While snowfall blanketed the summit of Coma Predrosa, Andorra's loftiest peak, a bit further down, the XC scene engaged in the fifth event of the World Cup season. In weather conditions markedly different from what Team BMC's athletes had encountered thus far on the World Cup circuit, the BMC pilots showed the team colours in many different ways.
The arrival of autumn seemed timed with precision, coinciding with race day in Andorra. Amidst pouring rain and a temperature of 5 degrees Celsius, Team BMC's competitors found themselves needing to adjust, especially after the long and warm European summer they had experienced so far.
On the day of the XCO races, Janis Baumann faced a difficult choice, withdrawing from the U23 men's event due to illness. Earlier in the week, he had competed in the XCC race, where his Team BMC colleague Jordan Sarrou once again stood on the podium, earning a well-deserved bronze medal.For the former World Champion, this outcome was the best possible, as he said after crossing the finish line that Friday and looking ahead to the XCO race on Sunday. He said: "The other two riders were simply stronger, but conditions on a rainy Sunday can make a difference Sunday.”
His statement was accompanied by a smile. Those who follow the XC scene will be aware of Sarrou's affinity for racing in wintry circumstances.
Taking on the treacherous course at Vallnord, the first Team BMC cyclist in action was Steffi Häberlin. After the first major up- and downhill, she travelled among the top 20 riders, on the course that she called before the race ‘not her favourite of the season’.
Completely coated in mud, basically nearly unrecognizable, Häberlin expressed her satisfaction with her 22nd place finish and her overall performance. "I felt at ease on the slippery descents but lacked some strength on the climbs. Whether it was due to the altitude, I can't say for certain. I'm optimistic about my uphill performance in Les Gets."
As the afternoon progressed, gusts of wind blew away some of the rain clouds, bringing a slight improvement in the weather conditions on the mountain adjacent to La Massana. The men's race would present slightly different challenges than those faced by the women. It was the ingredient for a strong combined team effort.
Titouan Carod catapulted into a top 10 position right from the start, while Juri Zanotti also secured a strong beginning, culminating in a 19th-place finish. Jordan Sarrou battled hard until the final moments of the race to secure a podium spot, narrowly falling short to the current World Champion, after overtaking each other multiple times in the last kilometer. With Carod finishing seventh, Team BMC was very visible throughout the entire event.This performance marked one of Carod's finest this season, reinforcing his role as Team BMC's wildcard for the last three World Cups, much like the previous season. His contentment with the race outcome was obvious. “This is my first top 10 of the season. Today was the first race of the year that I could smile during the race. I’m very happy with the result. This is the right direction towards the last three World Cups.”
Sarrou was also satisfied, particularly with his consistency. After Andorra, he is even more back in contention for the overall World Cup victory. “It is a close battle”, he confirmed. “I felt better today than during the World Championships, as I could keep my power better, all the way to the finish. I hoped that I could keep Pidcock behind me, but I could also live with fourth. I will continue to fight for the World Cup Series victory.”