Kerschbaumer soars as Europeans dominate Under 23 World title tussle
Pietermaritzburg – Friday’s men’s Under 23 Cross Country clash of the UCI MTB & Trials World Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg was one filled with drama as Italy’s Gerhard Kerschbaumer made the gold medal his own in testing conditions whilst it was heartbreak from South Africa’s top stars.
While many of his chasers fell by the wayside, the Italian, who already had one gold medal to his name after playing an important role in the victorious Italian team’s Team Relay on Wednesday, marched on steadily despite the slippery and gloomy conditions, ultimately crossing the line a minute ahead of Germany’s Julian Schleb.
“When I saw Luca [Braidot – Kerschbaumer’s Italian counterpart] crash I knew that I had a big advantage over the other guys and I just had to control it in the rain and I am really glad that I did and got the win,” said Kerschbaumer.
“I went into the race with my normal tyres and they worked well for the first bit of the race but luckily it only started getting wet later in the race so it did get quite tough towards the end!”
“Myself and Luca worked well but I didn’t think that we were doing as well as we were and when he fell I felt really sorry for him.”
“The team relay did help me because it gave me a bit of confidence going into the race today.”
With World Cup leader and likely title challenger Markus Schulte-Luenzum of Germany having suffered a flat tyre on the second lap and falling a long way back in the field, it was Schleb – who himself recovered well after a crash at the start saw him get off to a poor start and complete the first lap down in nineteenth position – who ultimately finished twenty-six seconds ahead of third placed Michiel van der Heijden of Netherlands.
“I was feeling good in the first laps in the dry but when it became wet I nearly crashed on the second last lap so I decided to walk through the rock garden on the last lap.”
“After the bad crash on the first lap I just had to refocus and do my best to catch the guys in front of me.”
van der Heijden also had to work his way through the field after the first lap saw him down in eleventh position however a bit of misfortune amongst some of his rivals and good determination saw him claw back to claim the bronze medal.
“I had a really good start but I got caught up in a crash which slowed me down quite a bit and I knew that I had to catch up from there.”
“A lot of guys started out quickly and then fell back. I kept hearing what was happening on the course so I knew I could catch up and that gave me more energy to keep going,” added the flying Dutchman.
2012 Men’s Junior world champ, Anton Cooper of New Zealand, put in a stellar effort of the difficult encounter to work his way right back into the hunt for a medal however his efforts fell just short and was forced to settle for fourth in the end.
In an afternoon which many of the South African’s in the field would prefer to forget, it was the somewhat unlikely figure of Brendon Davids who managed to provide some reason to celebrate for the local crowd as, despite suffering a dislocated shoulder in the dying moments of the race, hung onto an impressive top twenty position, finishing nineteenth overall and being the first South African home whilst Luke Roberts’ consistent effort saw him finish thirty-first.
“I was seeded thirty-seventh on the start line but was lying third last early on after I couldn’t get through the guys on the first climb,” explained Davids through tears and excruciating pain afterwards. “I have been working really hard and wanted a top ten and so after my start I thought back to a race I watched of Burry’s (Stander) here at Cascades once.”
“Burry was a long way down early on but just never gave up and rode all himself all the way back. I dug as deep as I could out there and managed to get back up to sixteenth at the start of the last lap and was really hoping to pick up one or two more places before the finish.
“I went into the Tree House rock garden and I guess I was a little over eager though and things just got away from me and I crashed.
“I’ve been struggling with a dislocated shoulder all year and when I crashed it popped it out again. I got going again and tried to go as hard as I could but unfortunately I lost three positions out there and finished nineteenth.
“Given my start, a top fifteen would have gone down better but I left it all out there. I had nothing more to give.
The hometown competitor’s gutsy effort was widely appreciated by the Pietermaritzburg crowd and Davids crossed the line to a warm local reception.
“Thanks to everyone who came out here and supported me today,” said Davids. “I’m a Pmb boy so to be able race Worlds in front of my family here on a course that I love racing on in the wet, was really special!”
The race started in the worst possible way for Rourke Croeser, one of two local stars firmly eyeing out a top five finish and secretly hoping to even sneak onto the podium, who snapped his chain just metres from the start line and, after much confusion which resulted in him passing through the first techzone shortly after the start, he was forced to run the first few kilometers with his bike to the next techzone before he received the assistance he needed.
Despite departing the techzone stone last, Croeser refused to quit and, showing the determination few others possess, picked off the riders ahead of him on at a time until he found himself inside the top fifty before disaster struck for the second time as he broke his fork, ending his charge.
Fellow podium hopeful, James Reid, found himself in a far better position than his countryman early on in the encounter as he powered into seventh position overall and perfectly poised to pounce with his local knowledge of the course standing him in good stead to launch his attack.
It wasn’t to be though as firstly a loose rear wheel forced him a long way down the field before a broken seat then cost him crucial further minutes and frustratingly and disappointingly destroyed any last hopes he may have had of consolidating things.
The action shifts to the elite men and women – the best cross country riders from across the globe – on Saturday afternoon when racing gets underway at 12h30 and 15h00 respectively.
The UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships takes place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from 26 August to 1 September 2013. More information can be found atwww.mtbworldchamps.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – UCI MTB & TRIALS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
CROSS COUNTRY MEN
Under 23 Men
1.Gerhard Kerschbaumer (ITA) 1:28.55
2.Julian Schleb (GER) +00.58
3.Michiel van der Heijden (NED) +01.24
4.Anton Cooper (NZL) +01.31
5.Julien Trarieux (FRA) +01.42
6.Jordan Sarrou (FRA) +01.43
7.Christian Pfäffle (GER) +01.57
8.Victor Koretzky (FRA) +02.40
9.Daniele Braidot (ITA) +03.10
10.Markus Schulte-Luenzum +3.16