Nino Schurter already had the World Cup overall title wrapped up coming in to the final round in La Bresse, France, but the Swiss star was looking for more.
Controlling the race from the beginning, as he has so many times in the past, Schurter rode to his 30th World Cup win in the series final round of 2018. It’s another laurel to add to the World Cup title, his sixth.
Behind Schuter, the battle for podium spots at La Bresse, and in the series were far from decided. A string of riders all tried to hold, or even push the cross country superstar. All unsuccessfully. The closest was Gerhard Kerschbaumer, who finished the race in second.
Cyclocross cross-over Mathieu van der Poel was on track for third, after pushing Schurter in the early laps. That ended frustratingly close to the finish line with a flat front tire. Maxime Marotte benefits from the Dutch riders disappointment, claiming third.
Canadians in La Bresse
Léandre Bouchard was the top Canadian finisher in La Bresse. Riding in the home base of his French KMC-Ekoi-SR Suntour team, Bouchard ended his World Cup season in 47th.
Raphaël Gagné (Silverback-OMX Pro Team) was the next best placed in 70th, with Canadian national champion Peter Disera (Norco Factory Team) six seconds behind in 71st. Andrew L’Esperance was caught up in a crash off the start, then a flat tire on the first lap led to a rare DNF for the Forward Racing-Norco rider.
Elite Men UCI World Cup finals – La Bresse France
American national champion Howard Grotts (Specialized) led out the final round, charging up the lengthy opening hill ahead of Nino Schurter (Scott-SRAM). The lead was brief as Schurter, then several others rode past when the race entered the first section of woods.
A front group of five quickly formed. Schurter, towing Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing), was on the front. Maxime Marotte followed, with Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon Circus), French national champion Titouan Carod (BMC Racing), and David Valero Serrano trailing. Gerhard Kerschbaumer (Torpado Gabogas) trailed back in 1oth position.
Schurter and Avancini quickly opened up a gap to the chasers. Van der Poel, having missed the move, had left the group behind and spent much of the second lap trying to close to the lead.
As Neff had in the exciting Women’s Elite race earlier that day, Schurter was using the technical wooded section to great advantage. He opened a small gap to Avancini, who was caught and passed by van der Poel.
Starting the third lap, first, second and third in the World Cup overall standings are riding together, in that order. Schurter leading van der Poel and Avancini. Marotte, forth in the race and standings, was chasing not too far behind with Kerschbaumer up to fifth.
The leading trio doesn’t stay together long, though. Feeling his early effort, Avancini begins to fade. Schurter and van der Poel pushed on together, leaving a group of five chasing in their wake.
La Bresse Finals – Kerschbaumer makes contact.
Not content to sit in a pack and wait, Kerschbaumer has left the chase group behind. By the mid-point of the fourth lap, in a seven lap race, the Italian has rejoined the leading pair at the front of the race. Seeing his arrival, Schurter wastes little time in pushing the pace. Kerschbaumer responds, and a gap begins to open back to van der Poel.
The new leading duo continue on, growing their advantage over van der Poel, who rides alone in third. Kerschbaumer is pushing hard to hold on to Schurter, though, and as they approach the lap point, the Italian drops his chain. While he is struggling to get it back on the chainring through the mud, the Cannondale racer is caught by van der Poel, while the Swiss rider disappears off the front of the race.
Starting the penultimate lap, the chasing pair have a 30 second disadvantage to Schurter. While the race may have gone away from Kerschbaumer, he is in no mood to wait around for van der Poel. The Italian is pushing hard, but only maintaining his gap to Schurter, while the big Dutch man slides a handful of seconds backwards over the course of the lap.
With Kerschbaumer still 30 seconds in arrears, Nino Schurter was clear to ride his final lap comfortably in the lead. The Italian continued to chase, but not close. Van der Poel looked safe in third, until a late race front flat. The Dutch rider struggled to maintain control as he navigated the descent to the tech zone. He was nearly there he lost his front end going over a double, narrowly avoiding disaster by running over the bars away from his bike. Van der Poel remounted slowly to continue, but Marotte quickly appeared from behind to claim third place at home in La Bresse.
Schurter earned his 30th World Cup win with his victory in France, adding to the sixth World Cup season title he had secured a round earlier in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec.