Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower) closed out his 2013 World Cup season in style this weekend in Hafjell, Norway. With rival Julien Absalon (BMC) absent due to broken ribs, Schurter had the World Cup title locked up before the cross country race even started, but he still put up a good fight to finish second to Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized).
Some might say he also won the style competition with how well he rode the BMX-style jumps each lap around the course.
Schurter has had a whirlwind two weeks since winning the world championship race in South Africa.
"Sure the preparation for this one was not idea due to a hectic period, but hopefully I can still count on some form that's left from Worlds," said Schurter prior to the race.
Schurter put the hurt on the others right from the start. With Manuel Fumic, Marco Fontana, Ondrej Cink, Mathias Flückiger and Kulhavy the group that was able to follow him was larger than in prior races, but Schurter looked strong and controlled the attacks. Always gaining some meters on the descents, it was clear that Schurter wanted to win this one, too.
Kulhavy was the biggest threat. He was the only one to hang with Schurter in the final third of the eight-lap race. Two times he was passed by Schurter flying in the air over the BMX jumps. It looked like the Swiss rider was having a lot of fun out there and this was very much appreciated by the crowd.
On the long climb on the last lap, Kulhavy launched an attack that brought Schurter into trouble. Memories from the Olympic Games in London flashed through Schurter's mind. Although he took all the risks on the final long descent, he was unable to catch Kulhavy.
"On the last lap I did not have the power anymore," said Schurter. "There is no more meat on the prosciutto. It's down to the bone [actually Jose Antonio Hermida's words). Hey! Even though I did not win today I can be proud of my excellent season. The world champion and World Cup title again in the same year is plenty to celebrate!"
The 27-year-old can already claim three elite world titles and three World Cup titles on his palmares. He will return to Hafjell, Norway next season to try and make it three consecutive world titles and four total.