After a silver medal in the relay with the Swiss team, Nino's color for the XCO world championships remained the same. The rainbow jersey goes very well deserved to the king of 2014- Julien Absalon.
Hafjell, Norway. It is not the gold we were hoping for. But this silver medal is a great achievement after an awesome exciting season. Even more because the gold medal went to an outstanding athlete who showed an outstanding performance in most important race of the season- Julien Absalon.
Defending his world champion title was a difficult task for Nino Schurter. Going into this mission all the money was on him after winning 3 World Cup races in a row last month. Everybody (including him) was expecting Nino to win. A situation he can only loose or fulfill the expectations. Not that this is any new to a guy like Nino Schurter, but this time he was victime of the one who was battling him all season long to show up at worlds with a big surprise. Julien Absalon for the first time ever was on a full suspension bike.
The strategy of Nino was the same as in the past two races. He tried to get some time in between him and the rest early in the race. He was successfully doing this and crossed the line after first lap with a 19 second lead over Julien Absalon. Even Nino tried hard to maintain this lead, the French rival looked super strong on the longer climbs and eventually closed that gap in lap 3. The expected battle royal went into the next round. Giving each other sticks on the climbs and fighting for whoever gets into the descents first. Very exciting to watch. New compare to the last races was that Nino did not gain any time on Julien on the descents. This due to the fact that both riders were on of full suspension bike and Nino could not play the advantage as he did in the previous races. It was also obvious that Julien put in everything he had to kill Nino on the climbs. 3 laps to go this strategy paid off. Nino started to crack.
After Julien Absalon got the gap he was fighting for, he started to fly towards the finish line. Nino on the other hand did not look as strong and controlled as we have seen him last month. Symptomatically to this he produced a severe crash, something we have not seen from him for many years. Last lap the power in the legs and the focus in the head was gone. Luckily the crash only 30 seconds away from the finish line had not bigger consequences. The bronze medal goes to Marco Aurelio Fontana. He was never in contention with the two leading riders.
The disappointment of loosing his World Champion jersey was written in Nino's eyes when he crossed the line. Tough, he looked at it with the right approach: " Somehow it was just not the day I was expecting. I felt strong in the beginning, but after Julien got back to me I was not feeling as good as few weeks ago. Confronted with the fact that Julien Absalon showed his best performance of the year, I had nothing to hold against him today. But I think it's not a shame to loose against this amazing athlete." Right he is! Absalon won the National-, European-, World Cup- and World Champion title this year!
When things mellowed down in the evening he also analyzed. " It was a tough program the past 6 weeks- no- it was a tough program all season long! Maybe I was running out of juice before the biggest race of the season was over...?"
"Somehow it was just not the day I was expecting. Confronted with the fact that Julien Absalon showed his best performance of the year, I had nothing to hold against him today. But I think it's not a shame to loose against this amazing athlete."
Nino Schurter, World Championship silver medalist
SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing Team
It was exciting watch to Florian Vogel on his World Championship mission. He established himself in great 5th place the first third of the race. What happened after was nothing less than a drama. First his saddle slipped out of position, than he dropped the chain. Still riding in top ten a crash over the jumps destroyed his ambitions completely. The flat tire towards the end gave him the rest. Under this miserable circumstances it was a miracle he made it to the finish. Even it was only a 37th place.
The last crash report comes from Jenny Rissveds side. In the technical most difficult downhill she crashed hard and had to be taken by the ambulance for check. Luckily nothing is broken. Except her heart. After missing the medal in the eliminator Hafjell was definitely not her world championship. Swiss Jolanda Neff defended her U23 title easily.
Great news come from our 4th team rider we had in the World Championship game. Andri Frischknecht. He delivered in the most important race of the year his best performance all season long finishing in great 9th place. This comes at an even bigger surprise as he flatted first lap and dropped back to 20th place. With a lot of courage he was fighting his way back into top ten to fulfill his goal. Dutch rider Michiel van der Heijden crowned himself as the new U23 World Champion.