Impressions of the Vallnord XCO

I spent a hunk of time on Sunday watching replays of the Men’s and Women’s XCO races from Vallnord, Andorra (seemingly the closest I get to actually racing these days). I have to say I was impressed  and unimpressed with a few things. The following are my unsolicited and most likely unwanted comments, possibly written for no other reason than to use the words impressed and unimpressed as many times as I can in a blog post.



Nino Schurter is an animal!

I have been impressed with Schurter for a long while, but seeing him puncture on the first lap, ride the flat for a good piece of the lap to the tech zone, fall up to 30+ seconds off the leader at times, then claw his way back and finally pass Ondrej Cink (Mulitivan Merida) on the last lap was damn impressive and fun to watch. He was up, out of the saddle attacking, suffering and working like a rabid dog to earn the win. ANIMAL! Then again, the comeback would have been all the more impressive in the pre-tech zone days when racers fixed their own flats. Just sayin’.

In Cink

Equally  impressive was the 23 year old, Czech Republic racer that he passed– Ondrej Cink of Mulitivan Merida.


Cink lead a large portion of the race and looked all but unbeatable until that last lap when Schurter finally caught him. He is quoted in the UCI’s press recap as saying “On the second lap everyone was going slowly and no one wanted to take the lead, so I went my own pace and by the top of the climb I had a good gap.” Makes it sound easy, doesn’t he? I admit it was heartbreaking to see him lose the race, but at just 23 years old, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of Ondrej Cink in the years to come.


Maybe it’s just because I am old, but I can’t help but be impressed by seeing 37 year old Miguel Martinez still racing and mixing it up with the top racers in the world and finishing 9th on the day in Vallnord. For those who may not remember, the little Frenchman has two Olympic medals (Bronze in Atlanta in 1996 and Gold in Sydney in 2000) to his credit and also won the 2000 XC World Championship in Sierra Nevada. Right on Miguel, keep on racin’. Let the couch surfing and beer drinking to people like me!

Vallnord, Andorra

Holy crap! Vallnord Andorra looks awesome. With trails out the yin-yang, beautiful big ass mountains, tax fee shopping and a reported 300+ days of sunshine a year, it sure does look good.

Sort of Unimpressed

Julian Absalon (BMC) had a race that was both impressive and unimpressive. Dropping a chain right out of the start Absalon shot out the back like poop through a goose. Like Schurter, he battled back, passing riders with explosive power both uphill and down. Late in the race his chain would give him issues yet again, costing him seconds but he still worked his way back for an impressive 8th place finish considering all the problems. This is the second World Cup race this year Absalon suffered a mechanical. Why do I have the feeling that his mechanic is sweating bullets?


Not so much unimpressed as bewildered as to what is up with 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized) finishing in a distant 34th place? It seems even he would like to know, posting on his Facebook page Saturday “Something is bad in my body. We have to find out ASAP. Hope that [I] will be okay soon and [I] can race 100%.”


What IS unimpressive in my opinion is the continued use of baggy shorts by the Cannondale team. Yeah, yeah, I know a lot of folks love to ride in baggies and not show off their man parts or lady-bits, but the idea of racing in the heat wearing baggies sort of gives me the heebie jeebies. Of course I have no doubt that Marco Fontana and the just back from injury Manuel Fumic could ride my aging fat ass into the ground even if they were wearing their granny’s house coat and slippers and using a BMX bike with a flat tire.

Elite Men Podium

  1. Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower Racing Team) 1:17:07
  2. Ondrej Cink (Multivan Merida) + 0:00:06
  3. Stéphane Tempier (BH-SR Suntor-KMC) + 0:00:11
  4. Maxime Marotte (BH-SR Suntor-KMC) + 0:00:31
  5. Gerhard Kirschbaumes (TX Active Bianchi) + 0:00:45

Top U.S. Men

There were no U.S. Men (unimpressive?)

The Women’s race may have been MORE impressive.


On word: SPITZ!

If you thought I was impressed with 37 year old Miguel Martinez still racing and mixing it up, you KNOW I was impressed with Sabine Spitz, who at 42 years old young was the oldest racer amongst either category, is just recovered from a pre-season shoulder injury AND took her first World Cup victory since 2002 on Saturday.

What about the none-Spitz’s-is-z?

Sabine Spitz winning was no doubt impressive, but even more so was the fact that after almost an hour and a half of racing it came down to four women and made for one hell of an exciting finish with Spitz taking the win by just ONE second over Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team), four seconds over Eva Lechner and nine seconds over fellow cougar Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa!

Julie Bresset


Julie Bresset claimed on her Facebook page that she didn’t have the greatest of races and suffered a bit from the altitude in Vallnord. That may be true, but the 2012 Olympic gold medalist did still manage to finish 10th and gave us the photo above which is among my favorite of the year thus far. XCO Ti’fo:zi!

Jolanda Neff

To tell you the truth, 20  year old Jolanda Neff didn’t do anything over the top impressive at Vallnord (other than finishing 7th and having good hair), I just like to say Jolanda Neff.

Elite Women’s Podium

  1. Sabine Spitz (Sabine Spitz Haibike Pro Team) 1:26:54
  2. Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) + 0:00:01
  3. Eva Lechner (Team Colnago Sudtirol) + 0:00:04
  4. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Multi-Van Merida) + 0:00:09
  5. Tanja Zakelj (Unior Tools Team) + 0:01:24

Top U.S. Women

20th Georgia Gould (Luna Pro Team) + 0:05:47
35th Judy Freeman (Crankbrothers) + 0:11:06

Photos: UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on Facebook. Used with hopeful permission.
Text: Jason Mahokey,, (I made that up).


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