• Alessandra Keller (Switzerland) has ridden with the elites all season. (Rob Jones)Source: Rob Jones
Swiss and South African riders won rainbow stripes on Friday, the third day of the 2018 Mountain Bike World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. The host nation has now won three out of five titles awarded so far.
Robert Jones

Cycling Central
8 Sep 2018 - 5:25 PM  UPDATED 9 Sep 2018 - 4:43 AM

Although rain was forecast and the skies remained cloudy for much of the day, the rain did not appear, leaving the track fast.

Switzerland was favoured for the women's race and they did not disappoint, with defending champion Sina Frei and her team-mate Alessandra Keller riding away from the rest of the field on the first lap.

The pair rode together until the third lap when Keller attacked, opening a 38-second gap by the end of the lap and extending it to 1 minute 22 seconds by the finish.

Frei rode the rest of the race in second, holding off a late effort by Marika Tovo of Italy to make it a 1-2 finish for the Swiss. Lone lone Australian entrant, Megan Williams, finished 41st.

"There are no words," Keller said, "the crowd was amazing, cheering for me - it was so loud. It's a big dream to win this title, I was unlucky last year with a crash, and I was sick at Europeans [Championships], so this is a dream come true."

The men's race saw a group of ten form at the front on the first lap, including last year's silver medalist Alan Hatherly (South Africa), World Cup champion Petter Fagerhaug (Norway), Christopher Blevins (USA) and David Nordemann (Netherlands).

Hatherly was the most aggressive, and by the third lap, only Blevins was still with him. The pair rode together for the remainder of the race, with Hatherly finally dropping Blevins in the last half lap to solo in for the win, 27 seconds ahead of the American.

Nordemann took third. Hatherly's win came nine years after fellow South African, the late Burry Stander, became the first XCO winner for his nation. Callum Carson was the top Australian finisher, in 56th place.

"I had a taste of victory at Mont-Ste-Anne [World Cup] about a month ago," Hatherly said, "and since then I've just been preparing. I knew the possibility of winning was quite good, so it was a matter of making sure the final preparations were perfect.

"It's pretty unbelievable; these aren't the sort of conditions we get in South Africa, and at altitude where I normally struggle. I knew Chris has a pretty good kick from his road racing, so the last thing I wanted was for it to come down to a sprint. So on the last lap, I just wound it up and kept my head down the whole way."

Austria and Switzerland win junior MTB Titles
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.
Schurter leads Switzerland to Team Relay win at MTB Worlds
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.