The incomparable Swiss rider Nino Schurter won his 10th elite men's XCO World crown on Sunday, in the final race of the 2022 Mountain Bike World Championships in Les Gets, France. His closest rival, Julien Absalon of France, has four.
David Valero (Spain) finished nine seconds back for silver and Luca Braidot of Italy took the bronze, another 20 seconds later. Tom Pidcock (Great Britain) managed to finish fourth.
Schurter's first world title was as a Junior, in Les Gets, in 2004, 18 years earlier. This time his win was no cruise.
Schurter faced an extremely strong field, including Olympic Champion Pidcock, Olympic bronze medalist Valero, recent World Cup winner Braidot and 2020 World Champion Jordan Sarrou, racing before a home crowd.
A lead group of five quickly formed on the first lap, with Schurter, Valero, Braidot, Sarrou and Alan Hatherly (South Africa). Pidcock, who has been racing primarily on the road this season and thus has a low UCI mountain bike ranking, had to work his way up from starting on the fifth row, and didn't join the leaders until the start of the third lap.
Sarrou and Hatherly were the first to be dropped, on lap 4, as Pidcock pushed the pace, even gaining a slight gap on Schurter when the Swiss rider had a small crash. The group was back together for lap 5, but Pidcock was showing signs of fatigue; coming off the back of the group and having to rejoin multiple times.
By the penultimate sixth lap, Pidcock had been dropped for good and, after also having a small crash, would eventually barely manage to hang on for fourth. Schurter and Valero pulled away from Braidot, who remained close at 10-15 seconds, but was unable to close the gap.
At the front, there was no separation between Schurter and Valero. Valero tried to take the lead multiple times, but Schurter always managed to pick up the pace to maintain his spot at the front. It was only in the final kilometre that Schurter was able to get away in one of the technical sections and make it stick, winning by nine seconds over the Spaniard, with Braidot coming in at 29 seconds.
"It's unbelievable," admitted Schurter. "I couldn't believe it when I crossed the finish line that I did it again. I really tried it from the start, to make it a hard race so that Pidcock couldn't get too easy to the front. It was a tough race and at the end it was Valero and I; I took my chance to try and force him to make mistakes, and luckily he did make one, in one of the last technical bits and I was able to get away and I just went full gas.
"This place is magic for me, I won my first title here and now I have won again as one of the oldest riders ever!"
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