• The powerful Swiss team took out the first event of the 2018 UCI MTB World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. (Rob Jones)Source: Rob Jones
Nino Schurter anchored a Swiss home win on Wednesday in the Team Relay, on the opening day of the 2018 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Lenzerheide. Australia finished 10th, but led for two laps with a remarkable ride by Under-23 rider Reece Tucknott.
Robert Jones

Cycling Central
6 Sep 2018 - 9:51 AM  UPDATED 7 Sep 2018 - 9:52 AM

This is the second year since the Team Relay increased to five riders from four, with the addition of the Under-23 women's category to the existing Elite women and men, Under-23 and Junior men. Each rider does a lap of the cross-country course, and countries can send the riders off in any order they wish, which can result in constant lead changes.

Italy jumped into an early lead on the first lap with their Elite man, Gerhard Kerschbaumer, but lost it on the second to France, with Australia then opening a substantial gap on lap three with an impressive ride by Tucknott. Australia's Holly Harris managed to hold the lead through the fourth lap, despite Switzerland's Jolanda Neff chasing - notably, Neff was caught and passed by German Under-23 woman Ronja Eibl. However, Switzerland had always remained close to the front, and their ace in the hole was the final rider - Nino Schurter.

Schurter and Germany's Manuel Fumic started the final lap together, and sprinted up the first climb, quickly catching Australian Junior woman Zoe Cuthbert. Schurter, the number one ranked rider in the world, then powered away from Fumic to give Switzerland their first win of the week, 13 seconds ahead of the German team. Denmark, the 2017 silver medalists, took the bronze medal.

"It's an amazing feeling to start the world championships here in Switzerland, on home soil, with a win for the Swiss team," Neff said. "So many Swiss people came here to cheer for us, so to give them a gold medal to celebrate is the best possible start.

"Our tactic was cautious, with the strongest rider at the end, so we knew we would not always be leading, but that we should be close to the front. So, it was great that we started well and kept going well.

"We weren't so worried about the Australians, because they had the two women at the end, but the Germans were super strong, so I'm happy Nino was able to finish it off for the Swiss team."