Fort William: Vogel leads Swiss XC clean sweep

Canadian Marie-Helene Premont triumphs in women's race

Just two weeks before the World Championships in Italy the Swiss squad sent a strong message that they are ready to dominate with three riders a class above the rest in Fort William.

Florian Vogel, Nino Schurter and Christoph Sauser were one, two, three and commanded the second half of the race. There was no love lost in a tactical finish however, as SwissPower teammates Shurter and Vogel worked over lone Specialized rider Sauser.

HOW THE RACE UNFOLDED

Over 100 riders took to a dry, dusty and worn FortWilliam track which was essentially made up of one big climb, lasting over ten minutes and one descent back to the bottom. Under the shadow of Ben Nevis and in good weather Burry Stander and Todd Wells led an early charge. Behind them a crash held up anyone mid-pack and Thomas Frishkneckt’s race ended as his rear mech went into the spokes.

Through the first lap Burry Stander (GT), Christoph Sauser and Florian Vogel led before the race came back together. By lap four the race-wining group was away with Stander just away from the best. Post-race he commented about lacking a real punch on the top section of the climb and this was the only difference between first and fifth.

Even in the final stages nothing could separate the three Swiss and it was down to

McKenzie Road
and the final singletrack into the arena. Vogel describes the final stages:

“Nino and I were pretty much on the limit on the climbs, Sauser was so fast on the climbs but he could not quite drop us. In the end we tried to play with him and it paid off we got the 1-2, perfect! I really knew how to play the finish I had to be first in the last singletrack and then I had the best chance to win it. Christoph started sprinting way to early and I could attack twice. In the past I have been third so I knew where I made my mistakes and this time there were no mistakes.”

And as for his theory on why the Swiss are by far the strongest nation in the world?

“Right now we are in the selection for the Olympics and that is what is producing so many fast Swiss riders, we all want it. And for the Worlds we have good chances to do well again.”

Sauser did not have the sprint in the finish today, but considering his recent training preparations for the World Championships was more than happy with his position.

“That’s probably the best result I could have got coming into the Worlds with no time lost to the leaders. It keeps the fire burning big time. During the race in the downhill I could drop the guys but there was too much pedalling in between. In the climbs I could not drop them and in the flat they could recover. The conditions were great with the fully but the course here is not like it used to be, there are less technical sections where you can find the time to get gaps.”

Before the race we spotted Sauser testing some tubular carbon wheels but he did not race with them today – it was something done out of curiosity.

“Now a lot of riders are using this new type of wheel and I wanted to see how the tubular tyres feel. If you sleep in racing you lose. I wanted to see riding here on the race course how they compared to ours. It wasn’t a wow factor though and I am happier with my Roval wheels.”

One of the big surprises in the race came just off the podium as Sven Nys – usually a cyclocross specialist – finished in sixth overall. This after starting in the fifties and targeting the mountain bike event at the Olympics.

In an extremely close cross-country race, Florian Vogel beat fellow Swiss team-mates Nino Schurter and Christoph Sauser at the Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William, Scotland Saturday, while Canadian Marie-Helene Premont beat Spaniard Margarita Fullana to win the women's race.

Vogel triumphed in the final stretch of the last lap, by a split second, which made for an exceptionally tense and exciting atmosphere after 46.8km of racing.

“I can’t describe how I feel right now, I am so happy to win a world cup competition," Vogel said after the race. "It’s been one of my major career ambitions. It’s a fun course with long hard climbs but the downs are amazing. You just need to watch out for flats and think about technique. It’s been a fantastic competition for the spectators to watch, with the leaders finishing so close together. It was a very tight race.”

British racer Oliver Beckingsale finished in an impressive ninth place as the first Brit past the finish line and the first top ten British rider for a number of years.

“It’s a real achievement that I’ve made it into the top ten," he said. “It was a very tactical race with lots of flats. I tried to break away on the up-hills but I wasn’t strong enough and there were much faster sprinters coming in on the final stretch.”

ELITE MENS CROSS-COUNTRY OLYMPIC FIVE Results:

1. VOGEL Florian (SUI) 2:06:27

2. SCHURTER Nino (SUI) 2:06:28

3. SAUSER Christoph (SUI) 2:06:36

4. FUGLSANG Jakob (DEN) 2:07:14

5. STANDER Burry (RSA) 2:07:27

6. NYS Sven (BEL) 2:07:46

7.SOUKUP Christoph (AUT) 2:07:47

8.KESSIAKOFF Fredrik (SWE) 2:07:48

9. BECKINGSALE Oliver (GBR) 2:07:58

10. GUJAN Martin (SUI) 2:08:23

Women's race

The women’s race was filled with as much excitement with a final sprint in the last lap leaving Marie-Helene Premont and Margarita Fullana fighting fiercely for gold.  Premont pushed forward to steal victory and a win for Canada, as she stormed through the last lap making up an outstanding 500m.

Delighted with her performance in the 39km Elite Women Cross-Country discipline ahead of the Olympics, Premont said she felt really good after winning.  

"The race today was very fast and the course is dry but I really like the distance at this world-class course," she said. "I knew Fullana would be tough to beat but I had a good feeling and I knew I would conquer the course and take first position.”

A tired but determined Fullana said: “I tried to take the attack in the final third lap but it just wasn’t possible to make up the difference.”

WOMEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY OLYMPIC FIVE Results:

1. PREMONT Marie-Helene (CAN) 2:00:42

2. FULLANA Margarita (ESP) 2:00:56

3. SPITZ Sabine (GER) 2:03:53

4. BYBERG Lene (NOR) 2:04:02

5. LEBOUCHER Laurence (FRA) 2:04:16

6. LIU Ying (CHN) 2:04:36

7. KLEMENCIC Blaza (SLO) 2:05:31

8. DAHLE FLESJAA Gunn-Rita (NOR) 2:05:39

9. HENZI Petra (SUI) 2:05:41

10. RUSCA Maroussia (SUI) 2:06:02

For complete results, visit Cyclingnews.com.

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