Nino Schurter knows when he is feeling good. And when Nino is feeling good, nobody else in the World Cup XCO field is safe. After riding to a record-breaking 34th World Cup win last month in front of a home crowd in Switzerland, Schurter (Scott-SRAM) made it 35 wins in Val di Sole.
Cannondale’s Alan Hatherly led out the start loop with the purple kit of Luca Schwarzbauer (Canyon CLLCTV) also eager to push the pace, then as the field hit the first full lap, Schurter came to the front. One of the most experienced riders in the race, Schurter is intimately acquainted with the Italian track, and even claimed one of his many World Championship titles here just two years ago.
Schurter, Hatherly, and Schwarzbauer were joined by Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Sam Gaze to form an elite group of four that immediately gained an advantage on the rest of the field.
Much like his historic ride in Lenzerheide, Schurter didn’t wait around in using every climb and technical descent to gain as much time as possible on his rivals. He opened a small gap on the second lap and, along with the fast-bridging Alan Hatherly, gained seven seconds on chasers Schwarzbauer and Gaze.
Schwarzbauer – who has been on a hot streak of XCC wins this year – began to distance Gaze as the sharp ramps of Val di Sole started to bite.
From behind, Mathias Flückiger (Thömus maxon), who went head to head with Schurter during Worlds here in 2021, smelled blood and began chasing down Schwarzbauer in search of a podium place, leaving behind Jordan Sarrou (Team BMC) and Joshua Dubau (Rockrider), among others.
Hatherly has stood on the World Cup podium 17 times – he grabbed an XCC win in Brazil last year – but is yet to clinch an XCO victory. Today looked like a strong bid for the South African, but he began to suffer and was dropped at the start of the fourth lap.
From there, Schurter never let up and Flückiger continued to chase hard, making his way up to a fading Hatherly. Meanwhile, Trek’s Vlad Dascalu mounted a successful chase in the final laps to put himself in podium contention, followed by Dubau.
In 2021, Schurter and Flückiger’s battle for the rainbow stripes came down to the final furious downhill section, culminating in a successful sprint from Schurter. This time, Schurter had a buffer of more than 30 seconds, staying calm to enjoy the downhill and cruise across the line. His compatriot Flückiger rolled across in second, while the new European Champion Dascalu out-sprinted Dubau for third. A cracked Hatherly hung on for a fifth-place finish.
Schurter is sure to be on the hunt for an 11th World Championship victory in Scotland next month, but four now, he can revel in his second win of the season – what more could you ask for in the build-up to August’s big event?
What did you think of this story?