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Three podium finishes at Worldcup opener


Three podium finishes at Worldcup opener

The MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM provided a fine display of its class at the first race of mountain biking's crosscountry Worldcup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå finished the women's race in second, and with Ondrej Cink in fourth and José Hermida in 5th two riders made it to the podium in the men's race as well.

Julian Schelb was the first rider of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM to compete in Pietermaritzburg: The German has been signed for the next two seasons as reigning vice-world champion in the under23 class, and his goal is to finish on Worldcup podiums in the under23 category. He did not succeed to do so in South Africa, however: Right after the start Schelb managed to keep up with his fastest competitors. "But in the third of five laps a branch got jammed in my drivetrain, and soon after I got trouble breathing properly as well", Julian Schelb commented. As a consequence he started moving backwards in the standings, crossing the finish line in 8th.

Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå fared way better: MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM's Norwegian rider had to let some better sprinters pass her right after the start, but she regained contact with the leaders at the end of the first lap. Unfortunately young Swiss rider Jolanda Neff had taken off on her own at this time already, and she could even afford a crash halfway through her race on the way to her first win in the Worldcup. In Neff's wake Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå made good use of her class: On the uphill sections her pedal stroke was smooth and powerful, and she did not make any mistakes on the tricky descents either. "I'm more than satisfied with today's result as my form should only peak in May. This 2nd place is a good start, and I am sure we will see some more fights with Jolanda this season."

The main story in the men's race was a tough duel between Julien Absalon and Nino Schurter. Behind those two riders, the four men of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM were getting stronger as the race wore on. Right after the start the four had to settle for lower placings, but at the end of the first lap Ondrej Cink and Thomas Litscher had already moved up to the top10 positions. Cink was riding together with Maxime Marotte, moving up the standings steadily. "After the race in Langenlois I did not think I could fight for a podium position. But I started to fell good yesterday, and today I started cautiously due to the heat to accelerate during the race. As the 4th place shows, this worked well", Ondrej Cink summed up his race.

Another rider to find his rhythm at the end of the race was José Hermida. As Nino Schurter lost a lot of time due to a flat tire on the penultimate lap, Hermida moved up to 5th position, making it to the podium. Asked about his race, the Spaniard said: "I lost quite a lot of time due to a mistake right after the start. But I remained calm and confident that I could get back to the front. Scoring a podium finish at the beginning of the season is all the better." Behind him, Thomas Litscher almost caught Nino Schurter as well, crossing the line three seconds behind him in 7th. "Seen all the mistakes I made right after the start, finishing in 7th is a good result and a reward for staying calm and looking for my own rhythm", Thomas Litscher commented.

The only rider of the MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM not to finish within the top10 was Rudi van Houts: The Dutchman had to settle for 18th after having sustained a muscle injury from a crash at the Cape Epic stage race. The MULTIVAN MERIDA BIKING TEAM still managed to win the men's team classification at Pietermaritzburg's Worldcup race. And thus get the coveted yellow number plates for the second race of the Worldcup season to be held in Cairns, Australia.


UCI Worldcup XCO: #1 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Results women:
1. Jolanda Neff, SUI, in 1:38.00 hours
2. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, NOR/Multivan Merida Biking Team, + 0.25
3. Maja Wloszczowska, POL, + 1.00
4. Annika Langvad, DEN, + 1.37
5. Alexandra Engen, SWE, + 1.55

Results men:
1. Julien Absalon, FRA, in 1:38.05 hours
2. Manuel Fumic, GER, + 0.34
3. Maxime Marotte, FRA, + 0.54
4. Ondrej Cink, CZE/Multivan Merida Biking Team, + 1.32
5. José Hermida, ESP/Multivan Merida Biking Team, + 1.39
6. Nino Schurter, SUI, + 2.16
7. Thomas Litscher, SUI/Multivan Merida Biking Team, + 2.19

Results under23:
1. Jordan Sarrou, FRA, in 1:22.58 hours
2. Michiel van der Heijden, NED, + 0.58
3. Grant Ferguson, GBR, + 1.22
8. Julian Schelb, GER/Multivan Merida Biking Team, + 4.26

Team classification men:
1. Multivan Merida Biking Team, 82 points
2. BMC Mountainbike Racing Team, 77
3. Scott-Odolo MTB Racing Team, 47