August 24, 2006 (Rotorua, New Zealand) – Switzerland claimed another gold as Nino Schurter won the U23 Men’s cross-country race today to score the first rainbow jersey of his career. Italy’s Tony Longo fought hard through the end to finish a close second. After being caught in a pile up just after the start, Victoria B.C.’s Max Plaxton battled back to claim Canada’s first medal at the 2006 World Mountain Bike Championships.
In extremely testing muddy conditions 65 riders lined up to race five laps around Mt. Ngongotaha’s 5.9km cross-country course. Overnight rains saturated the clay soil turning it into a greasy mess that was sticking to anything. Broken chains and brutal chain suck claimed many bikes and riders – two broken chains on the start loop alone! Nino Schurters first lap at 22:03 was the fastest of the day, after that no one posted laps faster than 23 minutes.
From the completion of the start loop Schurter took control of the race. He powered away from his challengers on the first climb and never looked back. By the end of the first lap he led Italian Tony Longo by 37 seconds and Spaniard Ruben Ruzafa Cueto by 1:04. Max Plaxton having been caught behind a crash on the start loop was 8th across the line followed by Derek Zandstra (Can) in 13th.
By the top of the climb on the 2nd lap Schurter led while Plaxton had moved up to 5th 2 minutes down. At laps end Schurter was being chased by Longo at 56 seconds. Following at 2:08 was Cueto in third with France’s Stephane Tempier and Plaxton closing on him at 6 and 17 seconds respectively. Zandstra flatted on lap two and dropped to 18th. Canada’s Neal Kindree broke his chain early in the race while fellow Canuck Martin Lazarski struggled to find a rhythm after his early crash – they came through at the end of lap two in 38th and 40th positions over 8 minutes down.
One lap later as riders entered the penultimate fourth lap Schurter still led a tenacious Longo by 44 seconds. Longo was making time on the climbs coming within forty seconds of Schurter on the fourth lap but losing substantial time on the descents. Tempier was third with a hard charging Plaxton 10 seconds behind him, while Cueto had dropped out.
Schurter maintained his lead over Longo at the top of the 4th climb while big cheers went through the Canadian team the start area when Plaxton’s name went up on the scoreboard in third position 3:11 seconds back. Tempier was still close to a medal at 3:19.
Schurter led Longo by 1:18 as the riders heading into the final lap, while Plaxton was closing in 2:58 down. Tempier continued to chase at 3:17 while Denmark’s Jakob Diemer Fuglsang had moved up to fifth, a further minute down. A stronger looking Lazarski had steadily moved up into 31st position. Kindree came through in 40th while Raphael Gagne (Can) got the hook by the commisaires.
At the top of the climb on the last lap Schurter was in control having extended his lead over Longo as Canadian fans excitement surged to see that Plaxton was only 50 seconds down on Longo.
In the final push to the finish Schurter raised the Swiss flag over his head for the second time at these world championships having also anchored the winning relay team. Longo held on to second place and was extremely pleased with his silver medal performance.
Plaxton was greeted at the line by Canada’s three-time world champion Alison Sydor and Rocky Mountain/Business Objects Team Director, Lesley Tomlinson. France’s Tempier finished fourth while Diemer Fuglsang rounded out the top five.
At the post-race press conference Schurter credited his strong form to training with Swisspower teammates Florian Vogel and Thomas Frischknecht. “I train with Florian and Frischy at home, they are a lot more experienced than me,” Schurter said he ran much of the first two descents but later rode them. Of Longo he said “Tony was very fast on the climbs, he didn’t make it easy for me” Longo was clearly pleased with his race saying “I had a good day.”
Victoria B.C.’s Max Plaxton who races for the Rocky Mountain/Business Objects Team was extremely happy to be on the podium. “I got off to a bad start. I was caught behind a crash 50 metres in,” he said. On his 4th lap where he passed Tempier, Plaxton said “I put in a strong lap and if I got gap, I knew I could hold it to the end.” Asked if he had contacted anyone at home yet Plaxton said “Not yet, but I am going to call my parents and girlfriend right after this.”
