Vlad Dascalu takes first podium with TFR after battling through illness

On a weekend when health wouldn't cooperate, TFR produced two MASSIVE efforts

Bad luck and bad bugs. Sometimes circumstances outside of your control take over at the worst time. 

Jolanda Neff was one of the favorites to win the XC World cup opener in Petropolis this weekend, especially after winning by six-plus minutes in a C1 race on a similar course the weekend before. But a non-Covid illness tore through the Trek Factory Racing XC squad last week, and forced Neff to sit out both the short track and olympic-distance events. 

An exhausted Evie Richards after taking third in short track.

Anton Cooper and Evie Richards also missed time. Cooper sat out the short track event, but rallied to race Sunday and took a solid 16th while still on the mend from a fever, aches and a bad stomach. Richards was forced to sit out Sunday, but she gutted through illness during the women’s short track event Friday to lead out Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Laura Stigger into the finish sprint, and ultimately take third in a photo finish.

“All things considered it was a pretty good day out there in front of a very passionate Brazilian crowd at the first World Cup of the year!” Cooper wrote on Instagram after the race. “I was not confident of racing at all this weekend. Thankfully [on Sunday] I felt in good enough shape to at least start the XCO, especially with my fever, headache, etc., subsiding and my energy levels a lot better. My stomach was still a bit unhappy which made fueling hard and I paid for that after Lap 2 of the race where I felt quite empty. I was happy to finish strong on the last lap and bring it home in 16th place.”

Vlad Dascalu after an incredible battle in the lead group.

Anton Cooper battling through the forest.

Vlad Dascalu started both events, but he, too, couldn’t escape a bit of bad luck. He had a mechanical issue at the start of the short track event, then entered Sunday’s olympic-distance race also feeling under the weather.

But like Richards, he grit his teeth through the pain and gave a spectacular effort. During the fourth of seven laps, he was in a lead group of three riders with Maxime Marotte and world champion Nino Schurter that would ultimately comprise the medal positions.

Dascalu held on for third, just three seconds behind Schurter, who won in a sprint. The result proved that Dascalu still carried the momentum and form from his second-place finish in Snowshoe to close the 2021 World Cup season. And it was especially impressive given the circumstances. During a weekend when no member of the TFR XC squad was feeling 100 percent, the team still emerged with two well-earned elite podiums.

Riley Amos entered the men’s U23 race in good health and spirits. He fortunately dealt with his bout of illness earlier in the week, and his legs felt good as he rode to fourth place. Small crashes on a punishing course slowed him down, but he still managed to find himself in a sprint for a medal, finishing one second behind Oleksandr Hudyma for third, and with the same time as Andres Vittone, who took fifth.

Riley Amos' kit tells the story.

“The first World Cup of the season was full of ups and downs, but will be an amazing memory,” Amos wrote on Instagram after the race. “My legs were absolutely perfect, but just a sloppy race full of little crashes, and having to stop and put my helmet back together kept me just off the podium in fourth place. Good points for the overall, and the confidence that comes from feeling good coming with me into the next two rounds.”