An amazing crowd, a wet and technical XC track alongside a very tight finish - the 4th stop of the 2017 XCO UCI World Cup provided everything mountain bike enthusiasts want to see. The World Cup in Lenzerheide is Nino Schurter's home race, and the Olympic and World Champion didn't let his fans down. It was Nino's 24th XC World Cup win in total and the 31 year old Swiss again was the man to beat. In contrast to some of the previous races this season, Nino had to fight very, very hard to finally secure the win. "This was by far the toughest battle I fought this season, and also the closest one," Nino said after the race.
After four consecutive World Cup wins this year and with two World Cup races left in the 2017 season, Nino Schurter needs a 23rd place to secure his 5th World Cup Champion title. Nino (1000 points) has a comfortable lead over Maxime Marotte (560 pts) and David Valero Serrano (552pts).
Lenzerheide is always a good place for exciting battles between the dominant Cross-Country riders. The course is not made for early breakaways and that's why spectators have always witnessed thrilling races. This year's race without any doubt was one of the most exciting ones to date. Due to a storm and heavy rain the night before and more rain just before the race, the conditions were anything but easy. All the teams had to change to mud tires which led to panic-like situations in the pits. The UCI decided to reduce the race to seven instead of eight laps.
Nino Schurter as always set a high pace from the beginning with both Matthieu van der Poel and Maxime Marotte following him. He couldn't really get rid of them in the first half of the race, and when Nino saw that van der Poel dropped back he realized that Jaroslav Kulhavy was gaining more and more terrain. Only in the 6th of seven laps, Nino managed to put a gap in between Marotte and Russian Anton Sintsov. From there, Jaroslav Kulhavy put down the hammer and chased Nino.
"I was lucky today that the UCI reduced the race to seven laps only. Jaroslav seemed to get stronger and stronger in the end of the Race," Nino said, totally exhausted at the finish line. With a 3 second lead only, the Olympic Champion secured his 2nd consecutive win in Lenzerheide ahead of Jaroslav Kulhavy. "I am pretty sure the World Championships on this course in 2018 will see one of the most exciting ones in history," Nino said looking at next year's highlight on the circuit.
Nino was not the only winner in Lenzerheide - SCOTT-SRAM MTB Racing managed to defend the lead in the team ranking. Thanks to great racing from the rest of the team, SCOTT-SRAM will head to the World Cup in Mont Sainte Anne, Canada with the yellow leader plates. With a 19th place, Michiel van der Heijden raced his best ever Elite XC race. Andri Frischknecht, who just celebrated his 23rd birthday two days ago, managed to finish in 21st. Matthias Stirnemann came in in 36th.
"I was glad the rain came- it made the track a very demanding one and quite a few riders suffered with the technical descents," van der Heijden stated. "Skilled riders definitely benefitted today. I was in a good shape in Andorra last week and I hope I can even top my results in the remaining World Cups."
"I am really happy with my 21st place. After good results in Nove Mesto and Albstadt plus the one here in Lenzerheide, I already achieved more than what I could ask for in my first elite year. It's great fun racing with my team mates and we'll do everything to keep the team leader plates in the two remaining World Cup races," Andri Frischknecht said.