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Stander claims third

South Africa’s world-class mountain biker, Burry Stander, picked up third position in the men’s Elite race in round four of the┬á MTN National Mountain Bike Cup in Pietermaritzburg. The German Wolfram Kurschat stunned the favourites to win.

After a poor start, the 34-year-old German, who races for the Topeak Ergon team and is currently ranked 35th in the world, began to move through the field, riding from 11th place after the first of seven laps and catching the lead group, comprising Burry Stander (Mr Price Specialized), Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel (both SCOTT Swisspower), on lap four.

Stander, the Under-23 World Cup champion, Schurter the Under-23 World Champion and Beijing Olympics bronze medallist and Vogel, the world’s third-ranked rider, were setting a rapid pace ahead of the large field, which included riders from 20 countries. The majority of the entrants were using the event to prepare for next week’s opening round of the Nissan UCI World Cup.

But Kurschat, an agile climber, was in his element on the numerous steep ascents, passing the illustrious trio just before the start of lap five. Spaniard, Jose Hermida (Multivan Merida), the world’s fifth-ranked rider, also enjoyed a strong second half, replacing a tiring Vogel in the chase trio on the penultimate lap.

Kurschat continued to increase his lead, eventually finishing in 1hr 54min 45sec. Hermida’s strong late pace saw first Schurter and then Stander drop off on the final lap before he secured the runner-up place in 1:56:17. Stander, cheered on by his enthusiastic home fans, finished half a minute later to secure the final podium place and claim top prize for the Under-23 category.

Schurter and Vogel rounded out the top five places while their Swiss compatriot and current world champion, Christoph Sauser (Specialized) finished 10th, after suffering two punctures.

ÔÇ£It was a very good race and a fantastic leg-loosener for the World Cup next week,ÔÇØ said Stander. ÔÇ£My plan was to ride hard for the first three laps and then go steady for the rest of the way. It worked out fine, but I did feel my legs are still a bit heavy after last week’s Cape Epic. By next week they should be fine though.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Kurschat was a surprise for all of us. He’s a good rider, but normally inconsistent. Hopefully this week was his good week!ÔÇØ