It is one thing to win a World Cup on a perfect day and another to win even with a flat tire. That's just what Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) did this weekend at the cross country World Cup in Vallnord, Andorra, where he celebrated the 10th World Cup victory of his career.
Round four was held at altitude, 2000m above sea level. Some riders came up far in advance to get used to the altitude, but Schurter opted to arrive at the last minute, hoping he would not feel the effects of the altitude too much.
Oddly enough, on the first lap, the stars were missing from the front. There was no Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized), Julien Absalon (BMC) or Schurter. The latter was absent because he had gotten a flat front tire while leading the race. Luckily for him, he was able to continue racing and only dropped to about 11th.
Kulhavy struggled all race and finished in 34th while Absalon dropped his chain 200m after the start and had to battle his way up through the field. For much of the race, he was fastest but he continued to be plagued by chain problems and would finish eighth.
Ondrej Cink (Multivan Merida) led the race after breaking away from the other leaders on lap one. He had as much as 40 seconds on everyone else in his long solo effort. Schurter chased with Florian Vogel, Maxime Marotte, Stephane Tempier and Gerhard Kerschbaumer. It looked like they were racing for second, but eventually their high pace melted Cink's gap to 18 seconds with a half lap to go.
Schurter smelled blood and took off, not worried about risks, on the downhill where he had flatted on the first lap. This time luck was on his side and he caught Cink and immediately attacked him.
It was an intense battle with the top three finishing within 11 seconds of each other. Schurter continues to be the best rider on the World Cup circuit this year, leading the overall standings.
Totally exhausted at the finish, Schurter said, "This one really comes as a surprise. After the flat, I wanted to finish in top five for the World Cup overall. On the last lap, I felt comfortable going for second. And when I saw Cink not far ahead of us, I got the wings and took a lot of risks on the downhills. It paid off perfectly in this sweet victory."