WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS REPORT: NINO AS IN NINE TIME
The Swiss phenom delivers an incredible finale and makes history once again, claiming a ninth World Championship after nearly a year without wins. Flückiger settles for a second after a race-long duel. Evie Richards’ dominating performance leads to the Brit’s first Women’s Elite title. Vidaurre and Mitterwallner are new Under 23 World Champions
The greatest cross-country MTB rider of all times has added another gem to his incredible career, writing another page of his legend, before the eyes of the fans that saw him win more than any others in the World.
For long years, Val di Sole had been the playground of Switzerland’s Nino Schurter, a domination that only Mathieu Van der Poel could interrupt in 2019. Nevertheless, the Swiss legend was hardly a sure bet for the 2021 World Championships in Val di Sole, given the value of his competitors, and also a winless streak that extended back to last year’s European Championships. So many solid performances, as many near misses and second places in 2021. Until Saturday August 28th, 2021.
In Val di Sole, Nino Schurter came on top of a memorable duel with Mathias Flückiger, the fellow Swiss, current #1 of the UCI World Ranking and leader of the Mercedes-Benz UCI MTB World Cup. It wouldn’t have made it without a bold move in one of the last corners, that gave him the edge in the final stretch. It was the ninth World Title for the most successful rider of all time, who finished ahead of Fluckiger, who took his third straight World silver, and France’s Victor Koretzky.
Previously in Val di Sole, the smile of Evie Richards (Great Britain) had lit up an otherwise cloudy day in Trentino (with even some short showers during the Elite races): great legs and sound tactics brought the Brit to the top of the World for the first time as an Èlite, topping a prestigious podium rounded out by Netherlands’ Anne Terpstra and Switzerland’s Sina Frei.
The morning’s Under 23 races crowned talented Austrian Mona Mitterwallner and Chilean Martin Vidaurre, making history as first MTB World Champion for the South American Country.
FLUCKIGER SURRENDERS TO THE GREATEST
There was no clear favorite at the starting line for the Elite Men’s Cross-Country race, but it didn’t take too long for it to shape up, as a brilliant Nino Schurter came to the fore with fellow countryman Flückiger glued to his wheel.
The Swiss duo made the difference in the second lap, with Schurter’s determined action in the first ascent of the Val di Sole’s route. Only Flückiger could stay in the wake of the 2016 Olympic Champion; behind them, Czech Ondrej Cink put his effort to contain the gap, followed by France’s Koretzky, Brazil’s Avancini, Romania’s Dascalu, Germany’s Brandl and fellow Swiss Colombo.
The lead of the duo increased during the third lap, in spite of Cink’s push. However, the Czech’s action faded in the fourth lap, with Koretzky, able to bridge the gap and push through, settling into third position.
Everything went down to the final lap for Flückiger and Schurter, and after no one could get away from the rival uphill, it was the former to face the downhill in the front. It seemed to be done for Mathias, until Schurter’s final move into the penultimate corner.
“It’s great to be back here. It was the perfect race: I got off to a good start, then I found myself in the lead with Mathias and we collaborated well. On the last lap I was tired, and just tried not to get dropped by Mathias. At the start of the descent, I tried to pass, but he had already figured my plan: I had only one corner left to try and do something, and I succeeded.”
“I has started doubting myself, to be honest,” continued Schurter, “after a year in which I was unable to perform as I expect from myself. Now I don’t know what I will do yet: I was confident that with a perfect race I could get back to win and having done it at the World Championships puts me in a better condition for any decision I could make in the future.”
France got the bronze medal with Koretzky, who claimed another brilliant result in a breakout season. Romania’s Vlad Dascalu was fourth, preceding surprising German Maximilian Brandl, bronze medalist in the Short Track.
EVIE RICHARDS IMPRESSES AMONG ELITE WOMEN
After the Short Track’s second place, Evie Richards had talked about her need to improve her race tactical approach. On Saturday, it looked like the Brit had learned the lesson, winning the first gold medal for a British Woman athlete in the history of the Mountain Bike World Championships.
On the demanding Trentino’s track, the British used her progression to respond to a lightning start by Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, who immediately tried to put the race on her favorite track.
After moving up positions in the second lap, in the third Richards managed both to reach and distance the French defending champion.
Ferrand-Prèvot’s difficulties continued in the fourth lap, when she was overtaken by Dutch Anne Terpstra, and then by a group including Swiss Sina Frei and Jolanda Neff and Pole Maja Wloszczowska, in her final ride of her career.
While the Dutchman was consolidating her second place, a mistake by Wloszczowska reduced the fight for third to an all-Swiss duel between Frei and Neff, which saw the Short Track champion prevail. Fourth place for Neff, fifth Wloszczowska, sixth Pauline Ferrand-Prèvot.
All in all, though, it was the day of Richards, who did not hide her emotions after the finish: “I can’t believe it. I wasn’t sure I could win such an important title, but today my moment has arrived. After the Olympics, without the quarantine, I managed to do the things I like with the people I love, as well as training hard. When I am happy, my legs are stronger. Today I think I have proved it.”
CHILE MAKES HISTORY: VIDAURRE SEALS FIRST GOLD AMONG U23 MEN
One of the most mountainous Country of South America finally has a World Champion in Mountain Biking. Martin Vidaurre of Chile secured the Under 23 in emphatic fashion in Val di Sole, delivering a near-perfect race on the Trentino’s course.
