August 23, 2006 (Rotorua, New Zealand) – Today Switzerland showed the why they produce some of the best cross country racers in the world – they have the best juniors. All three of the Junior men’s cross country medals went to the Swiss as Mathias Fluckiger claimed the rainbow jersey. Martin Fanger was second and Pascal Meyer rolled through in third position. Canada’s top rider was Alex Harvey who rode a strong race to finish 23rd.
Racers were treated to ideal race conditions with a temperature of 12 celsius under slightly overcast skies. Fluckiger took 1:19:37 seconds to complete four laps of 5.9 km course for a total of 23.6 kms. Lap times were quite fast as the vast majority of the mud had dried up. Fluckigers third lap was the fastest at 19:45.
From the gun Switzerland dominated, placing their top three riders Fluckiger, Fanger and Meyer at the front as they climbed for the first time. By the end of the first lap the three Swiss riders rode strongly together off of the front. Freddy Betremieux of France led a steady stream of chasers 18 seconds back. Cody Canning and Alex Harvey came through together 2 minutes back in 34th and 35th places respectively.
At the top of the climb on the third lap, a very strong looking, Fluckiger led countrymen Fanger and Meyer by 15 and 25 seconds respectively. A chase group of Christian Cominelli of Italy, Alexis Vuillermoz of France and Daniel Braunsteins of Austrailia were going well 1:25 down. A hard charging Harvey moved up to 26th 4:50 back while fellow Quebecer Morin was another minute arrears.
Early in the climb on the last lap Fluckiger was pursued closely by Fanger at 30 seconds and Meyer just over a minute down. Alex Harvey was in a chase group containing places 25th through 30th.
At the finish the slightly built Mathias Fluckiger triumphantly raised a Swiss flag over his head. Martin Fanger followed 51 seconds later and a grinning Pascal Meyer another 31 seconds later. Alex Harvey was outsprinted to finish in 23rd at 7:09 back. First year junior, Francis Morin placed 31st at 9:22 behind, and Cody Canning rode a strong final lap to finish 41st at 12:59 down.
Some less than sportsmanlike conduct was seen in the finish area as Brazilian rider Henrique Avancini tried to fight Pole Piotr Brzozka. Avancini grabbed the back of Brzozka’s jersey and attempted to lift him up. Managers of both nations pulled the riders apart.
At the post-race press conference, it was revealed that this was new world champion Fluckiger’s first season racing mountain bikes. He has raced on the road since 1997 and cyclocross since 2002. When asked about a team strategy Fluckiger said that there was an informal agreement to work together to establish a gap on the other riders but after that the gloves were off.
I asked what influence racing legends such as Thomas Frischknecht had on their young careers. Fluckiger replied, “I saw Thomas on the second lap and he said “˜you have a good day today. Go for it!’ That gave me a lot of motivation.”
I caught up with top Canadian finisher Alex Harvey of St-FerrÃ©ol-les-Neiges, Quebec and he was generally happy with his race considering he broke his foot a little over a month ago. “I started a little bit further back,” he said adding, “I passed a lot of people on the second lap and later on as well, but no one got me. That was good.” As to whether he will focus more on cycling or cross-country skiing in the future Harvey said, “I would like to do both. There is more motivation. When you come off a winter of bike training you do not want to race in the spring.”
Francis Morin who competed at the MTB Worlds for the first time was quite happy with his race, save the start, “I was not able to go that fast,” he said, comparing himself to the other riders. After the first lap he has pleased saying, “I grab other guys and no one grab me.” Morin will likely be back to represent Canada next year and feels that he has learned a lot from his first international race.
Fort McMurray, Alberta’s Cody Canning, who was racing outside of Canada for the first time said, “I wasn’t completely satisfied with my ride.” Citing a crash on the second lap and the inability to establish a rhythm as the reasons for his moderate result Canning added, “I felt like was soft pedalling.”
1 Mathias FlÃ¼ckiger (Switzerland) 1.19.37
2 Martin Fanger (Switzerland) 0.52
3 Pascal Meyer (Switzerland) 1.23
4 Alexis Vuillermoz (France) 3.01
5 Cristian Cominelli (Italy) 3.16
6 Daniel Braunsteins (Australia) 3.27
7 Severin Disch (Switzerland) 3.55
8 Freddy Betremieux (France) 4.07
9 Henrique Avancini (Brazil) 4.30
10 Piotr Brzozka (Poland) 4.32
11 Fabien Canal (France) 4.40
12 Tom Meeusen (Belgium) 5.02
13 Simon Scheiber (Austria) 5.10
14 Sebastian Lehr (Germany) 5.20
15 Rob Van Genechten (Belgium) 5.34
16 Niels Wubben (Netherlands) 5.42
17 Patrik Gallati (Switzerland) 5.57
18 David Fletcher (Great Britain) 6.01
19 Luka Mezgec (Slovenia) 6.19
20 Sergey Nikolaev (Russia) 6.57
21 Andy Eyring (Germany) 7.05
22 Castiblanco Cubide J. (Colombia) 7.09
23 Alex Harvey (Canada) 7.10
24 Adrian Dzialakiewicz (Poland) 7.30
25 Dries Govaerts (Belgium) 8.03
26 David Lozano Riba (Spain)
27 Chris Barton (USA) 8.17
28 Carlos Rodrigo Sigre (Argentina) 8.19
29 Tristen Uhl (USA) 8.43
30 Sebastien Carabin (Belgium) 9.10
31 Francis Morin (Canada) 9.22
32 Carl Jones (New Zealand) 9.34
33 Martin Loo (Estonia) 9.40
34 Paul Vanderploeg (Australia) 9.56
35 Yu Takenouchi (Japan) 10.35
36 Francois Theron (South Africa) 11.14
37 Jamie Paisley (Australia) 11.30
38 Travis Livermon (USA) 11.43
39 Jelmer Jubbega (Netherlands) 11.55
40 Cal Britten (Australia) 12.04
41 Cody Canning (Canada) 13.00
42 Eliseo Narvaez (Argentina) 13.08
43 Vanegas Villarraga H. (Colombia) 13.32
44 Duncan Oregan (New Zealand) 13.49
45 Glenn Stewart (Australia) 14.38
46 Ryk Coetzee (South Africa) 14.57
47 Michael Cummings (USA) 15.16
48 Thomas Reynolds (New Zealand) 15.28
49 Jonathon Coates (New Zealand) 16.04
50 Daniel Hallam (Australia) 16.05
51 Kelvin Drower (New Zealand) 16.20
52 Joelson Schadeck (Brazil) 17.00
53 James Williamson (New Zealand) 19.24
54 Jan Hendrik Verdoes (Namibia) 22.41
One lap behind
55 Nik Ferigo (New Zealand)
Two laps behind
56 Daniel Johnston (Australia)
DNF Paolo Treachi (Italy)
DNS Mattias Wengelin (Sweden)