Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) was delighted to score his best-ever world championship finish in the elite men's cross country race in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa earlier this month while representing Germany. His previous best Worlds finish was fifth.
Fumic's silver medal performance was especially sweet after he broke his collarbone earlier this season and missed several of the World Cup rounds. Due to that injury, he dropped from third in the world rankings to 14th.
"I had a rough year - I broke my collarbone, and it was a hard comeback," said Fumic to Cyclingnews. "I knew I'd need a lot of time and maybe I could be back in shape in time for the world championship. For me, it's motivating to get a good result like this."
Fumic was optimistic going into Worlds. "The day before the race, I told my guys that I had a good feeling and could go for the medal. I grabbed one of those medals and now I'm really happy."
There were some early moments during which Fumic's chances seemed in danger, but he remained calm and focused. "I crashed early in the race on the Treehouse rock garden and lost some places. Once you have any problem, the speed at the front is so fast, you often can't come back, but I was focused. When I crashed, I was like, 'ok, I have a plan. I'll make it back.'"
He did just that, steadily working his way forward. "The guys were not that far away. When I went through the start/finish, I could see the guys in the front. I was pushing hard to catch the second group. I made my way through the field."
"I didn't hide at all. As soon as I was up to [eventual third place finisher] Jose Hermida's back wheel, I overtook him. I wanted it so badly. I pushed hard. In the end, it was close; Nino was only 15 seconds in front of me and he did have a little crash at the very end."
Fumic felt the pressure and knew that any little mistake in the final laps could cost him the medal. "Jose was pushing hard. I could always feel his pressure and he was breathing behind me. But it was a good thing."
But he felt very much at home at the Worlds in South Africa, where he visits each year. "I spend two months in Cape Town every winter. Everyone is so friendly there. So many friends from there came out to cheer for me."
Winning the silver medal has made the German optimistic for the future. "I have a couple of good podium spots now - I'm just missing the top spot. I think I'm on my way. Next year's going to be a good year."
Fumic has one more major race this season: the final World Cup round in Hafjell, Norway this weekend.