After weeks of battling illness, Jolanda Neff is back on top of a World Cup podium!
Jolanda Neff just keeps finding ways to make magic in Mont-Sainte-Anne. On Friday, she won the women’s World Cup short track race with a perfectly executed move to the front of the field on the final lap. She took the third World Cup victory of her career at the venue, going along with XCO wins in 2018 and 2014. She also took second at World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne in 2019.
“It’s a course that I love, and I have all the best memories from this race,” Neff said after the race. “I’m just stoked to be back here after three years, after not coming here due to Covid. It’s beautiful, the trails are incredible, and the race course is just so amazing and fantastic.”
Friday’s race was a thriller. Neff bided her time as the third or fourth wheel in a tightly packed group of the best women’s riders in the world for seven of the eight laps. At the start of the final lap, fellow Swiss rider Alessandra Keller attacked, and only Neff and American national champion Gwendalyn Gibson could follow on the long early climb.
Neff made her move near the end of the race, going around Keller on the outside of a bend ahead of a series of turns before the final short, grassy straightaway to the finish line. After the race, Neff explained that the attack was planned before the start.
“It was incredibly hard, especially the last climb … the speed was incredibly high,” Neff told Red Bull. “I had my plan before the race, but it was still very hard and I know I will be hurting. So I was very happy that I had the right plan and that I could execute it.”
The result should give Neff a big confidence boost. The reigning Olympic champion has struggled to find consistency this season, in large part thanks to a seemingly weekly battle with illness. She began to find her stride last week in Snowshoe, taking fifth in a mud-soaked race.
“Last week in Snowshoe I was surely not in top form coming off illness, but I did the absolute maximum,” Neff said. “Today I already felt so much better on my bike, and just a little bit more confident, a little more at ease. I love racing and I loved that I could play a part at the front of the race today. That was so nice.”
Neff now has two short track wins this season, with her other win coming in Nové Město. On Sunday, she’ll get another crack at her first Olympic-distance victory on the year. In a season filled with fits and starts, there would be nothing sweeter.
“All my life I’ve always felt like racing is what helps me the most to get in shape, and now I’ve had a really good race,” Neff said. “I’m stoked to race on Sunday. We’re taking it step by step every day, and today was a very good step.”