France wins gold in team relay at mountain bike Worlds

France raced to the gold medal in the team relay at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Hafjell, Norway on Wednesday while Switzerland and the Czech Republic rounded out the top three.

French team anchor rider Maxime Marotte said, "I had the chance to win this event three years ago at Worlds in Champery, but it's the first time for the others on the team, so it's a good feeling and we're happy."

All three medal winning teams followed the same strategy on rider order, starting with their under 23 man, then racing their junior man and elite woman before saving their elite man for the final lap's push.

Other teams that did not follow that rider order raced at the front in the early laps, including Spain and Canada and Australia. But when it came to the final lap, those nations had already used up their elite man and they faded backward.

Switzerland's anchor man Nino Schurter commented on the medal winners' strategy. "You can maybe change the elite and U23 riders, but that's it. I would say our strategy was the best working strategy though it does depend a bit on how strong your riders are in each category."

The French team was consistently strong, with U23 World Cup winner Jordan Sarrou setting the pace on lap one, followed by junior Hugo Pigeon, Pauline Ferrand Prevot and then Marotte.

When Marotte took his turn, France was in third place with about a 25-second gap to close to Spain and Canada, who both chose to run their elite women last.

"It was important to not flat and to have no problems with the bike," said Marotte. "It's so bumpy out there and there are a lot of rocks. During the training, I already flatted two tires so I was thinking about that. I tried to pick good lines and be safe. Fortunately, I had some seconds to do that because the others on the team before me did such a good job. I was able to ride fast and safe."

Another favorite, Switzerland, had defending cross country world champion Nino Schurter as their final rider, but Schurter had to come from much further back on the last lap and while he made up significant places, it wasn't enough to catch Marotte.

"We always try to win, but we knew the French team was strong and we'd need a bit of luck to win," said Schurter. "I knew Marotte had 45 seconds on me at the start of my lap and that gap was too big to close in one lap. I just tried to catch the other riders and move us up from sixth place."

Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy put in an impressive last lap to move the Czech Republic up four places into the bronze medal winning spot.

Schurter said, "I didn't know Jaro was so close behind me but when I saw him the first time, I was a bit scared. I had a feeling like at last year's World Cup here when he gave me a hard time on that last uphill."

Speaking on behalf of the Swiss team, Schurter said, "We are happy about the silver. We're a young team with Andri Frischknecht and Jolanda Neff and our junior rider Filippo Colombo also did a good job. We always try to win, but it's a great start to Worlds to get two medals yesterday and a silver today. We'll keep counting the medals - we're at 106."

The Czech Republic team finished third.

"I'm not surprised at all. We had a strong team on paper," said Nash. "You never know until the last leg. A lot can change. It's the most exciting race we get to do. I was hoping for a medal because I was riding with all these strong guys, and it worked out for us."

The team's strategy was simple - according to Nash, in a short discussion, everyone simply decided to ride as hard as they could.

"Most of us race indivdually the rest of the year and this is the one time of year we get to race as a team in an event," said Nash. "There were a lot of changes in places on the last two laps - so much can happen because you don't know how everyone built their teams."

The United States put in its second best team relay ever (since finishing third in Fort William in 2007) for a solid fourth place finish. They opted for a different order than the top three teams, starting with elite rider Todd Wells ahead of Neilson Powless, Lea Davison and Keegan Swenson. Final rider, under 23 national champ Swenson, said his strategy was to hang on to Kulhavy's wheel for as long as he could on the final lap as he moved the US up four places.

US coach Mark Gullickson explained the team's strategy to Cyclingnews. "We tried to put our four fastest riders out there in each of those categories. Over the years, it seems like for most teams, the right order is a fast rider first and a fast rider last. We stuck to that formula. It's super exciting racing because you never know - like today at the end, Keegan came through a whole bunch of riders."

