Switzerland got off to a strong start on home soil on Wednesday in Lenzerheide, at the 2018 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes Benz,
winning the first gold medals in the Team Relay.
This is the second year since the Team Relay increased to five riders from four, with the addition of the Under-23 women's category to the existing Elite women and men, Under-23 and Junior men. Each rider does a lap of the cross-country course, and countries can send the riders off in any order they wish, which can result in constant lead changes.
Italy jumped into an early lead on the first lap with their Elite man, Gerhard Kerschbaumer, but lost it on the second to France, with Australia then opening a substantial gap on lap three with an impressive ride by Under-23 man Reece Tucknott. Australia's Holly Harris managed to hold it through the fourth lap, despite Switzerland's Jolanda Neff chasing. However, Switzerland had always remained close to the front, and their ace in the hole was the final rider - Nino Schurter.
Schurter and Germany's Manuel Fumic started the final lap together, and sprinted up the first climb, quickly catching Australian Junior woman Zoe Cuthbert. Schurter, the number one ranked rider in the world, then powered away from Fumic to give Switzerland their first win of the week, 13 seconds ahead of the German team. Denmark, the 2017 silver medalists, took the bronze medal.
"It's crazy to win here in Lenzerheide, with the atmosphere in front of the home crowd,"
said Schurter, who only lives 20 minutes from the course. "The course is quite technical and tricky after the rain we had, and that is what I like. We have world class riders all the way from the Junior to the Under-23 to the Elite, so our goal was to win here at home. World championships are always special, and the Team Relay is something different from what we usually do; you take part as a team and everybody needs to perform well, which is different for mountain bikers, but I really enjoyed it."