Under-23 XC World Champion Burry Stander (Specialized) has scored his first Nissan UCI World Cup victory at round seven on the XC series in Champéry, Switzerland. And he had to beat the mighty Julien Absalon to do it.
The early pace was set by Alexis Vuillermoz (Lapierre), but to the surprise of no-one Absalon moved into the lid halfway through the race. With two laps to go, Stander was a minute adrift and it looked like business as usual for the Frenchman. On lap five, though, Stander had closed the gap significantly, and the South African caught a fading Absalon on the final climb. A quick pass and Stander reached the line 15 seconds ahead of Absalon, who had to fight to stay ahead of Ralf Näf – he finished third, nine seconds back.
Stander’s win also represented the first XC win for a South African rider (compatriot Greg Minnaar has, of course, won one or two DH rounds in his time). Absalon probably won’t be too disappointed, though – his second place was enough to secure the overall World Cup title.
In the women’s race, Elisabeth Osl (Ghost), who’d skipped the World Championships, won ahead of Anna Szafraniec (JBG-2). Lene Byberg (Specialized) was leading the series going in to round seven, but had to work her way through the field after a slow start and was third in Champéry, thus handing the series lead to Osl. There’s only 65 points in it, though, so it’s all to play for at the final round in Schladming, Austria next weekend.