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Nino makes it nine with win in Val di Sole

Bouchard leads the Canadian contingent in Val di Sole, Italy

Nino Schurter 2021 xco world championships Photo by: Bartek Wolinksi / Red Bull Content Pool

Nino Schurter hasn’t had the best year. Good by any other rider’s standards, but not on par with what many have come to expect from arguably the greatest elite men’s cross country rider of all time.

That all changed Saturday in Val di Sole. Schurter came out on top of an intense battle with fellow Swiss rider, Mathias Flueckiger, to win 2021 elite men’s cross country world championships. It marks an incredibly ninth world championship title for Schurter, and his first major victory of 2021.

Canadians in Val di Sole

Léandre Bouchard proved to be the fastest Canadian in the elite men’s field, finishing 28th on Saturday. Bouchard’s Pivot Cycles-OTE teammate, Marc Andre Fortier, was the next across the line in 41st.

Quinton Disera finished 52nd, Tyler Orschel 58th, and Peter Disera 63rd. Andrew L’Esperance rounded out the Canadian entries in 73rd.

Nino Schurter on the wheel of Ondrej Cink early in the men’s XCO race with Flueckiger behind. Photo: Bartek Wolinski Red Bull Content Pool

How the race was won

Saturday’s elite men’s title fight quickly became a tale of two races. Within two laps, Nino Schurter and Mathias Flueckiger rode off the front of the field. The Swiss duo would continue extending their lead throughout the six-lap race.

Behind, a powerhouse group chased. Victor Koretzky, Vlad Dascalu, Maxim Brandl and Ondrej Cink would eventually gain some measure of separation from Henrique Avancini, Sam Gaze, Filippo Colombo, Alan Hatherly and Milan Vader.

The big show, though, was the duel between Schurter and Flueckiger. One Swiss rider looking to reestablish his dominance at the front of the pack. The other riding a wave of World Cup wins this season.

Nino Schurter and Mathias Fluecker duel through the rocks of Val di Sole. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Schurter and Flueckiger traded leads and traded attacks, but neither could create any separation. Coming into the final lap, Schurter left his rival on the front, forcing him to set pace in the first half of the lap, then buzzing his tire trying to find a way around Flueckiger before the final descent. The younger Swiss rider fended off Schurter until the penultimate corner. After several attempts to pass, Schurter finally found an inside line to edge out Flueckiger, and immediately opened up a long sprint. Flueckiger tried to hold onto the wheel, but could do no more than ride out his race, crossing the final finish line two seconds behind.

Nino Schurter earns an incredible ninth world championship title, 12 years after his first win back in 2009. In that time, the incredibly dominant Schurter has only lost worlds on four occasions: 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2020. After a year that saw some start to doubt the Swiss rider’s abilities, he will once again wear rainbows in in 2022.

Victor Koretzky 2021 xco world championships
Victor Koretzky leads Vlad Dascalu in Val di Sole. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Behind, Koretzky fought to establish daylight between the chasing pack, riding home alone to take third. Vlad Dascalu and Maxim Brandl followed in fourth and fifth after a late-race mechanical saw Cink fall from the chase group all the way to 16th by the finish line.

Full results: Elite men’s and women’s XCO – 2021 UCI mountain bike world championships.