The final day of XCO competition in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, at the 2018 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes Benz,
saw a first time Elite world champion in Kate Courtney of the USA for the women's competition, while Swiss hero Nino Schurter did not disappoint the home crowd with a victory in the Elite men. The Swiss finished the XCO portion of the world
championships with four wins in seven races.
As forecast, the day was blue skies and sun, with a crowd in excess of 20,000 coming out to cheer on the athletes.
The women's race began with an attack by 2016 world champion Annika Langvad of Denmark, who opened a gap on Courtney and Emily Batty of Canada. Langvad seemed to have the race under her control, with the 35 second gap on the two chasers by the end of the second lap. However, Courtney dropped Batty on the fourth lap and caught Langvad by the end of the lap. The Danish rider pulled away slightly on the next lap, but they were back together by the penultimate sixth lap, and Courtney dropped her rival in the technical sections on the final lap to win by 47 seconds. Batty hung on for third behind a fast closing Jolanda Neff of Switzerland. With her win, Courtney becomes the fourth American woman to win the Elite women's title, and the first since Alison Dunlap in 2001.
"It's an absolute incredible feeling to win," said Courtney, 'I don't know if it's really sunk in yet. I was so focussed on executing my race plan, and to look up at the finish and realize that I was first was an incredible feeling. I just focussed on riding the cleanest lines I could, and I knew that was my opportunity."
Nino Schurter came into the Elite men's race with six world titles already, but this was a chance to win before a home crowd, and he did not disappoint. The Swiss rider, who lives only 20 minutes away from Lenzerheide, attacked on the opening lap, and only Gerhard Kerschbaumer of Italy was able to go with him. The pair rode together at the front for the entire race, until Schurter attacked with a lap and half to go. At the start of the final lap, his lead was a slim six seconds, but Schurter continued to push the pace and Kerschbaumer could not respond, finishing 11 seconds back as Schurter rolled across the finish line to the cheers of thousands of Swiss fans. Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands came back from a slow start to move into third on the fourth lap, and held it to the finish line for the final podium spot.
"This is definitely a special win, and I would say the best one," said Schurter. "Getting to race here with so many people out there cheering for me was incredible. It was so loud out on the course. I didn't have the freshest legs today after the Team Relay [won by Switzerland], so I was suffering quite a bit. I tried to wait, and my plan was to attack in the last lap, but I saw in the second last one that he started to struggle in the technical sections, so I just pushed as hard as I could, and the people were cheering me to the finish line."