Flückiger leads Swiss podium sweep in Under 23 cross country worlds race

Litscher, Gallati complete top three

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."

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Mathias Flückiger (Switzerland)1:45:15 
2Thomas Litscher (Switzerland)0:00:30 
3Patrik Gallati (Switzerland)0:01:04 
4Alexis Vuillermoz (France)0:01:49 
5Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Italy)0:03:28 
6Marek Konwa (Poland)0:03:37 
7Martin Fanger (Switzerland)0:03:53 
8Ruben Scheire (Belgium)0:04:25 
9Henk Jaap Moorlag (Netherlands)0:04:37 
10Pascal Meyer (Switzerland)0:04:59 
11Fabien Canal (France)0:05:20 
12Niels Wubben (Netherlands)0:05:37 
13Piotr Brzozka (Poland)0:06:46 
14David Fletcher (Great Britain)0:06:59 
15Marco Minnaard (Netherlands)0:07:25 
16Mattias Wengelin (Sweden)0:07:37 
17Sebastien Carabin (Belgium)0:07:51 
18Tiago Jorge Oliveira Ferreira (Portugal)0:08:09 
19Sergey Nikolaev (Russian Federation)0:09:25 
20Thomas Lapeyrie (France)0:09:34 
21Samuele Porro (Italy)0:09:47 
22Marcel Fleschhut (Germany)0:09:52 
23Felix Euteneuer (Germany)0:09:58 
24Philip Buys (South Africa)0:10:01 
25Severin Disch (Switzerland)0:10:23 
26Alexander Gehbauer (Austria)0:10:53 
27Andy Eyring (Germany)0:11:01 
28Ricardo Paulo Reis Marinheiro (Portugal)0:11:23 
29Martin Loo (Estonia)0:11:34 
30Markus Bauer (Germany)0:12:08 
31Sherman Paiva (Brazil)0:12:25 
32Robbie Squire (United States Of America)0:12:37 
33Cristian Cominelli (Italy)0:12:41 
34Stephen Ettinger (United States Of America)0:12:44 
35Zhen Wang (People's Republic of China)0:12:49 
36Dirk Peters (New Zealand)0:12:57 
37Shlomi Haimy (Israel)0:13:46 
38Jaime Yesid Chia (Colombia)0:13:49 
39Carl Jones (New Zealand)0:14:01 
40Mitch Hoke (United States Of America)0:14:32 
41Rodrigo Adrian Darnay (Argentina)0:14:54 
42Markus Schulte-Luenzum (Germany)0:15:09 
43Zsolt Juhasz (Hungary)0:15:33 
44Francis Morin (Canada)0:15:58 
-1 LapJack Hinkens (United States Of America)  
-1 LapYu Takenouchi (Japan)  
-1 LapFabian Strecker (Germany)  
-1 LapSimon Lalancette (Canada)  
-1 LapTyson Wagler (Canada)  
-1 LapDavid Lozano Riba (Spain)  
-2 LapsAndrew L'Esperance (Canada)  
-2 LapsRussell Finsterwald (United States Of America)  
-2 LapsTomas Pesek (Czech Republic)  
-2 LapsSébastien Cadieux-Duval (Canada)  
-2 LapsCal Britten (Australia)  
-2 LapsOleksandr Kachanov (Ukraine)  
-3 LapsFrederico Mariano (Brazil)  
-4 LapsKeisuke Goda (Japan)  
DNFOndrej Cink (Czech Republic)  
DNFJelmer Jubbega (Netherlands)  
DNFJose Maria Sanchez Ruiz (Spain)  
DNFJared Stafford (Canada)  
DNFRafael Escarcega Salazar (Mexico)  
DNFHenrique Avancini (Brazil)  
DNFFélix Cote (Canada)  
DNSDiego Arias (Colombia)  


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