Full Results

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Team relay
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
Jordan Sarrou (MU)
Hugo Pigeon (MJ)
Pauline Ferrand Prevot (WU)
Maxime Marotte (ME)
Andri Frischknecht (MU)
Filippo Colombo (MJ)
Jolanda Neff (WU)
Nino Schurter (ME)
3Czech Republic0:52:57
Krystof Bogar (MU)
Jan Rajchart (MJ)
Katerina Nash (WE)
Jaroslav Kulhavy (ME)
4United States Of America0:53:27
Todd Wells (ME)
Neilson Powless (MJ)
Lea Davison (WE)
Keegan Swenson (MU)
Julian Schelb (MU)
Luca Schwarzbauer (MJ)
Sabine Spitz (WE)
Manuel Fumic (ME)
Daniel Mcconnell (ME)
Cameron Ivory (MU)
Rebecca Henderson (WE)
Reece Tucknott (MJ)
Leandre Bouchard (MU)
Geoff Kabush (ME)
Marc Andre Fortier (MJ)
Catharine Pendrel (WE)
Rudi Van Houts (ME)
Joris Nieuwenhuis (MJ)
Anne Terpstra (WE)
Michiel Van Der Heijden (MU)
Sebastian Carstensen Fini (MU)
Niels Rasmussen (MU)
Annika Langvad (WE)
Simon Andreassen (MJ)
José Antonio Hermida Ramos (ME)
Pablo Rodriguez Guede (MU)
Javier Jimenez Pascual (MJ)
Rocio Martin Rodriguez (WE)
Emil Lindgren (ME)
Axel Lindh (MU)
Kajsa Snihs (WE)
Max Wiklund-Hellstadius (MJ)
Sondre Kristiansen (MU)
Erik Nordsaeter Resell (MJ)
Ingrid Boe Jacobsen (WU)
Ola Kjören (ME)
Sergji Rysenko (ME)
Oleksiy Zavolokin (MU)
Yana Belomoina (WU)
Kostiantyn Prykhodko (MJ)
Alexander Gehbauer (ME)
Max Foidl (MU)
Felix Ritzinger (MJ)
Elisabeth Osl (WE)
Bart De Vocht (MU)
Niels Derveaux (MJ)
Githa Michiels (WE)
Ruben Scheire (ME)
16Russian Federation0:56:29
Timofei Ivanov (ME)
Anton Stepanov (MU)
Anna Konovalova (WU)
Arsenty Vavilov (MJ)
Luca Braidot (ME)
Moreno Pellizzon (MJ)
Eva Lechner (WE)
Andrea Righettini (MU)
Frantisek Lami (MU)
Filip Sklenarik (MJ)
Janka Keseg Stevkova (WE)
Michal Lami (ME)
19South Africa0:57:55
Gert Heyns (MU)
Candice Neethling (WU)
Alan Hatherly (MJ)
Philip Buys (ME)
Ignacio Torres (ME)
José Aurelio Hernandez (MU)
Daniela Campuzano (WE)
Jose Gerardo Ulloa (MJ)
Luis Rojas (MU)
Agustina Maria Apaza (WE)
Gonzalo Artal Lokman (MJ)
Dario Alejandro Gasco (ME)
22Great Britain1:00:09
Iain Paton (MU)
Dylan Kerfoot-Robson (MJ)
Alice Barnes (WU)
Grant Ferguson (MU)
Mario Luis Miranda Costa (ME)
Rodrigo Serafin (MJ)
Joana Filipa Oliveira Monteiro (WU)
Goncalo Duarte Amado (MU)
Kohei Yamamoto (ME)
Toki Sawada (MU)
Mio Suemasa (WE)
Ari Hirabayashi (MJ)
Shlomi Haimy (ME)
Guy Niv (MU)
Guy Leshem (MJ)
Meghan Beltzer (WU)
Toni Tahti (MU)
Sasu Halme (MJ)
Sonja Kallio (WE)
Jukka Vastaranta (ME)
Isak Unal (MU)
Esra Kurkcu (WE)
Yunus Emre Yilmaz (MJ)
Abdulkadir Kelleci (ME)


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