Posted by Editoress on 09/3/14
Day 2 of the Mountain Bike World Championships in Hafjell, Norway, saw France win its first gold medal of the week in the Team Relay after a battle that saw the lead change every lap. Switzerland took silver and the Czech Republic bronze. Canada was a disappointing seventh, after challenging early in the race.
The Team Relay is a once a year event, with each country entering four riders from four categories - Elite Men, Elite Women, Under-23 Men and Junior Men. Each rider completes one lap of the cross-country course and then hands off to the next rider. Teams can send riders off in any order they wish, so the team leading early in the race with their strongest riders has no guarantee of being able to hold onto the lead later in the race.
Luca Braidot (Fra) leading at start
Defending champions Italy had a strong start with Luca Braidot, until he flatted, putting that team out of contention. Sweden came through in first at the end of the first lap, with Canada's Leandre Bouchard only ten seconds back. Unfortunately, Bouchard didn't realize that Canada's relay station was one of the first ones and shot past Geoff Kabush, having to turn around and go back to make the exchange.
Sweden in the lead at the start of lap 2
"I didn't get a chance to see the stands before the start," explained Bouchard (note: they were off to the side and not set up for the opening lap). "I had a very good lap, but it is too bad that this mistake happened."
Australia moved into the lead after a strong second lap by Under-23 rider Ivory Cameron, with Kabush finishing fifth, 38 seconds back. Spain took the lead in the third lap, two seconds ahead of Canada after Junior Marc-Andre Fortin put in a very strong lap. France was sitting third going into the final lap, 36 seconds back.
However, the top-3 finishers had all saved their Elite men riders until last, and France's Maxime Marotte quickly jumped into the lead, passing Canadian woman Catharine Pendrel. Outgoing world champion Nino Schurter of Switzerland could not make up the gap to Marotte, although he did move the team from sixth to second in the final lap. Jaroslav Kulhavy, the current Olympic champion, had as strong a ride, moving from seventh to third by the finish.
Maxime Marotte takes the win fro France
"In the final lap it was very important not to flat," commented Marotte. "It is so bumpy on the course, and in training I had a couple of flats, so I was thinking about that through the Relay. I tried to have good lines to be safe, because the other riders in the team had done a good job for me, so I wanted to make no mistakes. I had the chance to have this victory three years ago in Champery (Switzerland), but for the other riders it is the first time, so it's a really good feeling and we are really happy."
Pendrel said "I had to go out against some of the top men, which was hard. I made some mistakes in the beginning portion of my lap which cost a little bit of time, but I think individually we had strong rides. Unfortunately we missed our handoff on the first lap. So our rides were strong, we just had a little mishap."