Jolanda Neff secured her first World Cup short track victory since 2019, setting up a BIG Sunday
Jolanda Neff sprinted her heart out in Nové Město on Friday, and took a stunning World Cup short track victory in a bunch group of XC’s fastest riders.
Neff rode near the front of the race for all nine laps, battling with big names like Rebecca McConnell, Alessandra Keller and Loana Lecomte. She cleverly waited to take the front until late in the final lap, then asserted herself as the strongest rider of the day. The course finished with a short, steep climb onto a paved finishing straight. Neff attacked both with everything left in her tank, and held off a large bunch sprint by a bike length at the line.
“It was just perfect. It could not be any better,” Neff said after the race. “Going up the last hill, I thought the whole time that someone was going to pass me. And then I came to the top of the tarmac and I was still in front, and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to sprint now.’ I had the perfect position and I won. It’s amazing.”
The Tokyo Olympic champion had a disappointing race last weekend in Albstadt by her standards, taking fifth and ninth in short track and XCO, respectively. Neff had spent three weeks off her bike prior to the race recovering from illness, and was still searching for her legs.
If Friday was any indication, she’s found her stride.
“I completely changed my mindset from last week to this week, and now I’m telling myself that I had a perfect recovery time and I’m just here fresh and I will have energy for the whole season,” Neff laughed. “I think that makes the whole difference.”
The short track win was Neff’s first since taking two in 2019. On Sunday, she’ll be aiming for her first World Cup XCO victory since 2018. The technical track in Nové Město suits her well. If the finish is anything like it was Friday, we’re in for a treat.
Vlad Dascalu completes first World Cup short track race in fourth
Vlad Dascalu finally got through a World Cup short track race unscathed. In Petropolis, a mechanical issue ended his race after it had barely started. In Albstadt, he sat out the event so he could completely recover from the illness he had been battling during the week. Both weekends, he was forced to start on the fourth row for Sunday’s XCO event, and both times he clawed his way into third-place finishes.
On Friday, he earned his long overdue first row start with a strong short track race on an entertaining course. Like Neff, Dascalu put himself at the front of the race during the final lap. He didn’t have the juice to keep powerful German rider Luca Schwarzbauer from muscling past him during the final stretch, but a solid fourth place finish in a bunch sprint will allow Dascalu to put his best foot forward from the start of Sunday’s Olympic-distance event.
Dascalu is due for a setback-free weekend. Given how he’s performed while battling circumstances out of his control, we can’t wait to see what he does with Sunday’s opportunity.