Nino Schurter rises from the ashes to become 2021 XCO World Champion
Nino Schurter has just been proclaimed 2021 XCO World Champion at the Italian circuit of Val di Sole. After a couple of seasons far from his best, the Swiss rider performed one of the most intelligent races of his career to take the rainbow jersey for the ninth time. Mathias Fluckiger was second and Victor Koretzky third.
Nino Schurter extends his legend by winning the 2021 XCO World Championships
With the notable absences of Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock, the 2021 XCO World Championship started with a high level but without a clear favourite for victory.
As usual, the Brazilian Henrique Avancini was the best at the start and was in charge of leading the race in the first metres, with the Czech rider Ondrej Cink close behind, followed by the Frenchmen Sarrou and Koretzky. Nino Schurter and Mathias Fluckiger were 5th and 6th respectively.
Czech rider Ondrej Cink took over from Avancini before the first pass through the Rock Garden and managed to finish the opening loop in first position. Although the pace was high and the peloton was stretched out, there were still no signs of a breakaway at the start of lap 1.
But the first decisive moment came in the first half of lap 1 when Henrique Avancini suffered a crash on an uphill section and Nino Schurter took advantage to launch an attack that allowed him to go solo and gain a few seconds of advantage that disappeared shortly after before the push of the group formed by Ondrej cink, Victor Koretzky, Mathias Flueckiger, Henrique Avancini and Filippo Colombo.
The lead group was joined by Romanian Vlad Dascalu just before the start of lap 2. There were already 7 riders in the front group when Nino Schurter tried again to raise the pace on the hardest uphill section. Fluckiger managed to get away with his team-mate and the two again opened a small gap to the rest.
What at first appeared to be a small gap became bigger and bigger until by the second timed pass on lap 2, Fluckiger and Schurter were 25 seconds ahead of the chasing group of Cink, Koretzky, Dascalu and Avancini.
Lap 3 started with Schurter and Fluckiger in the lead with 35 seconds over the rest, and both were feeling very solid on the bike. There was still a long way to go but the best Nino Schurter seemed to be back.
Behind, the group was breaking up and it was now Ondrej Cink who was riding alone in third place, more than 40 seconds behind. Behind Dascalu and Koretzky were fourth and fifth, almost 50 seconds behind.
Lap 4 started again with the Swiss pair of Schurter and Fluckiger riding together in first position. 38 seconds separated them from Ondrej Cink in third and 51 seconds from Dascalu and Koretzky. The rest were already more than a minute behind.
It was still difficult to guess whether Schurter and Fluckiger were taking advantage of the fact that they were riding together to continue to open up a gap on the rest, or whether neither wanted to or could try an attack to try to seal the race. But it seemed clear that Schurter was not interested in a sprint to the finish, and he would sooner or later try something to avoid that finish.
On lap 5, Frenchman Victor Koretzky made contact with Czech Ondrej Cink and soon overtook him for third place. Cink seemed not to be having the best time of the race but was still able to avoid Koretzky going to the front without him.
Mathias Flueckiger tried to surprise Nino Schurter with an uphill attack, but the eight-time world champion held his nerve and did not allow his team-mate to get away.
Before the end of lap 5, bad luck struck Ondrej Cink again this season and a broken gearbox caused him to abandon his fight for the bronze medal. Koretzky was now alone in third place.
Last lap bell and the two Swiss were still in the lead. It was one of the most exciting finishes in recent years.
Fluckiger didn't wait long and on the first uphill of the circuit he raised the pace again in vain, as Schurter was still on his wheel.
Mathias Fluckiger was facing one of his best chances to wear the rainbow jersey and he knew it, but Nino Schurter was not willing to make it easy for him. Fluckiger took risks on the downhills and set the pace higher on the uphill but Nino was still in his shadow. None of them made mistakes and none of them were able to make a difference. The finish was really tight.
Nino Schurter was getting rid of the jerry cans while Fluckiger was scratching his ear over and over again. Both gave the impression of being nervous and each waited for a signal that didn't seem to come.
Again it was Fluckiger who tried a hard attack just before the Rock Garden, but it didn't go away and Nino responded with an attack that left him just ahead before the finishing straight. Nino Schurter was World Champion again.
Mathias Flueckiger shook his head again and again at the finish line, but finally took the silver medal. Victor Koretzky closed the podium with bronze.
Results 2021 XCO World Championships Men
- Nino Schurter SUI
- Mathias Fluckiger SUI
- Victor Koretzky FRA
- Vlad Dascalu Rou
- Maximilian Brandl ALE
- Samuel Gaze NZ
- Henrique Avancini BRA
- Alan Hatherly RSA
- Filippo Colombo SUI
- Milan Vader NED