Nino Schurter (Scott-Odlo) finished the 2015 Cross-country World Cup season with three straight wins, and he continued the streak at the first round of 2016, in Cairns, Australia.
Cairns has a long history in mountain biking, stretching back to the 1996 World Championships. This year's event will be a final test event for organizers before they host the World Championships next year (2017), and then the Commonwealth Games (for cross-country) the year after.
Two years ago, riders faced torrential rain, turning the course into a mud bog, however, despite rain earlier in the week, on race day the 4.3-kilometre course was hard, dusty and fast. After a flat start loop, the riders head out to a long and, in places, technical climb for the first half of the circuit. Once at the top, it is a fast and technical descent to the bottom, with a final flat loop to the finish. The dry conditions led to numerous riders suffering flats on the sharp rocks and roots.
The men's race was missing only one top ranked rider - Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing), who is still recovering from a broken hand suffered earlier in the year. The race was expected to be the resumption of the ongoing battle between the two top men in the world - Schurter and Julien Absalon (BMC).
However, after Absalon suffered a rear flat on the first lap and had a slow change, he dropped to the high-40s, and it appeared his race was over. At the front, Schurter was on cruise control, with only Mathias Fluckiger (Stockli) and Maxime Marotte (BH-SR Suntour-KMC) able to keep pace with him; and Schurter appeared to be just biding his time before dropping first Fluckiger and then Marotte.
The real story was behind, where Absalon was making a remarkable charge through the field. By the halfway mark he was back in the top, with two laps to go into fourth and then into third with a lap to go, having joined Fluckiger. Schurter had clearly received word that Absalon was coming back, because he quickly dropped Marotte and began to race seriously.
Marotte fought back, but came up short by three seconds, with Absalon at 27 seconds. Absalon pulled back over half a minute, through heavy traffic and limited passing options. We can only speculate the battle that would have happened if Absalon had not flatted.
"Yeah, it's really amazing," commented Schurter. "I was hoping for a good start [to the season]. I felt really good in the spring but I had a bit of a cold a couple weeks ago and I didn't know how fit I really am. So, yeah, I'm really lucky and happy with the win.
"When I realized that Absalon had a flat I knew I could sit in a bit in the group and see how fit the others are. Then mid race I saw that Absalon was making his way back [up] so I had to attack and go full out.
"I am a bit disappointed," admitted Absalon, "because the legs were very good today. I had a flat tire in the first lap, right on the first climb, and I lost a lot of time when it took quite a bit of time in the tech zone to change the wheel.
"So it's a shame, because my shape was really good and the legs were perfect today to fight for the win and maybe another good fight with Nino. So even with the technical problem, my shape is really good. It will be nice to go back to Europe and try to fight in Albstadt [Germany, Round 2] and La Bresse [France, Round 3]."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Nino Schurter (Swi) SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing Team||1:27:44|
|2||Maxime Marotte (Fra) BH-SR Suntour-KMC||0:00:03|
|3||Julien Absalon (Fra) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team||0:00:27|
|4||Mathias Flückiger (Swi) Stöckli Pro Team||0:00:39|
|5||Florian Vogel (Swi) Focus XC Team||0:00:47|
|6||Lars Forster (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team||0:00:52|
|7||Matthias Stirnemann (Swi) Moebel Maerki MTB Pro Team||0:01:18|
|8||Fabian Giger (Swi) Kross Racing Team||0:01:27|
