Meet the rookies who came in and shook up the UCI World Cup

Spectacularly, the women’s elite races saw upsets in both the short track and World Cup, with young up-and-coming riders displacing seasoned professionals to take podium positions.

With 23-year-old Brit Evie Richards winning the short track, 20 year-old Laura Stigger securing a podium and 21-year-old French rider Loana Lecomte displacing World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot to win her first-ever elite Cross-Country (XCO) World Cup. To top it off, this was the very first World Cup elite race any of these riders had competed in, a changing of the guard is underway.
The change has been rapid, too. At Snowshoe 2019 each of the top 10 riders had competed in an average of 40.7 elite races in their career. At Nové Město, the top 10 had competed in an average of just 18.6 elite races, with it being the very first elite XCO race for Stigger, Richards and Lecomte.

Evie Richards

Evie Richards seen at UCI XCO in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic on October 1st, 2020

Evie Richards had an incredible debut at the Elite XCO races

© Bartek Woliński/Red Bull Content Pool

  • DOB: March 11, 1997

  • Nationality: British

“I feel like the young guns are bossing it. These girls are riding incredibly and it’s so good that they’re doing well in the elite field as well,” said 23-year-old Richards shortly after beating favourite Pauline Ferrand-Prévot to take the UCI MTB World Cup 2020 XCC short track title (twice).

Nové Město women’s XCC 2 sprint finish

Pauline has been my role model since I got into cycling… to be in a sprint finish with her… was bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment

Evie Richards

One of Britain’s most promising young talents, Trek Factory Rider Richards began riding bikes with her dad. “He had a ride to work scheme,” she remembers. “I would run a bit then jump on his bike and we would just take it in turns.”
Evie Richard's bike seen outside her Trek team pits at Nove Mesto 2020.

Evie now rides for the team Trek Factory Racing

© Bartek Woliński

Her start in competitive cycling was relatively late; it wasn’t until 2013 that she switched from hockey to racing bikes, competing in cyclo-cross (CX) and cross-country mountain biking events across the country. Two years later, aged 18, she won the UCI CX World Junior Championships in Belgium, a win she says confirmed in her own mind that this was the sport for her.
Evie Richards seen during UCI XC World Cup in Nové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic on May 26, 2019

While friends were going to parties, Evie was racing around Europe

© Jan Kasl/Red Bull Content Pool

The wins kept coming. In 2017 she won her first elite category World Cup race in Namur for CX and in 2018 she claimed her second World Champs U23 jersey in CX, and silver in the 2018 Commonwealth Games XC race.

Loana Lecomte performs at UCI XCC in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic on September 29th, 2020

Evie Richards digs in while in front at the XCC race in Nové Město

© Bartek Woliński/Red Bull Content Pool

The Nové Město win comes despite a corner crash on the second-to-last lap, which saw Richards tumble before jumping back into the saddle within seconds. As for beating Ferrand-Prévot on the final stretch, Evie herself is struggling to believe it. “Pauline has been my role model since I got into cycling… to be in a sprint finish with her… was bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment,” she says.

XCC race 2 Nové Město 2020 recap

After the UCI World Cup, Evie has her sights on the Olympics, but for now, she says, “I’m just happy to be at these races. We’ll take the Olympics as it comes.” Watch this space.

Laura Stigger

Laura Stigger rides during the UCI XCO World Cup Race 2 in Nové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic on October 4, 2020.

20 year-old Laura Stigger is a rider to watch

© Bartek Woliński

  • DOB: September 25, 2000

  • Nationality: Austrian

The 20-year-old Austrian also made history last week, with her fifth-place finish in the elite UCI Cross Country World Cup race making her the first Austrian to podium in a decade.

“Top five; I can’t believe it. I worked so hard and it paid off,” Stigger said among tears of joy at the finish line. Not a bad result for her first year in the elites.

Laura Stigger performs at UCI XCO in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic on October 1, 2020

That feeling when all your hard work pays off

© Bartek Woliński/Red Bull Content Pool

“I decided to ride in the elite in order to develop myself further,” she explained ahead of the start of the UCI World Cup. “I’ll be racing against the best women mountain bikers in the world and try to gain as much experience as possible in every race.”

So far, she’s certainly held her own. Not only did Stigger claim a record for her country, she was, at 20, the youngest rider in the entire women’s starting field. Not that she let her age hold her back; just one day after her fifth place in cross-country, she took third place in the short track competition, bagging the fastest lap in the process.

Laura Stigger rides during the XCO Women's Race 1 at the UCI Mountain Bike World cup in Nové Město, Czech Republic on October 1, 2020.

Laura Stigger made the most of her Elite Women’s debut, taking fifth place

© Bartek Woliński

“I am super happy and would never have thought it would go so well!” she said.

Although she’s currently training under Rupert Scheiber, Stigger’s first coach, back in 2007, was a neighbour. “My neighbour was a kid’s coach,” she remembers, explaining how she trained with his children and “learned a lot from them”.

Laura Stigger performs at UCI XCO in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic on October 1, 2020

Laura Stigger makes her elite debut in Nové Město

© Bartek Woliński/Red Bull Content Pool

With two cross-country Junior World Championship titles, four junior European Championship titles and gold at the Road Cycling World Championships in Innsbruck and now an impressive beginning at the UCI World Cup 2020, she’s undoubtedly making her mark on the sport.

Loana Lecomte

Loana Lecomte takes the win during the XCO Women's Race 1 at the UCI Mountain Bike World cup in Nové Město, Czech Republic on October 1, 2020.

Loana Lecomte taking the win in her first-ever Elite Women’s race

© Bartek Woliński

  • DOB: August 8, 1999

  • Nationality: French

The biggest upset (or brilliant surprise) of the Nové Město 2020 World Cup came in the form of 21-year-old French rider Loana Lecomte, who brilliantly outmanoeuvred the competition to win her first-ever World Cup with an astonishing time of 1h 22m 06s. That’s an incredible 30-second lead over her closest competitor, Anne Terpstra.

Loana Lecomte, Anne Terpstra and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot on the podium at UCI XCO in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic on October 1, 2020

Loana Lecomte taking the podium top spot on her first elite race

© Bartek Woliński/Red Bull Content Pool

Born in Annecy in 1999, this was the cross-country specialist’s first elite race. “I’m surprised and very very happy,” she said, exuding joy at the finish line.

The win makes her the second-youngest winner of a World Cup race in history. “I wasn’t expecting victory… I just went full speed and I’m very happy,” Lecomte said.

Loana Lecomte rides during the XCO Women's Race 1 at the UCI Mountain Bike World cup in Nové Město, Czech Republic on October 1, 2020.

It was an incredible Elite Women’s debut for Loana Lecomte

© Bartek Woliński

Starting out riding mountain bikes aged seven, she’s surely come a long, long way since she trained with her grandfather as a child. The win is all the more special as Lecomte beat her friend and fellow French champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, who finished third in rainy and slick conditions.

Anne Terpstra, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Loana Lecomte during the UCI XCO World Cup Race 2 in Nové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic on October 4, 2020.

Terpstra, Ferrand-Prévot and new elite rider Loana Lecomte

© Bartek Wolinski

Naturally, Ferrand-Prévot was full of praise for Lecomte after the race. “It’s cool to see young riders win, especially Loana as she’s a friend of mine so it’s super cool,” she said.

With the MTB World Championships due to take place in Leogang this weekend, all eyes will surely be on these three spectacular women, who’ve proven they can stand beside older and more established riders. Whatever happens in Leogang, we’re sure to be watching them for many years to come.

Latest posts