Pedal caught up with 18th place finisher Derek Zandstra of Trenton Ontario who, when told his result, said “yeah, I’m happy with that” He added that he would have been much happier with a top-16 finish for national team carding. He said the mud was a real problem noting that he was spraying his drivetrain with water every lap to limit chainsuck.
Squamish B.C.’s Neal Kindree wasn’t happy with his race, “Not happy in the slightest. I broke my chain but that wasn’t it,” he said, “I just felt terrible.” As an explanation for his marginal performance Kindree suggested that perhaps peaking for the MTB Nationals then trying to maintain his form was likely not the best way to prepare. “I raced each weekend after and my riding just went down and down,” he added.
Lazarski, who was also less than pleased with his race despite a respectable 23rd position, said “I had the form, I had the legs,” he continued “But I couldn’t find a rhythm.” Adding “the last lap and a half were better, I was moving up.” Lazarski moved up from 40th to 23rd which is a lot of moving up.
1 Nino Schurter (Switzerland) 1.54.58 (15.39 km/h)
2 Tony Longo (Italy) 0.50
3 Max Plaxton (Canada) 2.34
4 StÃ©phane Tempier (France) 3.09
5 Jakob Diemer Fuglsang (Denmark) 3.34
6 Michel Luginbuehl (Switzerland) 5.14
7 Gion Manetsch (Switzerland) 5.51
8 Evguen Petchenine (Russian Federation) 6.07
9 Lukas FlÃ¼ckiger (Switzerland) 6.29
10 Emil Lindgren (Sweden) 7.03
11 Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) 7.16
12 Till Marx (Switzerland) 8.38
13 Bjorn Brems (Belgium) 8.58
14 Dariusz Batek (Poland) 10.03
15 Rudi Van Houts (Netherlands) 10.35
16 Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) 10.42
17 Burry Stander (Republic of South Africa) 10.59
18 Derek Zandstra (Canada) 11.34
19 Andrea Tiberi (Italy) 12.05
20 Kohei Yamamoto (Japan) 12.31
21 Denis Vorontsov (Russian Federation) 13.09
22 Marcus Roy (New Zealand) 13.39
23 Martin Lazarski (Canada) 13.45
24 Jan Skarnitzl (Czech Republic) 13.46
25 Ian Field (Great Britain) 13.48
26 FranÃ§ois Bailly Maitre (France) 14.02
27 Clinton Robert Avery (New Zealand) 14.04
28 Yury Trofimov (Russian Federation)
29 Kryspin Pyrgies (Poland) 14.17
30 Benjamin Rudiger (Germany) 14.30
31 Daniel Mcconnell (Australia) 15.05
32 Ken Onodera (Japan) 15.07
33 Alejandro Dario Gasco (Argentina) 15.30
34 Ludovic Mottet (Belgium) 16.09
35 Rene Tann (Germany) 16.18
36 Lachlan Norris (Australia) 17.06
37 Daniel Rezende (Brazil) 17.32
38 Samuel Schultz (United States of America) 18.06
39 Jiri Novak (Czech Republic) 18.16
40 Neal Kindree (Canada) 19.04
41 Frank Beemer (Netherlands) 20.02
One lap behind
42 Steffen Thum (Germany)
43 Luka Kodra (Slovenia)
44 Raphael Gagne (Canada)
45 Sam Jurekovic (United States of America)
46 Ian Bibby (Great Britain)
47 Johan Van Zyl (Republic of South Africa)
48 James Maebus (Australia)
49 Daniel Ribeiro (Brazil)
50 Andrew Freye (United States of America)
51 Luke Mills (New Zealand)
52 Spencer Paxson (United States of America)
Two laps behind
53 Ruud Rentmeester (Netherlands)
54 Marius Petrache (Romania)
55 Mathew Dewes (New Zealand)
56 Stephen Butler (New Zealand)
57 Jacob Bauer (New Zealand)
58 Matthys Beukes (Republic of South Africa)
59 J. Hernandez Fernande (Mexico)
60 Colin Cares (United States of America)
61 John Gray (New Zealand)
62 Craig Paul (Republic of South Africa)
Three laps behind
63 Futha Lonwabo (Republic of South Africa)
DNF Ruben Ruzafa Cueto (Spain)
DNF Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Spain)