MTB World's men XC: Sauser leads Swiss charge

Clean sweep of podium in Val di Sole

Switzerland dominated the men's cross country race, with Chrisoph Sauser claiming the World Championship title and his fellow countrymen Florian Vogel and Ralph Naef taking the second and third spots, for an all-Swiss podium.

The 30-year old Sauser led the race from the very beginning, at first together with Vogel, but he dropped his team-mate by the end of the third lap and went off on his own. Four-time World Champion Julien Absalon was never a factor in the race. He got as high as third place before vanishing from the scene.

From the gun, Sauser and Vogel applied full throttle and the field quickly strung out behind them. By the first half-lap, they were at the front with a four second gap on Roel Paulissen (Belgium). Lado Fumic (Germany) led the chase behind and Absalon was spotted back in sixth place.

"All week I felt strong and confident," said Sauser, who will now has two World Championship jerseys in his wardrobe. He is still the reigning World Marathon Champion – a title he will defend in two weeks.

Fredrik Kessiakoff (Sweden) made a bid to join the leaders near the end of the first lap, and he was successful – the only non-Swiss rider to keep the company of the leaders all day. Behind him, Absalon advanced to fourth place, chasing alone at 12 seconds. His team-mate Jean-Christophe Peraud led the charge from behind, followed shortly by Jose Antonio Hermida (Spain).

On lap two Kessiakoff came off and was trailing Sauser and Vogel by six seconds while Absalon chased in fourth at a distance 35 seconds. Hermida and Peraud worked together one minute behind.

Sauser looked to be the stronger of the leading Swiss pair and spent more time at the front although both leaders were seen trading turns. Kessiakoff dangled like a yo-yo off the leaders, trying to keep contact, but he lost the mental and physical battle and began to slip backwards.

Near the end of the second lap, Sauser rode away from his team-mate, leaving Vogel dangling at nine seconds. Kessiakoff started to crack, slipping back to 55 seconds. Absalon looked to be in rough shape and he continued to lose ground on a possible bronze medal.

Behind the Frenchman, Liam Killeen (Great Britain), Christoph Soukup (Austria) and Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) worked together.

Sauser rode like a machine, with complete attention to the task at hand – winning the World Championship. He seemed to race effortlessly around the course, never slowing, never looking back, just racing along on his brand new 2009 Specialized Epic, brought out just for the occasion.

"I rode my new bike in February for two days and then this week," said Sauser, who wasn't fazed by racing worlds on a different bike than the one on which he had been training and racing. "I'm used to switching between my bikes."

"It's quite a bit lighter," said Sauser, who claimed 700g difference. "It's like a fighter jet on the climbs and a jumbo jet on the descents."

Sauser said he attacked because he didn't want to risk losing at the end as happened at Fort William two weeks ago and at the European Championships.

For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.

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