The third day of competition at the 2018 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes Benz in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, saw another win for the host country in the women's Under-23 XCO, while South Africa took their first title of these Championships in the Under-23 Men's XCO.
Although rain was forecast and the skies remained cloudy for much of the day, the rain did not appear, leaving the track fast.
Switzerland was favoured for the women's race and they did not disappoint, with defending champion Sina Frei and her team mate Alessandra Keller riding away from the rest of the field on the first lap. The pair rode together until the third lap when Keller attacked, opening a 38 second gap by the end of the lap and extending it to 1:22 by the finish. Frei rode the rest of the race in second, holding off a late effort by Marika Tovo of Italy to make it a 1-2 finish for the Swiss. This is the third gold medal for the host nation in five events contested so far.
"There are no words," said Keller, "the crowd was amazing, cheering for me - it was so loud. It's a big dream to win this title, I was unlucky last year with a crash, and I was sick at Europeans [Championships], so this is a dream come true."
The men's race saw a group of ten form at the front on the first lap, including last year's silver medalist Alan Hatherly (South Africa), World Cup champion Petter Fagerhaug (Norway), Christopher Blevins (USA) and David Nordemann (Netherlands). Hatherly was the most aggressive, and by the third lap only Blevins was still with him. The pair rode together for the remainder of the race, with Hatherly finally dropping Blevins in the last half lap to solo in for the win, 27 seconds ahead of the American. Nordemann took third. Hatherly's win came nine years after fellow South African, the late Burry Stander, became the first XCO winner for his nation.
"I had a taste of victory at Mont-Ste-Anne [World Cup] about a month ago," said Hatherly, "and since then I've just been preparing. I knew the possibility of winning was quite good, so it was a matter of making sure the final preparations were perfect. It's pretty unbelievable; these aren't the sort of conditions we get in South Africa, and at altitude where I normally struggle. A dream come true."