- by Cycling Australia
- Published: 6 September 2009
Press Release: Swiss sensation Nino Schurter has upstaged four time World and reigning Olympic champion Julian Absalon of France in a nail biting finale to the cross country competition at the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships at Stromlo Forest Park in Canberra.
Schurter, 23, won the 2004 junior crown, last year claimed gold in the U23 event and today added an elite title to his collection of rainbow jerseys. His team mate Florian Vogel, 27, was third.
It was the most exciting cross country event of the week with only three seconds separating Schurter and Absalon, with Vogel and Spain’s Jose Antonio Hermida Ramos finishing on the same time 58 seconds behind the winner.
Earlier in the elite women’s event, Irina Kalentieva of Russia overcame a disastrous start to defeat Lene Byberg of Norway and American Willow Koerber but it was the men’s event that had the massive crowd in raptures throughout.
All four of the top men sat together for the first four and a half 6.47 kilometre laps of the 45.29km race but it was Schurter and Vogel who rode a perfect tactical race for Switzerland.
Schurter sat glued to 29-year-old Absalon’s wheel for more than half the race while Vogel shadowed Hermida Ramos as the Spaniard rode hard in a bid to try and bridge the gap to the two leaders.
With less than 1.2km to go Absalon tried to attack but a misjudgement with his gears saw him lose ground and Schurter surged ahead at the final feed zone to win in a time of 2hr04min39sec.
A jubilant Schurter said even though it appeared the course had been made for him he didn’t think he could win the gold from his more experienced and well credentialed rival.
“I’ve had such a bad season but now with this race it’s a dream come true,” Schurter said. “It’s an amazing feeling, the perfect race, perfect course for me. It was very technical and that suits me.
“The whole race I was thinking just to try to stay on his back wheel and race for silver, never thinking I could take the win but at the last feed zone I attacked and got away.”
After the race Schurter praised his bronze medal winning teammate.
“I like courses that are technical and this was the perfect course for me. I was lucky to stay with Julien and maybe without Florian I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” he said.
Meanwhile Absalom, who has won four World Cup events this year, said he was up against it having led most of the race against the Swiss pair and even though he expected Schurter to try and break away he couldn’t respond.
“I was not in a good position. I led, I did most of the race in front,” Absalom said. “This track is fast and it was not possible to get away with the wind, it was hard and the Swiss riders proved that they are the strongest nation together.
“I was expecting the attack in the feed zone (from Schurter) but not as strong.”
Swiss 2008 world champion, Christoph Sauser was well back in tenth and was only ever as close as eighth.
Chris Jongewaard was the best placed Australian in 15th place, 4min35sec behind the winner.
Of the other Australian’s Daniel McConnell finished 32nd, Ben Henderson was 35th, Sid Taberlay 39th, Dylan Cooper 55th and Andrew Blair 61st.
In the women’s race, Kalentieva of Russia overcame a disastrous start in the 32.35km women’s elite cross country event, to claim her nation’s first gold medal of the Championships.
The 31-year-old was forced to stop on the first lap after a technical problem that dropped her back to 21st place. The Russian eventually finished in a time of 1min43min20sec, just 13 seconds ahead of silver medallist Lene Byberg of Norway. American Willow Koerber claimed the bronze a further 39 seconds behind.
Kalentieva said she used the early mishap as motivation throughout the rest of the race.
“It was unbelievable, I was in first place and then on the downhill section my chain broke and I had to spend over a minute fixing it,” Kalentieva said. “I think it gave me more concentration and gave me more strength because it is not something that should happen today at the World Championships.”
After leading for the first four of the five lap race, Byberg could do nothing as Kalentieva powered past her in the final stages.
“I had the title in my hands and lost it,” a clearly disappointed Byberg said. “I tried really hard and just went for it but it was hard riding alone for so long, this is my first international medal so I am still happy.”
Koerber also spent the majority of the race at the front of the pack and said that a hectic start had played into her hands.
“At the start I was just wondering what was going on, no one could ride because everyone was crashing,” Koerber said. “It obviously worked for me though because I finished well and got a medal.”
The reigning champion and number one ranked rider going into the race, Margarita Riera Fullana failed to fire and finished in a disappointing 16th place.
Kate Potter was the best of the sizable Australian contingent in 24th in a time of 1hour53mins33secs, ahead of Rowena Fry (27th), Joanna Harrington (32nd), Katherine O’Shea (34th), Jodie Willett (40th), Joanna Wall (41st) and Zoe King (44th).
Potter seemed to enjoy the experience more than most and was pleased with her effort.
“It was a tough race but a really, really fun course so even though you’re trying as hard as you can, and you’re hurting you can’t help but love it because the single track is so much fun and there was always someone in front and someone behind so I always pushed as hard as I could and it was a really good race for me today,” Potter said.
Fry had been placed 20th at the end of both the third and fourth laps before crashing on the last circuit, damaging a tyre and losing several places when she stopped for repairs.
“I was having a good race, fighting it out for a spot in the top 20 which I was really happy about and then just unfortunately on the last lap, a bit of fatigue kicked in on the climb and I lost my front wheel and crashed,” Fry said.
“That wasn’t such an issue but I must have lost a bit of air from the tyre and about a minute later I rolled the tyre off the rim which I had to repair while watching all the girls go past me.”
The Observed Trials competition has been a hit with spectators of all ages with the world’s best riders completing two rounds each of six sections in and around the event village. The riders have to jump over and onto a range of interesting materials including pallets, drainage pipes, shipping containers, wine barrels, rocks and other obstacles. Riders are penalised and a dab (point) is recorded if any part of their body touches the ground.
In today’s 20″ elite mens final, crowds that would have pleased Tiger Woods gathered to watch the favourite, Spain’s Benito Ros Charral ride to his sixth World Championship gold medal in seven years.
Benito, now 28, a 20″ specialist, dominated the event with five penalty free sections, more than all of his rivals combined.
“The course was beautiful and hard,” said Ros Charral. “The crowd was very good, with a lot of people in some sections. Their support really inspired me to perform well.”
Ros Charral finished nearly 14 penalties clear of second place Rafal Kumorowski from Poland with Swiss rider Loris Braun a further nine behind.
Braun, 19, was last year’s junior World Champion and the youngest in the elite final.
“Benito rode incredibly and is on his own level, I enjoyed the competition and the crowd atmosphere,” said Braun. “I hope one day to win a World Championship.
“I’m impressed by the knowledge of the trials fans in Australia, but hope to see the sport get more coverage and become more popular.”
In the Junior 20″ event Spain took out the quinella with an impressive first and second place. The gold medal went to pre-event favourite Abel Mustieles Garcia, with a confident and polished performance for a total penalty score of 24.
It’s the last year in the junior ranks for Mustieles Garcia, who has been riding trials since he was six.
“I liked the challenge of the hard sections like the rock garden,” said Mustieles Garcia. “The course for the finals was harder than for the semi-finals, but I enjoyed it.”
The silver medal went to Ion Areitio Aguirre, on 31 points with Belgium’s Roderique Timellini in third place three penalties further back.
The team trials medal, introduced this year was based on performance in the semi-finals, was presented to Spain. Second place went to France, just 20 points behind with Belgium a further 26 points back taking third.
Competition concludes tomorrow with all the downhill finals and the medal rounds of the elite and junior men’s 26″ observed trials.