Swiss excel at European cross country championships

Swiss racers dominated the European cross country championships in St. Wendel, Germany last weekend by taking the top two spots plus fourth place in the elite men's race and winning both the U23 men's and women's events.

Among the elite men, Florian Vogel won with a time of 2:06:42, 34 seconds ahead of Christoph Sauser and 1:14 ahead of Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark). Ralph Näf (Switzerland) and Christoph Soukup (Austria) rounded out the top five.

Eight men got away early. Eventual winner Vogel rode with physical and mental strength and intensified the pace to whittle down the group further. World Champion Julien Absalon, who has already won three of three World Cups this season, was a victim of the high pace and eventually finished 15th.

Before the end, Sauser attacked and got away. Vogel and Fuglsang chased until Vogel attacked his companion and bridged up to Sauser. On the final lap, the Vogel proved to be the stronger of the two Swiss riders on the steep climbs as he escaped for a solo win.

In the elite women's race, it was defending champion Sabine Spitz (Germany) who kept her title for another year with a win in 2:08:59. In second was world champion Irina Kalentieva (Russia) at 38 seconds and in third was Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway). Laurence Leboucher (France) and Eva Lechner (Italy) rounded out the top five.

Spitz attacked on the fourth lap and last year's European championship silver medallist Kalentieva couldn't answer. After three weeks off from competition due to illness, Kalentieva took second in a sprint finish with Dahle Flesjaa.

"It was extremely close – to be honest, I didn't think that I was going to be able to take Gunn-Rita, so for me I extremely happy that I did. That said I would have been happy with the bronze medal too. The sprint just added a bit of fun to it," Kalentieva said, with a big grin after the finish.

Nino Schurter, another Swiss racer, took the U23 men's title while Nathalie Schneitter (Switzerland) won the U23 women's race.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the European cross country championships.

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