Switzerland opens Cairns Worlds with a win
The 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships opened in Cairns, Australia, on Wednesday with the team relay, and the Swiss powerhouse team immediately showed that they are as strong as ever, winning the first world title of these championships. Denmark beat defending champions France in a sprint finish for silver.
For 2017 the team relay made a significant change to the format, adding a fifth rider to each team. Now, each squad must include a Junior or Under-23 woman, in addition to an Elite man, an Elite woman, an Under-23 man and a Junior man.
Sam Gaze of New Zealand jumped out to a strong lead on the first lap, but Italy took over on the second lap. It was the turn of Canada to move into the lead on Lap 3, and they extended their lead on the fourth lap to over a minute by the start of the final lap. However, Olympic and World Champion Nino Schurter was the final rider for Switzerland, and he powered into the lead by the halfway mark of the lap, to give Switzerland their first team relay title since 2010.
Switzerland began with their Under-23 man, Filippo Colombo, followed by their Junior man Joel Roth, then Under-23 woman Sina Frei, followed by Elite riders Jolanda Neff and Schurter.
"The addition of a fifth rider did not change our strategy,"
said Schurter, who also won the UCI World Cup title this year. "We have always gone with a fast starter, with Filippo [Colombo] doing the start for us here and myself going last. Adding this [fifth] rider makes the strong nations even stronger, because it is hard for the small nations to have a good rider in every category. So the new team relay is even better for us."