France raced to a gold medal in the team relay on Wednesday afternoon at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. Switzerland earned silver while Italy raced its way into bronze.
All three medal winning teams followed the same strategy for rider order: U23 male, then junior male, then elite female and finally the elite male riders.
France didn't have the best start with Fabian Canal crossing the line at the end of his turn in 13th place. But the blue, white, and red clad riders only moved forward from then on. Victor Koretzky moved the team up significantly to fifth place and World Cup overall winner Julie Bresset gained the team another two places on lap 3. Maxime Marotte finished it off to help the team from third to first.
"Today was a moment where you wanted to fight hard to defend the honor of the French team," said Julie Bresset."This is my first gold medal in the world championships, so it's special. You only go one lap, so you just go 100 percent and hope you can make it until the end."
"The only way to describe this feeling is superb," said Marotte. "To be part of such a strong team gives you motivation. We knew we had the title in our legs, but it's always one thing to think about it and another thing to fulfill your expectations."
Switzerland, which won the event in 2010 in Mont-Sainte-Anne, had to settle for second. Thomas Litscher gave them a solid start for a sixth place after the first lap. He was followed by Lars Forster, Nathalie Schneitter and Nino Schurter, a former elite men's cross country world champion, who put in a strong ride to help the team move up from fifth to second place on the last lap.
"We all can be very proud of our performance," said Schurter. " We didn't lose gold, but we won silver. I think my performance was okay considering I had to take risks and attack to pass riders in front of me. When I found out I still had 30 seconds to catch Marotte, I was not ready to burn all my reserves given the cross country race coming up on Saturday. The course is good, and I feel strong. This is a good way to start our world championships."
"Of course, everybody expected us to be brilliant again," said Schneitter, who won the elite women's cross country World Cup here last year. "I think we did a good race as a team. This silver medal means a lot to us. I had a good lap, but I think I could have been a little faster as I spent a lot of energy trying to pass the rider in front of me. Everyone on the team did his job."
Third place wen to Italy, a team which put in a consistent ride followed by a strong finish. Gerhard Kerschbaumer got things started before handing off to Lorenzo Samparisi, Eva Lechner and finally Marco Aurelio Fontana.
"It was a great result achieved after a good fight," said Fontana. "Lorenzo did a good job in the beginning as did Gerhard. The team was a little behind when I started, but I knew I had a good shot. I like to race here, I've had good results. After the last climb, I had a good chance to get us on the podium."
"Of course we're all very glad," said Kerschbaumer. "It's important to be aggressive and have a good start. you have to set the pace high to get a good start for the rest. To end a good season with a medal in the team relay is exciting."
Choosing to start its elite man first, Germany took an early lead with Manuel Fumic, but from then on, the country gradually lost places until finishing fifth.
After starting the first lap in third place with Rudi van Houts, the Netherlands led the middle two laps with Henk Jaap Moorlag and Thijs Zuurbier, but it dropped to sixth with Anne Terpstra on the final lap.
The Czech Republic also got off to a strong start thanks to Jaroslav Kulhavy, who put the team in second place after lap one, but the squad ended up in fourth.
- The Americans put up a strong team with Stephen Ettinger, Howard Grotts, Georgia Gould and Todd Wells, but they suffered bad luck after a first lap crash put Ettinger well behind. The team did not give up and made up a huge deficit to pass some other nations later in the race. Ettinger went to the hospital immediately following his race with a suspected broken finger and some road rash.
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.