Vlad overcame a mechanical problem to claw his way onto the podium
Trouble seems to find Vlad Dascalu, whether it’s illness, a snapped chain or, in Sunday’s case, a broken saddle. The Romanian talent didn’t let that slowly accumulating pile of problems weigh him down in Albstadt, however. After pulling into the pits for a quick saddle fix on the second lap, he grinded his way through A LOT of climbing back into the leading chase group and, ultimately, a third place finish just behind Nino Schurter.
Early in the race, Dascalu made it clear that his legs were feeling good. He and Schurter created a lead gap on Lap 1, pulling away on the second of two climbs that added up to roughly 900 feet of elevation gain per lap.
On Lap 2, Dascalu was fighting within a lead group along with Schurter, Mathias Flückiger, Alan Hatherly and eventual winner Tom Pidcock. Unfortunately, a saddle problem would slow him down on the descent before the pits. Mechanics switched the saddle swiftly, but he would soon find himself roughly a minute back from the front group, leading the chase.
Through sheer grit, Dascalu put himself within striking distance of a podium box position at the start of the sixth and final lap, in fourth place by eight seconds to Schurter and Titouan Carod, who were 38 seconds back of Pidcock. Dascalu was spry on the climbs, and easily dropped Carod to create a dog fight with Schurter for the line, where he finished just one second out of silver.
The final result was the second best of Dascalu’s young elite World Cup career, behind only his second place finish in Snowshoe last year. He matched his result in Petropolis last April, when he rode through illness to take the third spot on the podium. In both XCO World Cup races, he had to start on the fourth row due to circumstances out of his control during short track — a broken chain in Petropolis, illness in Albstadt.
Given those circumstances, it’s hard not to be impressed with the start of Dascalu’s career with Trek Factory Racing. The 24-year-old now has two XCO World Cup medals on two very different courses, despite having good reason to struggle. At some point soon, Dascalu is going to have a bout of good luck. When he does, watch out.
Up and down
Much like the course in Albstadt, Trek Factory Racing’s weekend featured a lot of highs and lows. The third round of the World Cup is coming up in Nove Mesto next weekend, and there is plenty to chew in the meantime.
Jolanda Neff and Evie Richards never fully found their legs. Neff finished fifth in short track and ninth in XCO, while Richards took 19th and 16th, respectively. After the races, Neff said that she had spent nearly three weeks off her bike while recovering from her illness in Brazil, while Richards admitted Friday that she has been struggling with back problems.
After the race, Richards said that her mission on Sunday was “just to find some good feeling” while riding within her limitations.
“I just wanted to finish the race and not be in so much pain,” Richards said. “Just a sensible consistent race, making sure I was assessing every lap to make sure my back wasn’t getting worse.”
One more week of recuperation should do them a lot of good. Ditto Anton Cooper, who finished 24th in short track and 17th in XCO. Cooper is still finding his race legs after a long offseason, and more racing should help him round into form.
In U23 racing, Riley Amos finished eighth after competing for a spot on the podium box with the leading chase group for most of the race. In the women’s race, Hattie Harnden took 23rd, while Maddie Munro had to sit out her planned 2022 World Cup debut due to a crash in pre-riding.
Nove Mesto is just around the corner, giving everyone a chance to score some quick redemption on another iconic course. Stay tuned, there are epic battles to come.