Switzerland swept the podium of the Under 23 men's cross country race at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada on Friday afternoon. Mathias Flückiger won the race ahead of his compatriots Thomas Litscher and Patrik Gallati.
"Today was an amazing race for me," said Flückiger. "I had a good season and finished it off well here at the world championships."
Flückiger overcame a flat tire on the second lap to take victory. He and his Swiss teammates took five of the top 10 finishing spots, which bodes well for the future of an already strong Swiss mountain bike program.
From the gun, the fast men, including Litscher, Gallati, Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Italy), Alexis Vuillermoz (France), Marek Konwa (Poland) and Flückiger set a blistering pace that strung out the field.
Halfway into the first full lap, of six and a half total laps, Vuillermoz, Flückiger, Litscher and Kerschbaumer formed a quartet at the front. The four would sometimes gap each other but kept coming back together.
On lap two, eventual winner Flückiger had a mechanical. "It was a slow leak in my tire at first, and I could continue riding to the tech zone, where I switched out my front wheel. As it went flat, it was sketchy in the corners until I got it changed."
"I lost some places on the way to the tech zone and while in there I lost some more. It was disappointing to me, but I was able to get back in the lead group."
The flat didn't slow Flückiger down for long as he was soon attacking the rest and alone off the front of the race with 3.5 laps to go. "After my flat, I thought maybe today is not my day," said Flückiger, "then I found my rhythm and I made an attack in the technical part."
Behind him, Vuillermoz and Kerschbaumer led the chase, but Litscher and Gallati weren't much further in arrears, always less than a minute back.
With a little over two laps to go, Flückiger dropped one of his two bottles as he came through the feed, but again, it didn't seem to slow him down and he maintained a consistent, approximately 30-second gap to the chasers.
"It was hot, but it wasn't too hot like it has been the last few days. It was important to drink a lot on this track. It was difficult to drink with all the technical sections," said Flückiger as if he were making a mental note. "I must always remember that I must drink when I'm in the lead."
What did change was the chasers. Vuillermoz and Kerschbaumer started to fade and lose ground while Litscher and Gallati seemed to get stronger as they moved up and set themselves up for a battle for silver.
"I made my attack on the steep climb before the rocks, and I thought now or never. Last year, I was third and I wanted to get second," said Litscher. "I came here to ride onto the podium. I liked the track although I crashed a lot in the last few days. But today was perfect."
Litscher finished in second, 30 seconds behind Flückiger and ahead Gallati at 1:04 in third.
"My whole season was not very good, so third place today makes me very happy," said Gallati. "I didn't have much energy left on the last lap, but I knew the gap to fourth place and it was important to hang onto third. Second would have been better, but I'm happy with third."
That third gave Switzerland the full sweep of the podium spaces though Flückiger said on behalf of his teammates that there was no particular team approach going into the race. "We had no team strategy. We have a lot of good riders. The whole team was of course trying to win medals and it was perfect, we won three medals."
Vuillermoz, who finished as runner-up in the under 23 race last year, held on for fourth at 2:49 and Kerschbaumer was fifth.
"I wanted to win this race today, but it wasn't my day," said Vuillermoz. "At the beginning, I tried to attack, but I had a flat tire. I tried to come back after, but the others took my wheel and worked me over. They attacked and I couldn't do anything."
Last year's junior world champion Kerschbaumer called the race "hot and difficult" and complimented the Swiss on their strength. The Italian, a first-year Under 23 rider was ecstatic over his top-five placing among his older peers.
The top two North Americans were Robbie Squire (32nd) and Stephen Ettinger (34th).
"I've had better days," said Squire after the finish. "I was feeling good in warm-up and everything felt right, but from the shot of the gun, things went wrong. I missed a pedal."
"I managed to work my way up to the low 20s on the first lap, and then I just came apart. I couldn't get out of my own way for the first five laps. Toward the end I sat up and rode and did damage control until the finish."
