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Mountain Bike World Championships - CM
Fort William, Scotland, September 4-9, 2007
Race 1 - September 4: Team relay,
By Rob Jones in Fort William
The Mountain Bike World Championships opened today with the team relay, and the Swiss were successful in defending their title, finishing 49 seconds in front of Poland and 1:09 ahead of first-time medalist the United States.
The Swiss were never in difficulty, with elite team member Florian Vogel winning the opening lap by 48 seconds ahead of Germany's Wolfram Kurschat. Vogel handed off to junior Thomas Litscher, who ceded a handful of seconds to Italy, but still sent Petra Henzi out for the third lap in the lead.
As expected, Henzi was caught by some of the men, finishing fifth behind home team Great Britain (Ian Wilkinson), Germany (Rene Tann), Italy (Francesco Aulino) and the Ukraine (Mykhaylo Batsutsa). However, the anchor rider for Switzerland was defending U23 world champion Nino Schurter, and he started 1:56 out from the lead, behind four women.
"No, I wasn't too worried," Schurter said "I knew it was just girls in front, and that I could catch them if it was three minutes, and it was much less. I caught Sabine (Spitz - Germany) and took the lead still on the climb. After that I rode carefully on the descent so there were no mistakes."
Poland rode steadily in fourth for the first two laps, dropped to seventh after their female rider went on the third lap, and then their clean-up rider Dariusz Batek also went by the women in front to take silver.
Adam Craig, riding the anchor leg for the US, had a much longer chase up to the final podium spot. The US were alone among the 15 teams competing in sending their women - Georgia Gould - out first, followed by their second slowest, Junior Ethan Gilmour. After Gould, the Americans were dead last, 4:27 behind the Swiss. Gilmour moved them up one spot, but now they were 6:02 back.
U23 rider Sam Schultz began to put them back in the game with the fastest third lap - nearly four minutes faster than the Swiss rider Henzi - and Craig cemented the bronze medal after posting the fastest full lap of the entire race - 22:01 (the opening lap cut out a technical section).
"The team had a good chat yesterday," said Craig, "and we thought that we would switch it up. I am used to slow starts and having to pass people, and I think it was good for our morale to be passing the whole time. For the most part the passing was pretty good; there was only a couple of spots on the downhill where I got held up a bit."
The individual events begin tomorrow with the Junior and U23 women. Racing starts at 10:30 am local time with the Junior women.
There are 26 Junior women and 28 U23 women. As always, the Junior women's race is wide open, with Vivianne Meyer (Switzerland) and Gesa Bruchmann (Germany) the closest to being favourites.
The favourite for the women's U23 race is, of course, the defending champion Ren Chengyuan of China. Ren has won one World Cup this year and appeared on the podium multiple times. Her team-mate Liu Ying is also a strong contender for the podium. Other names to watch will include Tereza Hurikova (Czech Republic), Elisabeth Osl (Austria), and possibly Chloe Forsman of the US, who has posted some very strong results in World Cup competition.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Rob Jones/www.canadiancyclist.com
1 Switzerland 1.33.36 2 Poland 0.49 3 United States of America 1.09 4 France 1.45 5 Germany 1.53 6 Czech Republic 2.02 7 Italy 2.06 8 Russian Federation 2.10 9 Great Britain 2.54 10 Ukraine 5.12 11 Netherlands 5.36 12 Spain 6.07 13 Japan 8.07 14 New Zealand 9.57 15 Israel 12.26