SCOTT Swisspower rider Nino Schurter is quietly confident ahead of his Elite men’s Olympic Cross-country (XCO) title defense at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Speaking at a SCOTT Sports World Championships welcome dinner at Jowett’s Cycles, Pietermaritzburg, Schurter confirmed that he is in peak form and that he is looking forward to Saturday afternoon’s race on one of his favourite tracks.
“I have had very good preparation for the World Championships. I am expecting a hard race but knowing that I am well prepared gives me a good level of confidence. I have had good results on this track at the three World Cups that I have raced here and it suits my style,” said the 27-year-old Swiss rider, who is highly skilled on the technical sections and powerful on the steep ascents.
Schurter won the opening round of the 2012 UCI World Cup on the Pietermaritzburg course, beating the late Burry Stander, who was killed by a motorist while training in January this year. For Schurter, Stander’s absence is significant.
“We were rivals since Under-23 level and we had many good battles, especially here in Pietermaritzburg. It is really very sad that Burry is not here to race the World Championships in his home country,” said Schurter before assessing who his major rivals are likely to be on Saturday.
“(Julien) Absalon is going well and is always motivated for a big race like the World Championships. (Jose) Hermida has won here at a World Cup in 2009 and likes this course. He is in good form. I also think (Marco) Fontana will be a rider to watch here. And of course (Jaroslav) Kulhavy can never be ruled out. And you can always expect at least one surprise rider on the day too,” smiled Schurter.
Kulhavy, the Czech who narrowly beat Schurter to the Olympic gold medal in London last year has been relatively unimpressive so far this year, but his ability to focus on one goal race and succeed there is not to be underestimated. Italy’s Fontana (third at London) and Spain’s Hermida (fourth at London and the 2010 World Champion) as well as France’s four-time World Champion, Absalon, have all shown good form leading up to the World Championships.
Schurter’s SCOTT Swisspower teammate, Florian Vogel is also a podium contender on Saturday. After a poor start to the year, which included a crash at the ABSA Cape Epic and illness ahead of the first two rounds of the UCI World Cup, the 31-year-old Swiss is confident of his form.
“I’m feeling very good. I have good health and my fitness is the best it has been all year. I like the course here and am looking forward to a good result,” said Vogel, who has twice secured bronze (2007 and 2009) and once claimed silver (2008) at the XCO World Championships.
Schurter’s World Cup win in Pietermaritzburg last year saw him become the first rider to win a major international event on a 27.5-inch wheel bike, a result that inadvertently sparked a global shift towards the wheel size in a young sport where technology is constantly evolving.
“I am very comfortable on the Scale 700. I had my best year on this bike last year. I appreciate SCOTT’s willingness to listen to me and develop a bike that suits me. I find the 29-inch wheels a bit big for my height. With the 27.5-inch wheels I have the best compromise,” explained Schurter, who has been with SCOTT for 10 years.
The Elite men’s XCO race will take place at 15h00 on Saturday. It will be televised live on SuperSport and will be live streaming on www.redbull.tv. For ticket information and other World Championships news, visit www.mtbworldchamps.co.za