• Laura Stigger (Austria). (Rob Jones)Source: Rob Jones
Austria and Switzerland took the first individual titles of the Mountain Bike World Championships on Thursday in Lenzerheide, as the XCO (cross-country) racing got underway. Defending Junior men's champion Cameron Wright of Australia managed sixth, after crashing late in the race while chasing the leaders.
Rob Jones

Cycling Central
7 Sep 2018 - 1:21 PM 

Defending champion Laura Stigger of Austria was untouchable in the Junior women's five lap race, riding away from the rest of the field on the opening climb, and extending her lead throughout the race to win by over three minutes. 

Tereza Saskova of the Czech Republic moved into second on the first lap but was challenged in the second half of the race by Harriet Harnden of Great Britain.  Saskova managed to drop her British rival in the last half lap to take the silver medal, 34 seconds in front of Harnden.  Zoe Cuthbert was the top Australian rider, in 20th place.

The Junior men began their race in rain, making the track slick and treacherous, although it gradually dried out in the second half of the six-lap race.  Mathis Azzaro of France jumped out to a strong lead in the first half of the race, opening a maximum gap of 41 seconds on the second lap. 


His gap began to shrunk after that, with Leon Kaiser of Germany, Balmer and his team-mate Loris Rouiller steadily closing in.  By the start of the last lap, Balmer, Kaiser and Azzaro were together, and when Kaiser attacked, only Balmer could respond.  The Swiss rider then countered to cross the finish line a slim two seconds ahead of Kaiser and immediately collapsed after his effort.  Azzaro held on for third ahead of Rouiller.

"My start was very bad," Balmer said, "and I lost 30 seconds. In my head, I thought my race was over, but I decided to get everything - for my country, my family, my team.  I just kept calm, but it was very long and difficult. 

"Leon [Kaiser] went crazy on the uphill, but I was able to come back; it was a crazy race.  I am usually not so good at altitude, so I'm very happy with this race; it has been a perfect season.  Now I will focus on Innsbruck [Road World Championships]."

Wright had a strong start on the opening lap, but faded slightly, and was already 50 seconds down on the leaders by the end of the second lap.  He managed to move up to fifth by the penultimate lap before losing one spot in the last lap.