By Luke Webber in Vallnord, Andorra
After three World Cup attempts this spring, it was finally the day for Christoph Sauser (Specialized Factory Racing) to take a popular win in Andorra – but some surprising names accompanied him on the podium and most notably none were wearing the Rainbow Stripes.
Sauser won despite a bad mishap in the form of a flat tyre in the fifth lap. "I was thinking 'why – why me again?!' But when I eventually caught and passed Burry [Stander] I was flying, I couldn't even feel my legs any more. Luckily for the bit that I had to run I could still go at good speed because Benno had put some tyre tread on the bottom of my Specialized road shoes.
"Sometimes you start and you think 'they start so hard!' But today I was wondering why don't they full on! I just rolled away, my legs started to burn badly on laps four and five when Burry was coming near, I always tried to keep him 15 seconds back so he did not have the chance to think he could beat me. Eventually though it was easy for him to pass because I was running up the hill at the time."
Julien Absalon (Orbea) would not claim his fourth successive victory and would instead finish only ninth, owing to some mechanical issues and possibly the need to rest before the World Championships in order to regain peak form.
"I was expecting better than today, but I had a big crash on the first lap and I was too cautious because I did not want to crash again. I had also damaged my chainrings – the gears were not working," said Absalon. "Put together: not a good day! I won't be going to Fort William, instead I will be going home to get in a bit of recovery – maybe I need it!"
Burry Stander (GT Bicycles) and Geoff Kabush (Team Maxxis) rounded out the top three with their respective strong performances.
Kabush (Maxxis) turned in his best result on Euro soil, third after a solid ride picking off positions all race long and not fading. "To do it in Europe is a big result for me," said Kabush. "It is a great course, with all the rain it made it subtly technical over the roots. I was able to start out pretty smooth, relax and start picking off guys at my leisure. Today I didn't want to fight for position, I wanted to save energy."
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the World Cup men's cross country.