The opening triple-header round of the Nissan UCI MTB World Cup in Pietermaritzburg represented the first time that World Cup XC racing had visited Africa. The women’s XC race opened the weekend’s action around the 4.7km loop, with Austria’s Elisabeth Osl (Central Ghost Pro Team) attacking early, extending her lead through the race and taking her first World Cup win.
Mary McConnelough was running in second place early on, but was overhauled by Irina Kalentieva (Topeak Ergon), Lene Byberg (Specialized Factory Team) and World Champion Margarita Fullana (Massi). McConneloug managed to hold on to fifth place.
In the men’s race, a group of six took to the front – Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), defending World Cup and Olympic champ Julien Absalon (Orbea), World Champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized Factory Team), local favourite Burry Stander (Specialized), Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Massi).
Mid-race, Absalon attacked, but Hermida and Stander stayed with him. Biding his time, Hermida waited a lap before launching his own attack, managing to open a gap on Absalon and Stander and leaving them fighting for second place. Despite vocal crowd support, South African Stander couldn’t stay with Absalon on the run in to the finish, although winning the under-23 competition will have been some consolation.
British interests in the opening round were represented by Liam Killeen and Oli Beckingsale, who finished 20th and 22nd respectively.
- Jose Hermida 1:55:03
- Julien Absalon +00:32
- Burry Stander +00:52
- Christoph Sauser +01:17
- Wolfram Kurschat +01:20
- Elisabeth Osl 1:40:50
- Irina Kalentieva +02:07
- Lene Byberg +02:46
- Margarita Fullana +03:58
- Mary McConneloug +04:24