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Late crash for Schurter and Flückiger opens door for Braidot at Lenzerheide World Cup

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2022, Worldcup Bike Kingdom Lenzerheide, Cross Country, Men, Luca Braidot
Luca Braidot comes from behind and wins first World Cup in Lenzerheide (Image credit: Sven Martin)

It was an unpredictable finish for the fifth round of the men’s XCO World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, with Luca Braidot (Santa Cruz FSA MTB Pro Team) winning his first World Cup race. He outsprinted Alan Hatherly (Cannondale Factory Racing) to secure the victory.

Mathias Flückiger (Thömas Maxon) and Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM MTB Racing Team) battled for top honours until a last-minute crash took both down and Braidot came through to cross the finish line first.

Flückiger managed to bounce back quickest and finished four seconds back for third place, his first World Cup win on home soil delayed for another time. Schurter was another eight seconds back in fourth, his quest for a record 34th World Cup win held at bay. Filippo Colombo (BMC MTB Racing), who won the short track race on Friday, rolled in fifth.

Despite the late crash, Schurter still held the World Cup series lead, now 212 points ahead of Hatherly and 218 ahead of Flückiger.

“This is magic. I still cannot believe it,” Braidot said at the finish. “I still see Nino and Flückiger in front. The two fell. We passed them. Then there was Hatherly and I. I had pain in my leg and the sprint was very hard. Maybe tomorrow I'll realize what I've achieved here." 

Schurter grabbed the early lead in front of a home Swiss crowd. Compatriot Flückiger struggled in 14th position at the start, but midway through the opening circuit had worked his way to second place. Colombo was close behind to make it an all-Swiss trio headed to the second lap, and Hatherly joining the group.

On the third lap Braidot tagged along at the front and worked his way to the front. Colombo, who worked his way into the lead early on the fourth lap, was soon passed by David Valero Serrano (BH Templo Cafés UCC) on the first downhill. But then Flückiger used an alternate line to make a pass and accelerate at the front. Schurter was quick to match the pace, along with Colombo.

On the final lap, Braidot blasted past the Swiss leaders, but it only caused the others to accelerate again. With Schurter out front, Flückiger attempted his alternate path again, but Schurter shut down the pass. Then Flückiger attempted to out-sprint Schurter in a tree-covered section on the final lap and the duo went down. Braidot took off and beat Hatherly in the decisive head-to-head battle.

“It is sad! We would have been on one and two and I would have won for sure,” said a confident Schurter at the end. “There could not have been a better situation for my record. It's a bad answer from him, the only way I can interpret it is that he couldn't handle last year's defeat and just shot me down because of it. I really don't understand." 

Last year Schurter slipped past Flückiger on a rooty descent in Lenzerheide to take second place, with the overall win going to Victor Koretzky.

"It's racing. We passed each other several times throughout the race. It got closer and closer between us after every overtaking manoeuvre. Then we touched each other and fell. It's not nice to end the race like this, but it is what it is. That can happen in racing," Flückiger said.

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