Competitions

Keller & Koretsky come out on top at Short Track World Cup in Nove Mesto Na Morave.

300


Two tight short track (XCC) races in Nové Mĕsto Na Morave saw Switzerland’s Alessandra Keller (Thomas Maxon) and Victor Koretsky (Specialized Factory Racing) of France emerge victorious. Keller’s first win of the season took her to the top of the overall standings, while Koretzky made it two in a row to strengthen his grip over the competition.

Nové Mĕsto Na Moravĕ, one of the big courses in short track, known for its cagey racing and close finishes, played to type on round three of the UCI Cross-country Short Track (XCC) World Cup. Both men’s and women’s races came down to the wire. Alessandra Keller (Thömus Maxon) went solo and fended off an explosive late chase from Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Ineos Grenadiers) to hang on for the women’s win. The men’s came down to a mass sprint from which Victor Koretsky (Specialized Factory Racing) proved fastest, with his team-mate Chris Blevins making it a Specialized 1-2.

Unlike the previous day’s U23 races which unfolded in the wet, the elite XCCs were raced in dry conditions, which kept both together and many riders in contention for their duration. From a stacked women’s elite XCC field overall leader Haley Batten (Specialized Factory Racing) exploded off the grid, but no rider was able to achieve any early superiority, as the lead changed hands multiple times in the opening laps.  

Keller, Batten and Chiara Teocchi (Orbea Factory Team) all spent time on the front in the first phase of the race. Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) suffered a painful crash near the start of the second lap, but recovered to resume racing and battled her way back into contention.  

Keller made her first move over the rollers on lap four, briefly enjoying a gap over the field before being brought back. Her second, ultimately decisive attack, came on the jumps on lap 6. She pushed on to forge herself a short lead that became a significant one over Pieterse and the pack.   

As Keller gritted her teeth and blew out her cheeks, the field had no response for several minutes. With track running out, UCI World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Ineos Grenadiers) had the most left in the tank to attempt an acceleration in Keller’s direction. It was too little too late as Keller dug in for the win.  

“I felt really strong,” she said afterwards. “I decided I should attack with two laps to go, had a little gap, and just went all in. Everything worked out perfectly, but it was very hard for the last lap.”   As well as the win, Keller usurps American Haley Batten (Specialized Factory Racing) at the top of the overall standings. Batten finished third and is now in second place, 30 points back.

The men’s race was an even closer affair. Though many recognized that the safest place to be was towards the front, none of the riders in the strong field was inclined to show their hand early.  

Hard racing saw the field strung out for most of the opening minutes before things settled for a short spell midway through the third lap. Riders briefly looked around at each other before things began to wind up again into lap four.   In his first race of the 2024 WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series, Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), winner of Amstel Gold Race on the road last month, waited towards the back for the first few laps before easing his way through the field.  

Luca Schwarzbauer (Canyon CLLCTV XCO) upped the ante on lap four, and Nino Schurter (Scott-Sram MTB Racing Team) was also looking good, but the wide course made it difficult for any rider to maintain position.   Going into the final laps it was still anyone’s race and few were completely out of it. Koretzky led the pack into lap 7 but even as the speed was increasing the riders were five-abrest before the climb. As the sun came out the racing heated Schwarzbauer looked to attack the hill, but no-one really had the confidence of Keller to go long, instead leaving the big fight to the last lap.  

Pidcock launched himself into the lead but couldn’t keep it as Thomas Litscher (Lapierre Mavic Unity), Schwarzbauer and Blevins all put him back down again. As the finish line neared Litscher had the lead but not the strength to hang on as Koretzky launched his sprint and seized a second win on the spin.  

For Koretzky’s team-mate Blevins “it was pretty cool to see Viktor have the kick, and I came round Thomas, so not a bad one. The American described the racing as “super chaotic,” adding “it’s always super sketchy in Nové Mĕsto but I like it. You’ve got to be on your guard the whole time.”