Title Defense: Nino Schurter and Julie Bresset Retain Mountain Bike Cross-Country World Championships in South Africa
They’re called heavy favorites for a reason. Over the years, especially in those recent, Switzerland’s Nino Schurter and France’s Julie Bresset have proven why they are two of the most dominant riders in UCI Cross Country Mountain Biking. Schurter entered Saturday’s Men’s Elite race as the defending UCI MTB World Champion, 2012 London Olympic silver medalist, two time World Champion, three-time World Cup Overall Winner. To say he was expected to be one of the main contenders would be the understatement of the year. Bresset was also in South Africa as the reigning World Champion, but also the 2012 London Olympic Champion. Both riders would look to put the pace on their respective fields, and that they did.
Schurter shot out from the start and never looked back. Distancing himself from the field early during the first of six laps of the cross-country course at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa proved crucial, as the Swiss powerhouse was never contested. German Manuel Fumic and Spain’s Jose Antonio Hermida were there at times, but ultimately the defending champion could not be caught. Schurter looked at ease, taking the heavy climbs and brutal rock gardens of Cascades MTB Park in stride, cranking his way to a third World Championship by a seven second margin. His winning time was officially 1:40:17.
“I pushed very hard from the beginning … and I was alone in the lead,” Schurter said. “I managed my race at my own pace, never letting them put me in the red zone.”
“It was the perfect race for me,” Schurter added. “My goal was to start a really fast first lap. [Julien] Absalon is my biggest rival, and he is always strong on the first lap. I had a gap of five seconds on the others after the first lap then I just rode my pace and tried not to go too much into the red zone.”
On the women’s side, it seemed to be a two-woman race for roughly five and three-quarters laps. Reigning Olympic and World Champion, Julie Bresset of France shot out of the gun with Poland’s Maja Wloszczowska and the two fought long and hard through the hills of Pietermaritzburg. Utilizing her strengths on a highly technical course, Bresset was able to pull away from Wloszczowska on the final decent towards the finish line. The Frenchwoman was delighted to retain her rainbow stripes but noted it was not an easy journey to defending her title since her Olympic gold medal in 2012.
“For me, it was a pleasure to win the Olympics and Worlds,” said Bresset. “It was a dream, but this year was difficult because I had lots of obligations all winter. My motivation was ok in the spring, but then I had an accident and crashed and broke my collarbone.”
“I came back to mountain bike competition in June. It was very hard. I had no good feelings.” Bresset added. “Then in July, I turned the corner, and I started to focus on the Worlds. I wanted to be fit for this.”
It’s been a great week of Cross-Country racing in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa so far and today we turn our attention to the high flying action of UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championships.