Evie Richards won in Banyoles after nearly missing her flight

Evie Richards and Jolanda Neff went 1-2, standing on the podium together for the first time in their careers

The 2021 cross country mountain biking season got off to a perfect start for the Trek Factory Racing women. Evie Richards won the Copa Catalana Internacional in Banyoles with a healthy 21-second margin over the runner-up, teammate Jolanda Neff. Both have won their share of elite races; on Saturday, they got to stand on a podium together for the first time.

“It was a dream start for our team with a double win,” Neff said. “Evie was on the turbo, she was flying. It was a really close race with everyone, but in the last lap Evie really pulled away and made a gap.”

The result was especially sweet given what both riders had to go through before Banyoles. Richards nearly didn’t make it to the race due to a paperwork issue. Neff missed the Copa Catalana Internacional last year while recovering from a frightening crash; with the silver medal, she earned her first XC podium since winning Ready Steady Tokyo in October, 2019.

Jolanda Neff outdueled Elisabeth Brandau to take silver by five seconds.

Evie Richard and Jolanda Neff shared a podium for the first time in their decorated careers.

“After canceled flights and a super long travel day the previous day, I just felt very lucky to be at the race,” Richards said. “I trained super hard this winter, so I was very happy that it showed in this race. I always get very nervous at the first race of the season that I’ll be rubbish, so it gives me confidence heading into my next block of training.”

In the men’s race, Stéphane Tempier took 14th place in a tight battle — he was 1:46 behind winner Victor Koretzky, and 35 seconds out of a top 10 placing. He noted on Instagram that Banyoles has a way of shocking the system after the offseason. In 2020 he finished 10th, 1:22 out of first.

Stéphane Tempier battling in Banyoles.

As for Richards and Neff, what could have been an inauspicious start instead became a major confidence booster. They’re barreling into their return to XC racing with full momentum.

“Last year I was here next to the track as a spectator,” Neff said. “It has been great to get between the tape again. I’m so happy that we’re starting and I’m so happy that we were able to have this race. The support from the team was great, and it was a very good day.”