Canadian Cyclist

 

September 5/18 17:13 pm - Canada 8th in Team Relay as Switzerland Wins


Posted by Editoress on 09/5/18
 

Team Canada finished eighth in the Team Relay on the opening day of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, with the favoured Swiss team taking the gold medal ahead of Germany and Denmark.

This is the second year since the Team Relay increased to five riders from four, with the addition of the Under-23 women's category to the existing Elite women and men, Under-23 and Junior men.  Each rider does a lap of the cross-country course, and countries can send the riders off in any order they wish, which can result in constant lead changes.

Italy jumped into an early lead on the first lap with their Elite man, Gerhard Kerschbaumer, but lost it on the second to France, with Australia then opening a substantial gap on lap three with an impressive ride by Under-23 man Reece Tucknott.  Australia's Holly Harris managed to hold it through the fourth lap, despite Switzerland's Jolanda Neff chasing - remarkably, Neff was caught and passed by German Under-23 woman Ronja Eibl, who had the fastest lap of the day for women.  However, Switzerland had always remained close to the front, and their ace in the hole was the final rider - Nino Schurter.

Schurter and Germany's Manuel Fumic started the final lap together, and sprinted up the first climb, quickly catching Australian Junior woman Zoe Cuthbert.  Schurter, the number one ranked rider in the world, then powered away from Fumic to give Switzerland their first win of the week, 13 seconds ahead of the German team.  Denmark, the 2017 silver medalists, took the bronze medal.

"It's crazy to win here in Lenzerheide, with the atmosphere in front of the home crowd," said Schurter, who only lives 20 minutes from the course.  "The course is quite technical and tricky after the rain we had, and that is what I like.  We have world class riders all the way from the Junior to the Under-23 to the Elite, so our goal was to win here at home.  World championships are always special, and the Team Relay is something different from what we usually do; you take part as a team and everybody needs to perform well, which is different for mountain bikers, but I really enjoyed it."

"It's an amazing feeling to start the world championships here in Switzerland, on home soil, with a win for the Swiss team," said Neff.  "So many Swiss people came here to cheer for us, so to give them a gold medal to celebrate is the best possible start.  Our tactic was cautious, with the strongest rider at the end, so we knew we would not always be leading, but that we should be close to the front.  So, it was great that we started well and kept going well.  We weren't so worried about the Australians, because they had the two women at the end, but the Germans were super strong, so I'm happy Nino was able to finish it off for the Swiss team."

Team Canada started with under-23 national champion Sean Fincham, who was delayed slightly by a crash on the start loop.  Fincham finished sixth and handed off to Junior man and national champion Carter Woods, who jumped Canada up to fourth.  Under-23 women's national champion Laurie Arseneault had to ride against a number of men and dropped to 11th, with Elite woman Haley Smith moving Canada up to tenth before handing off to Elite men's national champion Peter Disera for the final lap.  Disera was able to move Canada back up to eighth by the finish, 58 seconds out of the top-5.

"I was a lot happier this year being the anchor," said Disera, "instead of riding first like last year.  Honestly, I believe with the team we had, that we could have gone top-5, but everybody rode great.  I'm guessing Carter's lap time was close to mine, because he was flying [25 seconds slower].  I tried to do what I could at the end, but the gaps were just a little too big.  I reeled in a few riders, and it was good prep for the cross-country on Saturday."

 

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