Lukas Flückiger (Trek World Racing) overcame the bad luck that plagued him at the last three World Cup mountain bike races and earned his career-best finish - a second place - on Saturday in Val d'Isere, France.
Flückiger showed that he had recovered from a crash in Mont-Sainte-Anne in late June in which he injured his neck.
Sitting in the top five for close to the entire race, there were many opportunities for Flückiger to consider trying to bridge the gap to the leaders, but at the high altitude venue, the price for such a surge in effort could have resulted in disaster. Instead, Flückiger rode to his own pace and rhythm, never letting the leaders out of his site. When he'd moved up to third place on the fourth of six laps, he could see the leaders Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower) and Marco Fontana (Cannondale) less than 20 seconds away on the switchback climbs.
Schurter attacked Fontana, who tried to stay with him, but the effort to get the lead was taking its toll and Fontana fell into Flückiger's clutches. With one lap to go, Flückiger closed the gap down to just 12 seconds on the final climb, a gap that remained until the end.
"This was my best ever World Cup race in my career. It's funny, I was watching the [Olympic] opening ceremony in London and that gave me a special motivation to race to my full potential," said Flückiger.
"The altitude didn't affect me as I came in very late to the venue, and that always works best for me. It was so tantalizing to see Nino so close, but it was a matter of managing my energy levels and not blow myself to pieces chasing him down. Who knows, one lap more maybe? I'm super happy to have this great podium."
The quality field featured all the top riders heading to the Olympic Games in two weeks, so Flückiger was especially proud of the result although the Trek World Racing rider himself will not be at the Olympics as he did not make the Swiss team selection.
Flückiger moved up five places in the World Cup overall to take 10th for the season. Although he will not race at the Olympic mountain bike race, he will contest the world championships in Austria in September.
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