June 17, 2008 (Val di Sole, Italy) – France was victorious in the XC Team Relay with a winning time of 1:24:45. The first race of the 2008 UCI MTB World Championships took place on a slick 6.3km XC course accompanied by a constant drizzle. Defending champion, Switzerland, finished second in a sprint finish with Italy, over two minutes back from the winning team. Canada placed a solid sixth, 3:25 down from the leaders.
France took control from the start, with Jean-Christophe Peraud already building a 14sec-lead over Switzerland’s Florian Vogel after the first lap. Sweden’s Emil Lindgren came through third, 22s back, and Canada’s Raphael Gagne (QC) rolled across 12th at 2:12, handing off to Catharine Pendrel.
After lap two, it was still France in the lead, now with junior Arnaud Jouffroy extending the lead to 1:22 over second place, now Slovakia’s Milan Barenyi, and 1:28 over third and fourth place, Switzerland’s Matthias Rupp and Italy’s Gerhard Kerschbaumer, respectively. Pendrel came through 11th at 4:06 and handed off to Derek Zandstra.
“It was definitely hairy out there. You had to be confident with being out of control. It was good fun,” said Pendrel. Pendrel also posted the fastest women’s lap in the relay with a time of 22:26. The next fastest was 23:26 posted by Katerina Nash (Cze).
With his ride, Zandstra rocketed the Canadians into sixth place by the end of the third lap, and closed the gap to 1.49 from the leader, France’s Laurence Leboucher. The Ukraine’s Mykhaylo Batsutsa came through in second spot at 15s, followed by Italy’s Eva Lechner at 58s.
The Canadian team anchor, Junior Evan Guthrie, battled through the mud (and a cold) to hang onto sixth spot. At one point Switzerland’s anchor, Nino Schurter, stormed by Guthrie. The young Canadian managed to hang onto the former Junior and U23 World Champion’s wheel for an impressive chunk of time, and spoke excitedly of the experience afterwards.
Schurter catapulted the Swiss from eighth to second place, but it wasn’t enough to defend the title, which was brought home by France’s Alexis Vuillermoz. Italy’s Cristian Cominelli lost a finish line sprint with Schurter, delivering Italy a third-place ride to an appreciative home country crowd.
1. France (Jean-Christophe Peraud, Arnaud Jouffroy, Laurence Leboucher, Alexis Vuillermoz) 1:24.45
2. Switzerland (Florian Vogel, Matthias Rupp, Petra Henzi, Nino Schurter) 2.22
3. Italy (Marco Aurelio Fontana, Gerhard Kerschbaumer, Eva Lechner, Cristian Cominelli) 2.22
4. Poland (Marcin Karczynski, Marek Konwa, Maja Wloszczowska, Dariusz Batek) 2.48
5. Czech Republic (Jaroslav Kulhavy, Jakub Magnusek, Katerina Nash, Jan Skarnitzl) 3.25
6. Canada (Raphael Gagne, Catharine Pendrel, Derek Zandstra, Evan Guthrie) 3.25