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Once again, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, saw close battles in the fifth round of the cross-country World Cup. World champion Catharine Pendrel (Luna) took her second consecutive victory at the venue and bolted to the front of the overall series rankings, while Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) took his third victory of the season in the men's event, to extend his series lead.
Heavy rain the night before dampened the track and made the wooded sections muddy and even more technical at this classic venue, but the riders responded by racing harder than ever. Georgia Gould (Luna), the 2011 U.S. National Champion, jumped out to an early lead in the women's race, chasing her first ever World Cup victory. However, Pendrel, after a slow start, steadily moved through the ranks, getting stronger as the race progressed. As her teammate faded, the Canadian champion was speeding up, and took the lead on the last lap for her second victory of the season. Gould held on for second, with local favorite Marie-Helene Premont taking a very popular third place.
In the absence of World Cup leader Julie Bresset (BH-SR Suntour-Peissey Vallandry), Pendrel has jumped out to a 190-point lead in the standings over Bresset, with Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) moving into third.
"I had a slow start," admitted Pendrel, "and it took me a while to work my way up to the leaders. Georgia [Gould] was riding really strongly for the first part of the race, but I could see I was bringing her back in the last two laps. I can tell my form is building every week, so this is just another step towards the Olympics."
The men's race saw Schurter quickly assert his dominance. He was unchallenged for the first half of the race, until Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), the winner of the world championships on this circuit in 2010, moved into second and closed to within 16 seconds by the fourth lap of six. When Schurter flatted with a lap and a half to go, it looked like his bad luck of the 2010 world championships was about to happen again. However, the World Cup leader battled to rejoin his Spanish rival at the front, and the two rode together through the rain and mud on the final lap. Coming into the final 100 meters the pair was still together, but Schurter, one of the best sprinters in mountain biking, held off his rival to extend his lead in the overall standings. World champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) took third.
Schurter extended his lead in the standings, and is now 165 points ahead of Kulhavy, with Burry Stander (Specialized) moving into third.
"This is such a rough, rooty course that it is hard to avoid problems," commented Schurter. "I was very concerned when I flatted, but I had a quick change in the tech zone and was able to rejoin Jose. It was so slippery that neither of us could attack on the last lap, and I just waited until that final corner on the course for the sprint."