Commonwealth Games silver medallist Evie Richards celebrated another podium finish as she came home second in the women’s Under-23 race at the 2018 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Albstadt.
Riding for Trek Factory Racing, Richards overcame tricky racing conditions to finish as runner-up behind Ghost Factory Racing’s Sina Frei of Switzerland – backing up her third-place finish at the season opener in Stellenbosch in March.
The muddy and slippery conditions around the German course were a constant hazard for riders in the following two elite races too, with Gold Coast 2018 champion Annie Last posting the best British result with eighth in the women’s race.
Racing continues next weekend as the action descends on Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic.
Richards transfers form back to World Cup scene
Having shown she could mix it with the best with Commonwealth Games silver on the Gold Coast last month, 21-year-old Evie Richards was among the forerunners once again as attention turned back to the World Cup.
She enjoyed a fascinating battle with Swiss rider Frei throughout, never allowing the early leader to feel too comfortable.
Indeed it soon turned into a two-way battle for the win with Frei’s teammate and nearest challenger Malene Degn falling over a minute back as the race opened up.
Richards was just over 20 seconds adrift of Frei heading into the final lap but the Swiss rider was able to maintain the gap, despite the slippery conditions, to cross first in 1:18.04 and take maximum points.
Richards’ finish time came up as 1:18:25 with Denmark’s Degn over three and a half minutes further back in third.
Fellow Brit Sophie Wright (1:29.22) was 17th, Great Britain Cycling Team’s Emily Wadsworth finished on -1 lap while Isla Short did not finish the race.
The result leaves Richards third in the individual standings after third and second-place finishes from the opening two races this season. Frei leads the way on 160 points, ten ahead of Degn with Richards on 130.
Last battles to top-ten finish
Victorious in the mud in Lenzerheide last year, Commonwealth champion Annie Last had already showed she could handle difficult conditions.
However the Team KMC EKOI SR Suntour rider also found herself up against in-form world champion Jolanda Neff who put in a supreme ride to take the win.
The Kross Racing Team rider led from start to finish to win by over two minutes as her rivals found the pace too hot.
The race was dotted with crashes and near misses, including Alessandra Keller flying over her handlebars on a tricky descent on lap one, as Neff led early on and Last found herself fifth going into the second lap.
But the Brit was to lose crucial ground on the next lap, dropping down to ninth and three minutes behind Neff as Keller recovered from her crash to sit second.
Neff was too good for her rivals, closing out the second half of the race to win by 2:16 minutes but it was an enticing battle for the top three with Yana Belomoina getting the edge of CST Sandd American Eagle MTB Racing Team teammate Anne Tauber for second, with Keller fourth.
Ferguson and Bell grind it out
With the course deteriorating and grip hard to find, it was always going to be tough going for Rio 2016 Olympian Grant Ferguson (CST Sandd American Eagle MTB Racing Team) and Tom Bell.
British champion Ferguson was the best of the two, crossing the line in 71st in 1:42.03 while Bell ranked 96th on -2 laps.
Victory went to SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing’s Nino Schurter in a time of 1:28:07, beating nearest rival Stephane Tempier by 16 seconds.