Brugeas.
After all the champions bike is equipped with commercially available suspension products: AXON34 WERX fork and the EDGE RL-R rear shock.