Great Britain's Evie Richards produced the ride of life to win the XCO world title in Val di Sole, while Switzerland's Nino Schurter claimed his ninth elite crown with an assured performance.

In the Elite Women's race, defending champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot looked to assert her authority on the race just as she had done in Leogang last year. Then the Swiss duo of Jolanda Neff and Sina Frei, the newly crowned Olympic champion and short track world champion respectively, formed the initial chase along with Evie Richards. However, it wasn't long before the Brit went off in sole pursuit of Ferrand-Prevot. In an awesome display of force, Richards then powered into the lead, looking confident and controlled as she moved away from the French rider.

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Neff and Frei were joined by Anne Terpstra, Bec McConnell, and Maja Wloszczowska who chopped and changed places in an exciting fight for the medals. As the bell rang for the final lap, Richards took full control of the race and moved away from the rest of the field. Terpstra found her flow and moved up into second, while the battle for third was anything but over. Ferrand-Prevot, Wloszczowska, and Neff were all in with a shot, but it was Frei who followed up her sprint victory on Thursday with a bronze medal after throwing her wheel across the line ahead of the chasing pack.

Evie Richards, meanwhile, had long ago finished and claimed the rainbow jersey as she became the first British female to win the XCO world title. It was a dominant performance in the most important stage of the year.

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Women's XCO result
1. Evie Richards GBR 1hr23m52s
2. Anne Terpstra NED +1.03
3. Sina Frei SUI +1.08

Men's Race
With Olympic Champion Tom Pidcock (Vuelta Spain) and bike racing superstar Mathieu Van der Poel (injured) were missing, the competition was high. Many athletes who walked away from Tokyo without a medal saw the World Championship as the next opportunity to chase a 2021 title. In the men's race, Ondřej Cink set out at a frantic pace as he moved into the lead, closely followed by Victor Koretzky, Henrique Avancini, Vlad Dascălu, Filippo Colombo, and Mathias Flückiger. However, it was Swiss star Schurter that showed his confidence as he left the pack behind to move into first place. In a difficult year of racing, it was becoming clear the Nino was in excellent form this day.

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By lap two, Flückiger was firmly latched onto the wheel of Schurter and the Swiss duo pulled away from the rest of the early leading group. As the third lap ended the duo was more than 30 seconds clear of Cink, who was riding strongly in third having dispatched Dascălu and Koretzky. Maximilian Brandl and Sam Gaze were both climbing through the pack with serious speed, putting themselves in the mix with Avancini and Alan Hatherly just outside the medals.

Meanwhile, out front, there was nothing to tell between Schurter and Flückiger. The former had the experience, the latter had the recent run of form and both had the rainbow jersey in their sights. As the race entered the final stages and both riders tried to gain position into the final descent, it was Schurter who snuck through to take the lead with a brilliant inside line. From there, he opened up to power his way to an incredible victory. Flückiger was forced to settle for second, while a broken shifter dropped Cink out of the running and it was Koretzky who pulled clear of Dascălu to claim third.

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But the day belonged to Schurter who put any doubts that he was past his best to rest. The 35-year-old winning the elite title for the ninth time, having first claimed the crown in 2009. Nino was able to hang on and close the gap on the descent thanks to his 120mm SCOTT Spark RC and his extraordinary riding skills. Even Flückigers attack on the very last climb couldn't shake Nino. In a thrilling finale, Nino made some risky moves to eventually claim the lead before the last stretch to the finish line. Nino punched with incredible power towards the line securing his first victory of the 2021 season, and one for the history books.

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After the finish, we saw Nino Schurter more emotional than ever. The relief was obvious and could also be heard in his statements:

"It's been a difficult 2021 season for me. Especially with the Olympics not going my way. Therefore this World Champion title is among the most important ones of the 9 I have in the books now. It's not just another title. It's a big release to know I'm still capable of winning big races. I did believe in myself and had people around me supporting me in this. But there were also a lot of people who called me off after not winning anymore. They've now got a reminder: I'm still here!"

- Nino Schurter


Men's XCO result

1. Nino Schurter SUI 1hr22m31s
2. Mathias Fluckiger SUI +0.02
3. Victor Koretzky FRA +1.14

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