Schurter wins opening World Cup in Cairns

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]."

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Nino Schurter (Swi) SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing Team1:27:44
2Maxime Marotte (Fra) BH-SR Suntour-KMC0:00:03
3Julien Absalon (Fra) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team0:00:27
4Mathias Flückiger (Swi) Stöckli Pro Team0:00:39
5Florian Vogel (Swi) Focus XC Team0:00:47
6Lars Forster (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team0:00:52
7Matthias Stirnemann (Swi) Moebel Maerki MTB Pro Team0:01:18
8Fabian Giger (Swi) Kross Racing Team0:01:27
9Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) Cannondale Factory Racing XC0:01:30
10Carlos Coloma Nicolas (Spa) MMR Factory Racing Team0:02:00
11Catriel Andres Soto (Arg) MMR Factory Racing Team0:02:11
12Raphael Gagne (Can)0:02:29
13Jordan Sarrou (Fra) BH-SR Suntour-KMCRow 12 - Cell 2
14Luca Braidot (Ita)0:02:33
15Kohei Yamamoto (Jpn) Trek Factory Racing XC0:02:35
16Martin Gujan (Swi) Wheeler Pro Team0:02:37
17Grant Ferguson (GBr) CST Superior Brentjens Mountainbike Racing Team0:02:38
18Karl Markt (Aut) Haibike Oetztal Pro Team0:02:48
19Leandre Bouchard (Can)0:02:49
20Stephen Ettinger (USA)0:02:50
21Michiel Van Der Heijden (Ned) SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing TeamRow 20 - Cell 2
22Thomas Litscher (Swi) Multivan Merida Biking Team0:03:11
23Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Ita) Bianchi Countervail0:03:12
24Martin Fanger (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team0:03:24
25Andrea Tiberi (Ita) FRM Factory Racing Team0:03:25
26Gregor Raggl (Aut) Haibike Oetztal Pro Team0:03:37
27Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Spa) Trek Factory Racing XCRow 26 - Cell 2
28David Valero (Spa) MMR Factory Racing Team0:03:39
29Derek Zandstra (Can) Scott-3Rox Racing0:03:44
30Manuel Fumic (Ger) Cannondale Factory Racing XC0:03:51
31Daniel McConnell (Aus) Trek Factory Racing XC0:04:10
32Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned)0:04:25
33Daniele Braidot (Ita)0:04:33
34Reto Indergand (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team0:04:55
35Martin Gluth (Ger) Novus Omx Pro Team0:05:11
36Simon Stiebjahn (Ger) Team Bulls0:05:20
37Cameron Ivory (Aus)Row 36 - Cell 2
38Ondrej Cink (Cze) Multivan Merida Biking Team0:05:30
39Stéphane Tempier (Fra) Bianchi Countervail0:05:54
40Bartlomiej Wawak (Pol) Kross Racing Team0:06:05
41Shlomi Haimy (Isr) Novus Omx Pro Team0:06:06
42José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spa) Multivan Merida Biking Team0:06:07
43David Joao Serralheiro Rosa (Por)0:06:23
44Lukas Flückiger (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team0:06:30
45Hugo Drechou (Fra) Calvisson VTT0:06:31
46Mirko Tabacchi (Ita)0:06:36
47Henrique Avancini (Bra) Cannondale Factory Racing XC0:06:38
48Miguel Martinez (Fra)0:06:46
49Karl Platt (Ger) Team Bulls0:07:04
50Michal Lami (Svk)0:07:11
51Anton Sintsov (Rus) Jbg - 2 Professional MTB Team0:07:21
52Moritz Milatz (Ger)0:07:26
53Markus Schulte-Luenzum (Ger) Focus XC Team0:07:35
54Spencer Paxson (USA) Kona Factory Team XC0:07:49
55Victor Koretzky (Fra) BH-SR Suntour-KMC0:08:13
56Geoff Kabush (Can) Scott-3Rox Racing0:08:15
57Evan Guthrie (Can)0:08:38
58Andrew L'esperance (Can)0:09:09
59Simon Gegenheimer (Ger)- 1 lap
60Phillip Pearce (GBr)Row 59 - Cell 2
61Brendan Johnston (Aus)Row 60 - Cell 2
62Anton Cooper (NZl) Cannondale Factory Racing XCRow 61 - Cell 2
63Keegan Swenson (USA)Row 62 - Cell 2
64Sebastian Alejandro Miranda Maldonado (Chi)Row 63 - Cell 2
65Javier Eduardo Puschel (Chi)Row 64 - Cell 2
66Martin Haring (Svk)Row 65 - Cell 2
67Seiya Hirano (Jpn)- 2 laps
68Paul Van Der Ploeg (Aus)Row 67 - Cell 2
69Steffen Thum (Ger) Rose Vaujany Fueled By UltrasportsRow 68 - Cell 2
70Zhen Wang (Chn) China Jiangsu ZGL MTB TeamRow 69 - Cell 2
71Rotem Ishay (Isr)Row 70 - Cell 2
72Kyle Ward (Aus)Row 71 - Cell 2
73Patricio Andres Campbell Vilches (Chi)Row 72 - Cell 2
74Shaun Lewis (Aus)Row 73 - Cell 2
75Evan Mcneely (Can)Row 74 - Cell 2
76Yoshitaka Nakahara (Jpn)Row 75 - Cell 2
77Remi Laffont (Fra) Rose Vaujany Fueled by UltrasportsRow 76 - Cell 2
78Jon Odams (Aus)Row 77 - Cell 2
79Gregory Saw (Aus) Hard Rocx Abax by Swix- 3 laps
80Russell Nankervis (Aus)Row 79 - Cell 2
81Howard Grotts (USA) Specialized Racing- 4 laps
82Travis Frisby (Aus)Row 81 - Cell 2
83Anthony Lincy (Fra)Row 82 - Cell 2
84Michael Broderick (USA)- 5 laps
DNFPablo Rodriguez Guede (Spa) MMR Factory Racing TeamRow 84 - Cell 2
DNFAlex Grant (USA)Row 85 - Cell 2
DNSMarkus Bauer (Ger)Row 86 - Cell 2

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