XCO MTB World Cup – blog
The British cyclist looked out of phase wearing the iconic white and rainbow-striped jersey, and set off for the 2022 World Cup opener in Petrópolis, Brazil, after a well-deserved rest and excellent pre-season preparation. It was the first UCI World Cup race in Brazil since 2005. As a result, the course was somewhat unfamiliar to the majority of Elite class riders.
“The fans are so passionate,” Evie said. “It was cool to be part of this real buzz and they were so excited to have us there in their hometown.”
Unfortunately for Richards, she also had to deal with stomach ailments which had spread to some of the teams in the paddock. Despite everything, she managed to start the short track race (XCC).
“I had been bad for a day or two before, but I thought I didn’t feel good because I was so nervous or something,” she said. “When some of the other people on the team had the same symptoms, I realized he wasn’t nervous. I hadn’t been able to keep the food in me, I felt super empty and I couldn’t have gels nor my usual Red Bull before the start.”
Despite an empty race, she managed to be in contention for victory, battling with Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Laura Stigger on the last lap. She couldn’t hold on to those two as the race reached its final and had to settle for third place.
“Going up that last hill I could barely pedal and when I sat down to put my dropper down I had a hard time getting up because I had no energy in me,” he said. she declared. the podium was crazy. I was so happy but I felt so bad that after the race I just wanted to go back to bed. It was kind of a bittersweet feeling.
Arrival Women’s XCC – Petrópolis
Find out who won the women’s XCC race at the opening round of the UCI Cross Country World Cup in Brazil.
Given his illness, it was no surprise to see Richards retire from XCO racing.
“Not being able to make it to the first World Cup of the year, especially in the rainbow stripes… I had no more tears to cry that week,” she said. “I had cried for the first half of the week because I was in so much pain in my back and then I felt so bad for the second half of the week. I had to put my health first. At the least, that decision was taken away from me because I was in no condition to race.
“I know after last year’s disappointment in Albstadt that the season is still long enough to turn things around. I’m not panicking. I’m just going to go out there, be excited to race and be in the mix with all these girls. I’m not expecting an incredible result, but I’m happy to be back on track and feeling good on the bike.
Evie’s Rainbow Year: Albstadt
Hear Evie Richards’ thoughts on her performance at the Mercedes-Benz UCI Cross-Country Mountain Bike World Cup stop in Albstadt, Germany.
The preparation in Albstadt a few weeks later was far from ideal. The stomach problem that prevented the 25-year-old Briton from competing in the XCO race in Petrópolis prevented her from training properly for a few weeks afterwards. She was also suffering from back pain heading into the German weekend, and the omens were not good to run with.
“I had so many back problems since the first race of the season and Albstadt was aiming to feel good on the bike and progress from there,” she said. “Long climbs with a bad back are horrible because you’re just in one position so it’s super painful. It was like one of the biggest challenges that worried me.”
XCC racing has been a fast and furious affair. Richards stayed in contention with the lead group until lap 4 before crashing out to finish 19th at the end of the race. The result was enough to retain her 5th place finish in the XCC competition, but meant she would start from the third row in Sunday’s Olympic distance race. Due to her injury, she focused on finishing rather than winning.
“During the first few laps my back felt so much better,” she said. “It was such a sharp pain – like someone had knives in their back. Today was just sore, which meant I could push the power.”
At one point she sat just outside the top 10, but the pain eventually got too much and she began to fall back to her final position of 16th. She was, however, pleased with her performance.
“There was definitely a big improvement and there were little moments in the race where I felt like myself and that makes me excited.
“After Brazil, I was just grumpy at home but I feel like I got my spark back. I’m excited for Nové Město – my family and my coach are coming, and I love Nové Město too. I I had a good race this year at Albstadt but 16th with back pain is an improvement and prepares me better for the end of the season.”
Evie’s Rainbow Year: Nové Město
Hear Evie Richards’ thoughts on her performance during the Mercedes-Benz UCI Cross-Country Mountain Bike World Cup stop in Nové Město, Czech Republic.
Coming into the Nové Mesto World Cup round, just a week after the previous one in Albstadt, was never going to be easy given his ongoing back problems. Nové Mesto is of course the stage where Richards took her first victories at the elite level and where she won back-to-back XCC races during the abbreviated 2020 season.
“My tactic before the race was just to be brave, to face it all and be proud to finish,” she said. “Although it was quite difficult, I think I did it.”
In the XCC race, Richards seemed to be there or thereabouts and in the mix of the lead group, but like in Albstadt a week earlier, she faded, finishing 33rd.
“I was in the leading group but I was struggling… In this kind of race, unless you fall and knock everyone down, there’s no chance of coming back.”
His arrival in XCC meant a fourth-place start for Sunday’s Olympic distance race. As in Albstadt the previous week, she was simply concentrating on finishing.
“Normally I really enjoy back-to-back World Cups – it’s nice to be out with the team for a few weeks. But when it’s back-to-back and you’re dealing with a problem, it’s really difficult because that you don’t have time to solve it in the week in between.
A good start places her in the leading group. But by the end of the second full lap, it was clear she was battling her back pain as well as those around her.
“I was really controlled. I didn’t want to push too much on that first loop. I progressed very easily and even when I was sitting in that group near the front I felt really in control. I didn’t I wasn’t really out of breath and felt really durable in that position.
“As soon as my back is turned, I can’t do anything but keep fighting.”
One mechanical – a flat rear tire – dashed any hopes of a top-20 finish, and she crossed the finish line in a respectable 36th place.
“I went through the upper feeding zone and had to [got a puncture] go down this descent. It took quite a half-turn to get to the [next] feed and my back was super bad anyway. It wasn’t great, but having a break from feeding while they did my puncture gave me time to stretch my back – not even sure if I would have finished if I hadn’t had this time because it relieved a lot of pain.
“I was pretty pissed off after the race. I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through the pain that I feel like I’m going through right now.
It’s no longer fun to run – it’s so painful
Richards now has a four-week break before the next World Cup in Leogang, but his only goal for the foreseeable future is to return to full fighting form.
“My goal is to better recover my back. I’ve been dealing with this since February and if I can’t improve, maybe I have to miss Leogang. It’s not a fun race anymore, it’s so painful. I just need to improve that and we’ll go from there.