Christopher Blevins (United States) and Sina Frei (Switzerland) claimed the first ever Cross-Country Short Track world titles on Thursday at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy.
Fresh off a silver medal ride at the Tokyo Olympics, Frei battled with an elite selection of riders at the front for most of the seven-lap women’s race, with Evie Richards (Great Britain) and Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) putting in attacks, before she made a move of her own on the final lap. She worked out a small gap, but Richards put in a big effort to close down Frei’s advantage in the finale.
Frei was still at the front onto the final straightaway, however, and she opened up the sprint with a powerful kick. Richards made a strong surge to nearly pull even, but Frei narrowly held on to take the victory over the Brit, which was only confirmed after a review of the finish. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (France) rounded out the podium in third.
On the men’s side, Blevins stayed patient as others put in early attacks in the eight-lap race. The 23-year-old American ultimately worked his way into a lead group that also contained Maximillian Brandl (Germany), Henrique Avancini (Brazil), Alan Hatherly (South Africa), and Ondrej Cink (Czech Republic), and then Brandl attacked on the penultimate lap.
The German initially worked out to a solid advantage but Cink and Avancini helped bring him back. Avancini then put in a big dig in the finale, but Blevins and Brandl closed that down, and then Blevins surged to the front to lead the way onto the finishing straight. There was no catching him in the final sprint, where he held on to become the first American man to win a world title in a cross-country mountain bike race since John Tomac all the way back in 1991. Avancini settled for second with Brandl in third.