Thursday and Friday in Val Di Sole were all about cross country, where the Junior and Under-23 men raced on what is becoming a very dry and fast lap.
The junior race offered little in the way of excitement as Slovak Peter Sagen soloed to victory over a minute ahead of the competition. Unfortunately the Brit riders did not fare so well, the only finisher Scotsman Hamish Creber in 39th, 15 minutes down on Sagen.
However, the opposite was true for the Under-23 event today which turned out to be a real battle between two massive future stars of XC racing. Nino Schurter has been at the top for the past three years, consistently finishing top ten in World Cup races against more senior riders and in 2006 was World Champion. Last year he relinquished that title but this year he could again wear the rainbow for his final Under-23 campaign.
It wasn’t an easy win though, and had it not been for his Swiss teammate maybe tonight we would be looking at a different result. The race started with South African rival Burry Stander leading from the front and quickly establishing a lead of ten seconds over the second Swiss rider Matthais Fluckiger. Both Stander and Schurter lapped together but Stander had to keep the pressure on at the front all the time, as Schurter would not take a pull on the front. Had Burry have sat up, Schurter would have waited for his teammate and the games would have began, road race style.
By lap four Stander was still on the front, but halfway through lap five everything changed. With Schurter sure his teammate could only get third, he attacked until Stander could not respond. It was a cruel way to claim the jersey but an enthralling race to watch from the sidelines.