• Kulhavy and Schurter fight it out for gold (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
World Champion Nino Schurter (Switzerland) emerged the strongest during the Olympic MTB cross country race in Rio, riding away from the leaders in the closing laps to take the gold medal ahead of Jaroslav Kulhavy (Czech Republic) and Carlos Coloma (Spain). Peter Sagan (Slovakia) did well before puncturing out of the leading group.
By
Cycling Central

22 Aug 2016 - 12:59 PM  UPDATED 22 Aug 2016 - 1:00 PM

After bronze in the Beijing Olympics and silver in London, Schurter finally took gold in his third attempt at the Olympics on the course in Rio.

Schurter took the early lead with Coloma, but Kulhavy soon joined them as Coloma lost the pace. Pre-race favourite Julien Absalon (France) faded to two minutes back as the leaders set a blistering pace.

Starting the fifth of seven laps, Schurter and Kulhavy had 30 seconds on a two-man chase of Coloma and Maxime Marotte (France), while Mathias Fluckiger (Switzerland) was chasing in fifth, more than a minute behind.

The lead duo held an initial gap of more than 30 seconds over Marotte and Coloma, who by this time appeared to be racing for bronze.

Schurter gapped Kulhavy as they reached one of the technical rock sections on the second last lap, establishing the advantage that he would grow all the way into the finish.

The Swiss rider started the final lap with a 33-second gap over Kulhavy, while Marotte and Coloma were 1:19 behind.

That gap only grew throughout the final lap, holding a 44 second gap to Kulhavy at the midpoint and just under two minutes to Coloma and Marotte.

“I have been working four years for this gold,” Schurter said.

“If I am looking back, I needed silver in London to get back and be strong here. For me, it is the perfect story. I have bronze in Beijing, silver in London, and now gold in Rio.”

With the rocks and terrain slippery after early rain on the course in Rio it was a very tricky challenge, even for the best mountain bikers in the world, as silver-medallist Kulhavy explained after the race.

“It was incredibly tough. It rained today, and the course was very different, and it was very slippery on the rocks, and the downhills were much more difficult today,” said Kulhavy.

“It was a different race in London, but today, I was with Nino again. I am very happy for both of us. Nino is the strongest rider this year. I wish him the gold medal.”

Australians Dan McConnell and Scott Bowden finished 16th and 36th respectively with McConnell especially unlucky as mechanical issues took him out of contention when he was in a strong position.

Peter Sagan had to start at the back of the grid as he had next to no points in the world standings. He surged impressively through the field in the first lap to make the leader's group, but a flat tire at the beginning of the second lap brought an end to his chances for a medal. 

“After seven years, I am back on the mountain bike, and I (was) happy to try,” Sagan said. “The start was very good. After the first lap, I was with the first guys. Then I had some technical problems.”

Despite performing impressively, Sagan reiterated that his focus would return to road racing now.

“Maybe I will try some other races, but for now, I have to go back on the road.”

Sagan a realistic Rio medal chance?
Road World Champion Peter Sagan was comparatively downbeat about his chances in the mountain bike race in Rio on Sunday.