Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff and Nino Schurter have claimed victories at the UCI World Cup finals in Val di Sole, Italy. For Schurter it was the culmination of a perfect season. What the Italian track lacks in technical challenges it makes up for with a high pace and a habit for throwing up the unexpected.
In the women’s race the overall title had already been locked up by Yana Belomoina. The Ukrainian was joined by Jolanda Neff whose season had gone far from plan. An overall champ in previous years, Neff had one eye on the upcoming UCI World Championships in Cairns, Australia and was hoping to hit form just in the nick of time.
Their battle was a ying versus yang balance; the Swiss the better descender and the Ukrainian the superior climber. With a couple of laps to go Neff attacked and left the champ powerless to counter. Neff’s return to form will have her in serious contention for that Worlds title whilst Belomoina conceded that she was happy with second after a stellar season of racing.
Poland’s Maja Włoszczowska was riding with a broken wrist underneath some heavy strapping but nevertheless powered home to claim third spot on the podium, which was to reward her with second in the overall standings.
In the men’s race, all eyes were on Nino Schurter’s immaculate run to the title. The plaudits were already in the bag but scoring an emphatic 1500 points was too juicy a bone to resist for the man currently in a class of one. A fast pack of riders formed at the head of the race but an early Schurter break left him alone with a sizable advantage. Only Frenchman Stephane Tempier was able to bridge the gap pushing his now trademark inexplicably high gear. He passed Schurter and the reigning Olympic Champion duly slotted in behind him to play the waiting game. The Frenchman could virtually taste his debut UCI World Cup win and set about making life tough for him.
Many trackside theorised that the World Champion was gambling the perfect season on his devastating power in the sprint but with that he was gone; Schurter broke on the final lap and tore off up one of the steepest descents at what looked like nearly double the pace that Tempier could muster. That second place finish however would confirm his second place in the overall standings and duly felt like just reward to the Frenchman.
Schurter was clearly ecstatic with the result and later joked about heading to Cairns in search of the ‘perfect, perfect season’.