Czech claims gold in junior men’s XC
By Andrew Hood
Swiss rider Balz Weber’s legs held out just long enough to win Friday’s hotly contested under-23 world championship race.
Weber had just reeled in Spanish pocket rocket Ivan Alvarez at the beginning of the fifth of seven punishing laps when his legs froze up with cramps. Germany’s Manuel Fumic was hot on his tail and edged within nine seconds of catching Weber when his legs bounced back to life just in time to win the gold.
“I went at my own rhythm when my legs cramped. I thought I was going to lose everything, but they felt better in the final lap and I could ride 100 percent again,” said Weber, who covered the 43.1km course in 2 hours, 9 minutes and 45 seconds.
Fumic also passed Alvarez to claim second at 37 seconds back while British phenom Liam Killeen suffered a late-race leak in his front tire and finished a disappointing fourth, just 22 seconds slower than third-place Alvarez.
“I used all my strength in the final lap. I knew when I hit the final wooded section the world title could be mine if I could stay concentrated and avoid trouble,” said Weber, who gave host Switzerland another medal.
The U23 group is always full of surprises, and none was more unanticipated than Alvarez, a lean climber who jetted into the lead in the frenetic opening lap. With Iberian favorites Carlos Coloma and Iñaki Legarreta riding as marked men, Alvarez slipped away and held a 20-second lead on Weber for the opening four laps.
“I used the surprise factor in my favor,” said Alvarez, who finished eighth in this year’s European U23 championships. “It wasn’t the plan to attack but I was stronger today than in other races. I was losing time in the downhills, and when Weber caught me, he slipped away on the technical descents.”
Lugano’s rocky descents have been hyped, but the climbs have played a key role. Nearly everyone rode full-suspension frames, but the longest climbs are on pavement.
The Americans finished with two riders in the top 25 despite the controversial absence of medal hopeful Adam Craig, who was not allowed to race after he failed to present a “medical passport” now required by the UCI.
Ryan Trebon took an impressive 15th overall at 9:43 back while Nick Waite claimed 24th after fading slightly in the closing two laps. Both started nearly last; Guatemala’s Alejandro Sigeur Lopez claimed that distinction.
“I didn’t have any crashes and it was a pretty smooth race for me,” said Waite, making his second world’s start. “I worked to hard to get through the pack, and it took a lot of energy.”
Trebon charged past about 40 riders in the first lap and then started picking off riders in the closing laps as the big man fought his way to an impressive result.
“The last two laps I was in incredible pain,” said Trebon, who crashed twice and had a bloodied right knee as a souvenir. “The pavement climbs were brutal. Each time I got to the top of the feed zone, I was cooked.”
Trebon said it was too bad Craig was not allowed to race.
“If I started 83rd and finished 15th, Adam would have done great,” Trebon said. “I’m not ranked in the top 100, so I didn’t have to do any tests. This course was perfect for Adam.”
UCI world mountain biking championships, Lugano, Switzerland, Sept. 5
Under 23 men’s cross country
1. Balz Weber (Swi) 43.1km in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 45 seconds (19.93 kph)
2. Manuel Fumic (G), at 0:37
3. Ivan Alvarez (Sp), at 1:12
4. Liam Killeen (GB), at 1:34
5. Nicolas Filippi (F), at 4:58
6. Till Marx (Swi), at 5:11
7. Calle Friberg (Swe), at 5:36
8. Michael Weiss (Aut), at 6:01
9. Lukas Flueckiger (Swi), at 6:41
10. Maarten Wijnants (B), at 6:55
12. Ricky Federau (Can), at 8:03
15. Ryan Trebon (USA), at 9:43
24. Nick Waite (USA), at 12:53
27. Kris Sneddon (Can), at 15:17
28. Emmanuel Valencia (Mex), at 16:00
30. Andrew Watson (Can), at 17:02
-1 lap 38. James Van Toever (Can); 40. Alan Obye (USA); 43. Mike Garrigan (Can)
– 2 laps 46. Walker Ferguson (USA); 47. Will Routley (Can); -3 laps 56. Matthew Hadley (Can)
DNF – Barry Wicks (USA)
Czech rides away from field in junior XC
Earlier on Friday, Czech rider Jaroslav Kulhavy chugged away in the first lap at Lugano’s tricky six-lap cross-country course Friday to claim the junior men’s cross-country gold medal.
The 18-year-old opened up a short gap in the opening loop and widened it on each 6.2km lap to win in 1 hour, 51 minutes, 51 seconds (19.79 kph).
“My front tire started to lose air in the last lap, but I was able to make it to the finish without too many difficulties,” Kulhavy said. “I arrived in Rivera a week ago to prepare for the race. It was a very technical race.”
Nino Schurter gave host Switzerland a silver medal to go along with Thomas Frischknecht’s gold in the marathon. Schurter, 17, said he was as surprised as anyone with his strong ride, coming in 2 minutes, 27 seconds behind Kulhavy.
“I would have been happy to have finished in the top five, so I am very happy with this second place. I didn’t expect to win the silver medal,” he said. “Today was perfect for me. The track matched my technical skills.”
Ukraine rider Oleksandr Yakymenko held off a late charge by Frenchman Guillaume Fabry to take the bronze. Denmark’s Jakob Funglsang was second in the first three laps, but faded and ultimately did not finish.
Sunny skies and warm summer temperatures welcomed the junior field of 84 riders, but only 29 riders finished with the leader. Canandian Max Plaxton took fifth at 7:28 back to finish as the top North American.
The podium presented a few firsts in the 14-year history of mountain bike world championships. Kulhavy’s gold is the first by a male Czech rider (Petra Bublova took bronze in the junior women’s race in 2002) while Yakymenko gave the Ukraine its first mountain bike worlds medal.
Junior men’s cross-country
1. Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze) 39.6km in 1 hour, 51 minutes, 51 seconds (19.79 kph)
2. Nino Schurter (Swi), at 2:27
3. Oleksandr Yakymenko (Ukr), at 4:53
4. Guillaume Faby (F), at 7:03
5. Max Plaxton (Can), at 7:28
6. Shaun Lewis (Aus), at 7:38
7. Yannik Bernasconi (Swi), at 8:40
8. Jordi Vila Membrado (Sp), at 8:57
9. Daniel McConnel (Aus), at 9:00
10. Jiri Novak (Cze), 9:19
Other North Americans:
25. Jamie Lamb (Can), at 15:56
– 1 lap, 33. Sam Schultz (USA); 35. John Devine (USA)
– 2 laps, 42. Bryan Fawley (USA); 48. Bradley Fairall (Can); 49. Chris Thorpe (Can); 51. Jean-Sebastian Perron (Can); 52. Michael McClure (USA)
DNF – Andrew Erb (Can); Perry Paolini (USA)