World champion Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM), after getting blanked in the first two rounds of the Elite men's cross-country World Cup, finally took the 31st win of his career on Sunday, at Vallnord, Andorra. With his win, Schurter also moved into the overall series lead, after former World Cup leader Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon Circus) elected to skip the high-altitude race.
Hot, dry and dusty conditions added to the difficulty of this extremely demanding circuit, with rough descents causing numerous crashes, and steep climbs made worse by the thin air at 2,000 metres.
Brazil's Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory), winner of the Short Track on Friday evening, attacked out of the small lead group on the steep 'Wall' climb on the first lap, opening a gap. Ondrej Cink (Kross Racing) took up the chase, joining Avancini on the second lap and then riding clear on the third lap.
Schurter was mired back in fourth after crashing on a descent, and had to work his way back to Avancini on lap 4, joined by round 1 winner Mathias Fluckiger (Thomus RN). The trio were 37 seconds down on Cink at this point, who was riding strongly and looked to be in control, until a lap later, when the Czech rider abruptly slowed and was caught by the three chasers before pulling into the pit, tapping his chest and appearing to be in physical distress.
"I had a heart arrhythmia; my computer said I had a 230 [beats per minute] heart rate. I don't know what happened, but I stopped in the feedzone and tried to breath, and after one minute my heart rate was back down and I decided to continue." Cink dropped to the low 20s, but eventually recovered to finish 10th.
At the front, Schurter, Fluckiger and Avancini were riding together, with the Swiss riders starting to launch attacks as they began the final two laps. Avancini couldn't respond to the sudden accelerations, but clawed his way back each time until the last lap, when Schurter attacked and only Fluckiger could respond. The two Swiss riders continued to test each other, until Schurter attacked again with 300 metres to go, opening a few metres on his rival to win by two seconds, with Avancini taking third.
In the absence of Van der Poel, Schurter moves into the series lead with 835 points, followed by Fluckiger at 755 and Van der Poel at 700.
"It was a super tough one," said Schurter. "I had a stupid mistake on the first descent; I crashed, and then it took me a while to get into my rhythm again. I think this is the hardest race, at the high altitude, as you are always suffering. I attacked as hard as I could [at the start of the last lap], but I could see that he [Fluckiger] was still with me, so I knew it was going to be a hard one to win. I tried again, and it worked out, but it was very hard."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|6||Jose Gerardo Ulloa Arevalo||0:00:53|
|15||David Valero Serrano|
|24||Pablo Rodriguez Guede||0:03:13|
|35||Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez||0:04:42|
|37||Luiz Henrique Cocuzzi||0:05:17|
|47||Carlos Coloma Nicolas||0:06:31|
|57||Sebastian Fini Carstensen||0:08:44|
|61||Adelino Moll Mut||0:09:23|
|67||Thibaud Saint Guilhem|
|69||Mario Sinues Mico|
|71||Jaime Miranda Jaime|
|72||Rob Vanden Haesevelde|
|75||Xavier Pijuan Porcel|
|78||Marc Andre Fortier|
|81||Victor Selles Pardo|
|85||Manuel Sanchez Aldeguer|
|86||Pedro Rodriguez Mesa|
|87||Salvador Moll Mut|
|88||Pau Romero Barcelo|
|89||Jesus Torres Perez|
|90||Guy Diaz Grollier|
|92||Sergi Oller Piferrer|
|93||Cristofer Bosque Ruano|
|95||Xavi Calaf Garcia|
|99||Adria Noguera Soldevila|
|100||Jorge Gomez Mora|
|102||Camilo Jesus Espinosa Ozaez|
|DNF||Carlos Jimenez Serrano|
|DNF||Daniel James Mcconnell|