A blemish-free record awaits current cross country mountain bike world champion Nino Schurter (Scott Odlo) when he returns to one of his favourite hunting grounds globally, the Cascades MTB Park, where he hopes to claim his fourth win at the venue in all competitions at the South African leg of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup April 11-13.
With such a dominant record at the Pietermaritzburg venue, Schurter rates it highly amongst the World Cup locations around the world and maintains that the course suits his style of riding the best out of all of the tracks worldwide.
"Pietermaritzburg is my favourite course on the World Cup circuit and I have won every time I have raced there which is encouraging for me going into the first event of the new season," the three-time world champion said. "The layout of the course is good for me with a number of technical sections which I can take advantage of and there are also some short, intense climbs that I really enjoy!"
Having spent much of the recent months preparing in South Africa's Western Cape, Schurter is hoping to emulate his previous three victories at the venue and, after finishing the previous season as the best cross country rider in the world, it could be much of the same as Schurter returns to Cascades - the first stop on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup circuit for 2014.
Taking part in an event in April in South Africa will mean that the weather could be uncomfortable and acclimatising to the warmer conditions will be important for the northern hemisphere-based riders as many of them would still be coming out of the significantly cooler winter period.
"I really love racing in South Africa, I spend time there preparing in the off-season and I am hoping to go out there and repeat what I have done for the past few years.
"Getting there early and adjusting to the sun is important and Pietermaritzburg is quite a different place to race at which makes it exciting," Schurter said.
Schurter was powering away to a comfortable world championship victory in 2013 but a slight hiccup at the final "Over the Top" section meant that his lead was cut slightly, making his victory a touch less convincing with the real race being for second as German Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) claimed the silver medal over Spaniard Jose Hermida Ramos (Multivan Merida).
It was all Schurter in 2012's Pietermaritzburg leg of the World Cup circuit as well with the Swiss star overcoming a valiant challenge by the late South African cycling legend Burry Stander while Fumic claimed third.
Beginning the new season on a positive note is something that all riders will be hoping to do and being able to win the first leg of the World Cup would do a lot for the confidence after the off season. Schurter returns to a favourite haunt of his and his confidence will undoubtedly be high ahead of the start of the 2014 World Cup season.
"It is always good to get something under the belt early in the season and that is what I am hoping Pietermaritzburg will give me.
"Winning in Pietermaritzburg will be the perfect start to the season for me and I am really looking forward to racing at Cascades again," an upbeat and excited Schurter said.
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