Jolanda Neff grinds her way back onto the podium in Brazil!

The last day of XC World Cup racing in Mairiporã was a thriller, highlighted by big comeback performances

Jolanda Neff was perhaps the strongest rider over the back half of a brutally hot Olympic-distance race on Sunday. She posted the fastest time on the third lap and the third-fastest time on the last lap in Mairiporã to finish fifth, scrapping and clawing her way onto the first World Cup XCO podium of the year. 

Neff didn’t have the start she might have hoped, finishing the opening lap in 20th place, 31 seconds behind the leader. But she stayed calm and picked off her rivals as she expertly paced herself.

Trek Factory Racing-Pirelli XC's sixth Champagne pop of the weekend.

“I had to be patient,” Neff said after the race. “I couldn’t really go faster at the start and I was pretty far back, but I just had to find my rhythm and do my race and listen to my body. And I’m glad I found my pace and I just kept moving up.

“I think this fifth place is the absolute maximum I could do today, and I’m really happy with it.” 

Evie Richards animated the race early on, quickly putting herself in the lead off the start and setting a hellacious pace to string out the crowd. Coming off of Saturday’s short track win, the move looked dangerous, but Richards would lose just a bit of steam to finish ninth.

Jolanda on the hunt for a podium.

Gwendalyn Gibson was unable to finish the race after injuring herself in a crash during the second full lap. She and Neff had been riding well together. We’re hoping for all the best in her recovery.

Madigan Munro scored TFR XC’s first podium on the day. In similar fashion to Neff, she seemed to get faster throughout the race, posting the third fastest final lap to leave behind Valentina Corvi and finish fourth. She took second in short track racing on Friday, giving her the first double podium World Cup performance of her career.

Madigan Munro is on a tear to start her World Cup campaign.

Munro took a spill during the race and scraped up her right knee, but she toughed out the pain to finish strong. 

“Good thing we have lots of physios, they can fix me right up for next week,” Munro said. “It just makes me look tougher on the start line.”

Vlad Dascalu finished 10th in a cagey men’s race where riders struggled to get away until late. Just 29 seconds separated Dascalu from winner Christopher Blevins. If the first race of the season is any indication, the men’s field could be cutthroat. Anton Cooper will look to bounce back quickly after finishing 62nd in Mairiporã.

Vlad Dascalu took 10th in an extremely combative elite men's XCO.

The first World Cup of the season was a wild one — with wicked climbs, high heat, and wild crowds. Round 2 in Araxá could be more of the same. The Trek Factory Racing-Pirelli XC crew won’t be slowing down now.

“I take it with a big smile,” Neff said. “On we go. Another race next weekend, so we’ll see what we can do there.”

Bjorn Riley is one of the top American U23 men's riders.

Trek Future Racing racks up podiums

Trek Future Racing started the year strong, taking five U23 top five finishes across the weekend with Bjorn Riley (2nd in XCO, 4th in short track), Emilly Johnston (3rd in XCO, 5th in short track) and Brazilian rider Giuliana Salvini Morgen (7th in XCO, 4th in short track). 

The squad is dedicated to finding and developing the best cross country MTB riders of tomorrow using advanced scouting and training data. Earlier in the month, the program held a development day in Brazil to give young local riders a chance to show their stuff for a World Cup team. Trek Future Racing’s meticulous efforts appear ready to pay off in a big way this season.

Emilly Johnston has three podiums in four World Cup starts this season.

Riley’s second place finish in the men’s U23 XCO event on Saturday was especially inspiring. He was just nine seconds behind Trek Factory Racing-Pirelli XC’s Riley Amos. The two have been battling each other since the beginning of their careers, and to go 1-2 in a World Cup race showed off how far the Colorado natives have come.

“The USA coming away with 1 and 2, Riley and I have been racing each other since maybe 13 or 12, and every single race we’ve been battling each other,” Riley said. “So being 1 and 2 at the World Cup now, that was like our dream from Day 1.”