Vidaurre was the clear leader for most of the race, with a bunch of riders at the chase gradually losing ground early on. Emerging from that group was Italian Juri Zanotti, who overcame a tough start to move up to the second place and hold on it, ending 1’03” behind the winner. The Italian brought the second medal of the event for Italy, after Sara Cortinovis’ bronze in Junior Women’s XC. Switzerland’s Joel Roth, the recently crowned European Champion, confirmed last year’s result taking home the bronze medal, 1’38” behind Vidaurre.
“It’s crazy, we have worked so hard for it, and really hoped to deliver today. I come from Chile, that’s a completely different world from here in Europe, and I hope this result can be an inspiration for the new generations to embrace our sport,” Vidaurre said.
“In Chile, we have the perfect conditions to do mountain biking, yet if you want do something more in this sport you have to come to Europe. I have had the support of my father, who also did mountain biking, and at the age of 17 had the first opportunity to travel and race in Europe. For me it was a learning curve, I finished 40th in the first races, but then I realized how racing here was, and realized how to compete with the big guys. Now the guys in South America have more opportunity to get into the sport, and I am very happy for that.”
THE U23 RACE IS AN AUSTRIAN FEUD: MONA MITTERWALLNER WINS
Saturday 28 August has started in the name of Austria and neighboring Tyrol in the Under 23 Women’s race. One year after winning the World title among Juniors at Leogang 2020, Mona Mitterwallner repeated herself in the Under 23 ranks in Val di Sole, once again showing the superiority displayed throughout the season in Val di Sole.
Behind her, more Austria and more Tyrol with Laura Stigger: the twenty-year-old from Innsbruck could do nothing to deny her compatriot’s show of strength, finishing in second place, 2’04” behind. Bronze medal for Dane Caroline Bohe +3’26”), right in front of Italy’s Marika Tovo (+4’03”), who provided a very solid performance in a high-level race.
After Laura Stigger had led through the launch lap, Mona Mitterwallner took command in the first lap, consistently increasing her advantage thanks to her superior climbing skills, keeping safe from the attacks of her more technical compatriot. “The climb is my terrain, and therefore I tried to make the most of my strengths, as I knew Laura would be faster than me on the descents. Today I found a fantastic course, technical and perfectly suited to my characteristics.”
With consolidated gold and silver already fixed, the fight for the bronze medal saw Dane Caroline Bohe come out on top, keeping away from the chase of Italy’s Tovo.
For Mona Mitterwallner and Laura Stigger, it’s a matter of a couple of weeks before they are back to Trentino. The two Austrians will be part of the selection for the European Road Championships, to be held in Trento from September 8th to 12th: two more multidisciplinary talents.
TOMORROW THE GRAND FINALE ON THE BLACK SNAKE
As traditional for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, Downhill will be the final act of the Val di Sole week. Tomorrow, Sunday 29 August, the athletes will compete on the most technical and selective track in the world, the legendary Black Snake.
The figures (540 mt of altitude difference, 2,1 km distance, 24% average gradient, 45% maximum gradient) are not enough to express the challenges posed by the course.
The program of the final day of the World Championships features the U23 and Elite Downhill competitions (Junior Women and Men from 9.25am, Elite Women at 12.50pm live on RaiSport, Eurosport and RedBull TV, Elite Men at 2.10pm live on RaiSport and RedBull TV).
The fastest in Friday’s qualification, Loris Vergier (France) will be among the favorites along with Laurie Greenland (Great Britain), winner of the Val di Sole World Cup round in 2019. Veteran Greg Minnaar (South Africa) will try to break the spell and finally conquer the Black Snake for the first time.
The home Italy team can nurture dreams of medals in the Elite Women’s race, with Trentino’s Eleonora Farina and South Tyrol’s Veronika Widmann. Austrian Valentina Holl, French Marine Cabirou and Myriam Nicole and Swiss Camille Balanche are set to figure in the fight for the medals.
THE RESULTS SO FAR:
Wednesday, August 25th
• 12.30 CET – Team Relay (Winner: France)
Thursday, August 26th
• 11.30 CET – Cross Country JR Women (Winner: Lina Burquier)
• 13.30 CET – Cross Country JR Men (Winner: Adrien Boichis)
• 17.00 CET – Short Track Women (Winner: Sina Frei)
• 17.45 CET – Short Track Men (Winner: Christopher Blevins)
Friday, August 27th
• 15.00 CET – E-MTB Women (Winner: Nicole Goeldi)
• 16.45 CET – E-MTB Men (Winner: Jerome Gilloux)
• 20.45 CET – Four Cross (Women & Men) – (Winners: Tomas Slavik and Michaela Hajkova)
Saturday, August 28th
• 09.00 CET – Cross Country U23 Women (Winner: Mona Mitterwallner)
• 10.45 CET – Cross Country U23 Men (Winner: Martin Vidaurre)
• 13.00 CET – Cross Country Elite Women (Winner: Evie Richards)
• 15.45 CET – Cross Country Elite Men (Winner: Nino Schurter)
Sunday, August 29th
• 09.25 CET – Downhill Junior Men & Women
• 12.50 CET – Downhill Elite Women
• 14.10 CET – Downhill Elite Men
2021 MTB WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS MEDAL COUNT
1. France (4 gold, 5 silver, 2 bronze)
2. Switzerland (3 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze)
3. Czech Republic (2 gold)
4. United States (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
4. Austria (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
6. Great Britain (1 gold, 1 silver)
7. Chile (1 gold)
8. Italy (1 silver, 1 bronze)
9. Colombia (1 silver)
9. Brazil (1 silver)
9. Netherlands (1 silver)
12. Germany (3 bronze)
13. Bolivia (1 bronze)
13. Denmark (1 bronze)