The TFR XC squad had a big day, highlighted by Vlad Dascalu's thrilling second-place
We knew Nové Město wouldn’t disappoint. No one could have anticipated just how thrilling the racing would be, however, nor how fruitful.
Across the men’s and women’s elite XCO races on Sunday, Trek Factory Racing XC took three of the top eight podium spots, highlighted by Vlad Dascalu’s second-place finish in a sprint with Olympic champion and Albstadt winner Tom Pidcock. Dascalu earned a first-row start after short track racing Friday, and made the most of the opportunity.
Entering the final lap, Dascalu was in a leading group of five riders who had separated themselves well ahead of the field, along with Pidcock, Mathias Flückiger, Alan Hatherly and TFR teammate Anton Cooper, who would finish fourth (more on his ride in a moment). Dascalu attacked on the hilly middle portion of the course, and created a threatening gap that only Pidcock could close once the course had flattened out into less root-y terrain. In the paved approach to the finish line, Dascalu emptied everything he had in the tank, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the surging Brit who snuck ahead off of Dascalu’s wheel.
Behind them, Cooper found himself in a dog fight with Hatherly, Flückiger and world champion Nino Schurter, who mounted an impressive comeback to rejoin the lead group after an earlier flat tire. Cooper couldn’t fend off the rainbow jersey, but he pipped Hatherly and Flückiger at the line to finish fourth, and earn his best World Cup finish since taking third in Leogang last year.
For Dascalu, the result only reaffirmed that he is arguably the strongest men’s XC rider thus far this season not named Tom Pidcock. He has now taken third twice in World Cup XCO races after fourth row starts, and put on an impressive last lap display in Nové Město for second. The result matched his best ever XCO finish in Snowshoe last year, which means he has now finished top three in four straight World Cup XCO starts.
For Cooper, his fourth-place finish means he has officially found his legs after a few setbacks and bobbles to start the year. He made a big leap from his 16th- and 17th-place finishes in Petropolis and Albstadt, respectively, and may be racing into the form he enjoyed last year when he finished eighth or better in four straight starts, including taking third in Leogang and sixth at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Back on a World Cup podium and boy it feels good!” Cooper wrote on Instagram after the race. “Also the first time sharing an Elite podium with a teammate and taking home the team of the day! Congrats Vlad Dascalu and Trek Factory Racing XC! Can’t wait to do it all again soon.”
Jolanda Neff took fourth in the women’s race after a long day riding solo in fourth position. She couldn’t quite latch on when a leading group of three riders — made up of Rebecca McConnell, Loana Lecomte and Jenny Rissveds — formed on the second lap. That trio would make up the top three at the finish, while Neff plugged along a difficult course largely by herself. She cross the line 2:22 behind McConnell, the winner, and just ahead of fifth place Caroline Bohé and sixth place Mona Mitterwallner, who got close to Neff at the end.
Neff had a strong weekend overall, kicked off by an impressive sprint to win Friday’s short track race. After a relatively quiet start to the season — Neff sat out the World Cup opener in Brazil, and took fifth and ninth in short track and XCO, respectively, in Albstadt — she appears to be back on track to compete for the top steps of podiums.
“Super happy with my race today,” Neff wrote Sunday. “Amazing support from all the fans, thank you! Five places forward in just one week! Hoooo, it feels good! Thanks to my whole team for the perfect bike and setup and the good mood all week!”
In U23 racing, Riley Amos and Maddie Munro both clawed their ways back from deep in their fields to take sixth and 11th, respectively. Amos was just 15 seconds away from third place even after taking a hard fall in the start loop. Munro made her 2022 World Cup debut on Saturday race after missing Albstadt due to a head injury suffered in pre-riding. She showed that she’s in fine form, landing just 23 seconds away from the top 10 despite starting from the fourth row.
After two straight weeks of World Cup racing, the TFR XC squad will take four weeks off until its next World Cup race in Leogang from June 10-12. If Nové Město was any indication, the team has BIG things in store.