Ettinger got a slow start. "I was in the back 10 off the start. It was terrible. It would have been nice not to get all balled up behind everyone. Once it cleared out, it was easier to start moving up. I probably lost two minutes off the start, and that's never good, especially in a Under 23 race."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathias Flückiger (Switzerland)||1:45:15|
|2||Thomas Litscher (Switzerland)||0:00:30|
|3||Patrik Gallati (Switzerland)||0:01:04|
|4||Alexis Vuillermoz (France)||0:01:49|
|5||Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Italy)||0:03:28|
|6||Marek Konwa (Poland)||0:03:37|
|7||Martin Fanger (Switzerland)||0:03:53|
|8||Ruben Scheire (Belgium)||0:04:25|
|9||Henk Jaap Moorlag (Netherlands)||0:04:37|
|10||Pascal Meyer (Switzerland)||0:04:59|
|11||Fabien Canal (France)||0:05:20|
|12||Niels Wubben (Netherlands)||0:05:37|
|13||Piotr Brzozka (Poland)||0:06:46|
|14||David Fletcher (Great Britain)||0:06:59|
|15||Marco Minnaard (Netherlands)||0:07:25|
|16||Mattias Wengelin (Sweden)||0:07:37|
|17||Sebastien Carabin (Belgium)||0:07:51|
|18||Tiago Jorge Oliveira Ferreira (Portugal)||0:08:09|
|19||Sergey Nikolaev (Russian Federation)||0:09:25|
|20||Thomas Lapeyrie (France)||0:09:34|
|21||Samuele Porro (Italy)||0:09:47|
|22||Marcel Fleschhut (Germany)||0:09:52|
|23||Felix Euteneuer (Germany)||0:09:58|
|24||Philip Buys (South Africa)||0:10:01|
|25||Severin Disch (Switzerland)||0:10:23|
|26||Alexander Gehbauer (Austria)||0:10:53|
|27||Andy Eyring (Germany)||0:11:01|
|28||Ricardo Paulo Reis Marinheiro (Portugal)||0:11:23|
|29||Martin Loo (Estonia)||0:11:34|
|30||Markus Bauer (Germany)||0:12:08|
|31||Sherman Paiva (Brazil)||0:12:25|
|32||Robbie Squire (United States Of America)||0:12:37|
|33||Cristian Cominelli (Italy)||0:12:41|
|34||Stephen Ettinger (United States Of America)||0:12:44|
|35||Zhen Wang (People's Republic of China)||0:12:49|
|36||Dirk Peters (New Zealand)||0:12:57|
|37||Shlomi Haimy (Israel)||0:13:46|
|38||Jaime Yesid Chia (Colombia)||0:13:49|
|39||Carl Jones (New Zealand)||0:14:01|
|40||Mitch Hoke (United States Of America)||0:14:32|
|41||Rodrigo Adrian Darnay (Argentina)||0:14:54|
|42||Markus Schulte-Luenzum (Germany)||0:15:09|
|43||Zsolt Juhasz (Hungary)||0:15:33|
|44||Francis Morin (Canada)||0:15:58|
|-1 Lap||Jack Hinkens (United States Of America)|
|-1 Lap||Yu Takenouchi (Japan)|
|-1 Lap||Fabian Strecker (Germany)|
|-1 Lap||Simon Lalancette (Canada)|
|-1 Lap||Tyson Wagler (Canada)|
|-1 Lap||David Lozano Riba (Spain)|
|-2 Laps||Andrew L'Esperance (Canada)|
|-2 Laps||Russell Finsterwald (United States Of America)|
|-2 Laps||Tomas Pesek (Czech Republic)|
|-2 Laps||Sébastien Cadieux-Duval (Canada)|
|-2 Laps||Cal Britten (Australia)|
|-2 Laps||Oleksandr Kachanov (Ukraine)|
|-3 Laps||Frederico Mariano (Brazil)|
|-4 Laps||Keisuke Goda (Japan)|
|DNF||Ondrej Cink (Czech Republic)|
|DNF||Jelmer Jubbega (Netherlands)|
|DNF||Jose Maria Sanchez Ruiz (Spain)|
|DNF||Jared Stafford (Canada)|
|DNF||Rafael Escarcega Salazar (Mexico)|
|DNF||Henrique Avancini (Brazil)|
|DNF||Félix Cote (Canada)|
|DNS||Diego Arias (Colombia)|