|9||Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) Cannondale Factory Racing XC||0:01:30|
|10||Carlos Coloma Nicolas (Spa) MMR Factory Racing Team||0:02:00|
|11||Catriel Andres Soto (Arg) MMR Factory Racing Team||0:02:11|
|12||Raphael Gagne (Can)||0:02:29|
|13||Jordan Sarrou (Fra) BH-SR Suntour-KMC|
|14||Luca Braidot (Ita)||0:02:33|
|15||Kohei Yamamoto (Jpn) Trek Factory Racing XC||0:02:35|
|16||Martin Gujan (Swi) Wheeler Pro Team||0:02:37|
|17||Grant Ferguson (GBr) CST Superior Brentjens Mountainbike Racing Team||0:02:38|
|18||Karl Markt (Aut) Haibike Oetztal Pro Team||0:02:48|
|19||Leandre Bouchard (Can)||0:02:49|
|20||Stephen Ettinger (USA)||0:02:50|
|21||Michiel Van Der Heijden (Ned) SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing Team|
|22||Thomas Litscher (Swi) Multivan Merida Biking Team||0:03:11|
|23||Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Ita) Bianchi Countervail||0:03:12|
|24||Martin Fanger (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team||0:03:24|
|25||Andrea Tiberi (Ita) FRM Factory Racing Team||0:03:25|
|26||Gregor Raggl (Aut) Haibike Oetztal Pro Team||0:03:37|
|27||Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Spa) Trek Factory Racing XC|
|28||David Valero (Spa) MMR Factory Racing Team||0:03:39|
|29||Derek Zandstra (Can) Scott-3Rox Racing||0:03:44|
|30||Manuel Fumic (Ger) Cannondale Factory Racing XC||0:03:51|
|31||Daniel McConnell (Aus) Trek Factory Racing XC||0:04:10|
|32||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned)||0:04:25|
|33||Daniele Braidot (Ita)||0:04:33|
|34||Reto Indergand (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team||0:04:55|
|35||Martin Gluth (Ger) Novus Omx Pro Team||0:05:11|
|36||Simon Stiebjahn (Ger) Team Bulls||0:05:20|
|37||Cameron Ivory (Aus)|
|38||Ondrej Cink (Cze) Multivan Merida Biking Team||0:05:30|
|39||Stéphane Tempier (Fra) Bianchi Countervail||0:05:54|
|40||Bartlomiej Wawak (Pol) Kross Racing Team||0:06:05|
|41||Shlomi Haimy (Isr) Novus Omx Pro Team||0:06:06|
|42||José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spa) Multivan Merida Biking Team||0:06:07|
|43||David Joao Serralheiro Rosa (Por)||0:06:23|
|44||Lukas Flückiger (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team||0:06:30|
|45||Hugo Drechou (Fra) Calvisson VTT||0:06:31|
|46||Mirko Tabacchi (Ita)||0:06:36|
|47||Henrique Avancini (Bra) Cannondale Factory Racing XC||0:06:38|
|48||Miguel Martinez (Fra)||0:06:46|
|49||Karl Platt (Ger) Team Bulls||0:07:04|
|50||Michal Lami (Svk)||0:07:11|
|51||Anton Sintsov (Rus) Jbg - 2 Professional MTB Team||0:07:21|
|52||Moritz Milatz (Ger)||0:07:26|
|53||Markus Schulte-Luenzum (Ger) Focus XC Team||0:07:35|
|54||Spencer Paxson (USA) Kona Factory Team XC||0:07:49|
|55||Victor Koretzky (Fra) BH-SR Suntour-KMC||0:08:13|
|56||Geoff Kabush (Can) Scott-3Rox Racing||0:08:15|
|57||Evan Guthrie (Can)||0:08:38|
|58||Andrew L'esperance (Can)||0:09:09|
|59||Simon Gegenheimer (Ger)||- 1 lap|
|60||Phillip Pearce (GBr)|
|61||Brendan Johnston (Aus)|
|62||Anton Cooper (NZl) Cannondale Factory Racing XC|
|63||Keegan Swenson (USA)|
|64||Sebastian Alejandro Miranda Maldonado (Chi)|
|65||Javier Eduardo Puschel (Chi)|
|66||Martin Haring (Svk)|
|67||Seiya Hirano (Jpn)||- 2 laps|
|68||Paul Van Der Ploeg (Aus)|
|69||Steffen Thum (Ger) Rose Vaujany Fueled By Ultrasports|
|70||Zhen Wang (Chn) China Jiangsu ZGL MTB Team|
|71||Rotem Ishay (Isr)|
|72||Kyle Ward (Aus)|
|73||Patricio Andres Campbell Vilches (Chi)|
|74||Shaun Lewis (Aus)|
|75||Evan Mcneely (Can)|
|76||Yoshitaka Nakahara (Jpn)|
|77||Remi Laffont (Fra) Rose Vaujany Fueled by Ultrasports|
|78||Jon Odams (Aus)|
|79||Gregory Saw (Aus) Hard Rocx Abax by Swix||- 3 laps|
|80||Russell Nankervis (Aus)|
|81||Howard Grotts (USA) Specialized Racing||- 4 laps|
|82||Travis Frisby (Aus)|
|83||Anthony Lincy (Fra)|
|84||Michael Broderick (USA)||- 5 laps|
|DNF||Pablo Rodriguez Guede (Spa) MMR Factory Racing Team|
|DNF||Alex Grant (USA)|
|DNS||Markus Bauer (Ger)|
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