The 2014 UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, came to a thrilling end at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg when Frenchman Julien Absalon claimed his maiden victory in South Africa in the elite men’s cross-country final.
BMC MTB Racing’s Absalon started slowly but soon found himself locked in a titanic tussle three time winner at the venue, Nino Schurter (SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing). However, Schurter’s hope for another victory at the circuit was dashed when he punctured his rear wheel during the penultimate lap.
“I’m really happy. It’s great to win the first World Cup, especially with it being here in South Africa where I crashed twice and broke ribs at last year’s World Champs,” said Absalon after his 27th World Cup race victory. “I wasn’t the fastest downhill and I arrived a little bit stressed after my two crashes last year. I wasn’t really feeling comfortable in the Tree House rock garden but I did a safe line; maybe not the fastest but a safe one.
“I used a lot of energy during the first lap to overtake about fifteen guys. Once I got up to Nino it was a nice fight though. He was very fast in some of the technical sections but then he got a flat tyre.”
Smelling blood, Absalon took full advantage of the opportunity and charged ahead, knowing all too well that third placed Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) would soon discover Schurter’s misfortune as well.
After surging past a helpless Schurter, Fumic gave it his all to reel in the leader. “I thought I could win at least once here in Pietermaritzburg but there was no shame finishing behind Julien today. I proved again that I can ride really well on the Pietermaritzburg course,” said Fumic.
Marco Fontana (BH-Suntour-KMC) put in a consistent effort throughout the race and deservedly claimed third place while a gutsy Schurter eventually crossed the line in sixth position.
“It’s obviously disappointing, I was in a good position and I was just trying to put Julien in the hurt box after I’d recognised he was starting to have a few troubles,” said Schurter. “Unfortunately I flatted, and in quite a bad place too, so I had to ride quite a far way with the flat. But that’s racing.”
The world-class course laid out by course designer Nick Floros received rave reviews from the vast majority of the riders. There were however an unfortunate few who came unstuck, particularly in the elite men’s cross-country race, with South Africa’s Tyron Bird (Quattro) being one of the casualties as he went over the handlebars and his teeth pierced his bottom lip, ironically in the newly built Red Lipped Herald stretch.
The elite men’s cross country event marked the end of the global showcase and the seven-leg circuit now shifts to Cairns, Australia in two weeks’ time.
The UCI MTB World Cup, presented by Shimano, takes place at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 11-13 April 2014. More information can be found at www.mtbworldcupsa.co.za
Summary of results – 2014 UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg, presented by Shimano
- Julien Absalon (BMC MTB Racing) 1:38.05
- Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) 1:38.39
- Maxime Marotte (BH-Suntour-KMC) 1:38.59
- Ondrek Cink (Multivan Merida Biking Team) 1:39.37
- José Hermida Ramos (Multivan Merida Biking Team) 1:39.44
- Nino Schurter (SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing) 1:40.21
- Thomas Litscher (Multivan Merida Biking Team) 1:40.24
- Mathias Fluickiger (Stockli Pro Team) 1:40.29
- Daniel McConnell (Trek Factory Racing) 1:40.42
- Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Trek Factory Racing) 1:40.56
Source: 2014 UCI World Cup Pietermaritzburg press release
Photo: Darren Goddard/Gameplan Media