Evie Richards and Jolanda Neff stood on a podium together for the third time this year
Evie Richards and Jolanda Neff have been arguably the strongest riders of the last two months in women’s XC racing — Neff winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Richards winning a world championship and the World Cup race in Lenzerheide.
On Friday, the two brought out all of their firepower for the short track race in Snowshoe. On the final World Cup weekend of the year, the two teammates put on a show that ended with a sprint finish. Richards edged out Neff by just two seconds after fighting hard to get to the finish straight in first position.
The two collapsed on the ground and hugged as soon as the race ended.
“I was pleased, but you never know because everyone is so fast,” Richards said when asked how she accomplished her latest great result. “I suppose you’ve just got to go as fast as you can and hope that that’s enough.”
Richards made her winning move on a short, steep uphill in the closing few hundred meters of the flat, fast track. Neff appeared to be in good position to take the win when she started on the slope first, but once again Richards’ pure power was impossible to beat.
“I kind of knew that whoever got on the finish straight first, that one was much, much more likely to win,” Neff said after the race. “So the final sprint was kind of up the last hill, and Evie was stronger than I was there.”
Although she didn’t take the win, Neff was very happy with the result, and will head into Sunday’s Olympic-distance race full of confidence.
“I’m very happy about today. I don’t know where it came from,” Neff said. “I think in Lenzerheide in the short track, I went a bit too hard because I came from the back. So today I wanted to have a good race. My goal was top 8, and I’m second, so that’s great.”
The two were at the front of the race from the start, taking turns leading the pack along with the likes of Linda Indergand, who finished fourth, and Jenny Rissveds, who finished third. Neff took the lead at the start of the last lap, and only Richards could keep her wheel.
In the end, they stood on a podium together for the third time this season. Richards and Neff opened the year with a 1-2 start. They’re hoping to close it that way, too.