7 March 2014
Swiss cross-country world champion Nino Schurter will return to one of his favourite hunting grounds when the UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg, the opening round of the 2014 UCI MTB World Cup, gets under way on 11 April.
The Swiss star will be aiming for a fourth victory at Cascades MTB Park, which he says suits his style of riding best of the all the tracks on the world circuit.
‘My favourite course’
“Pietermaritzburg is my favourite course on the World Cup circuit and I have won every time I have raced there, which is encouraging for me going into the first event of the new season,” the three-time world champion said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The layout of the course is good for me, with a number of technical sections which I can take advantage of, and there are also some short, intense climbs that I really enjoy.”
Schurter, who has been training in the Western Cape in recent months, is hoping to add to his three previous victories at the venue. After finishing the previous season as the best cross-country rider in the world, he will be a hot favourite to continue his run of success at Cascades.
The April weather in South Africa will mean that northern hemisphere-based athletes will require some adjustment to the warmer conditions, with many of them coming out of the significantly cooler winter period.
‘I really love racing in South Africa’
“I really love racing in South Africa,” Schurter said. “I spend time there preparing in the off-season and I am hoping to go out there and repeat what I have done for the past few years.
“Getting there early and adjusting to the sun is important and Pietermaritzburg is quite a different place to race at, which makes it exciting,” he added.
2013 World Championships
In 2013, Schurter was powering away to a comfortable World Championship victory in Pietermaritzburg, but a fall at the final “Over the Top” section meant that his lead was cut slightly, making his victory a touch less convincing, but the real race was for second, with Germany’s Manuel Fumic claiming the silver medal ahead of Spaniard Jose Hermida.
It was all Schurter in 2012’s Pietermaritzburg leg of the World Cup circuit as well, with the Swiss star overcoming a valiant challenge by the late South African cycling legend Burry Stander, with Fumic, another regular visitor to South Africa, in third place.
Importance of the opening event
Being the first event of the season, the UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg will be targeted by the riders, hoping to get their seasons off to a strong start, but Schurter is going to be extremely tough to beat.
“It is always good to get something under the belt early in the season and that is what I am hoping Pietermaritzburg will give me,” he said.
“Winning in Pietermaritzburg will be the perfect start to the season for me, and I am really looking forward to racing at Cascades again.”