Our national mountain bike champion Burry Stander placed sixth in the UCI World Cup race in Champery, Switzerland on Sunday.
The run-in to the event featured heavy rain making for interesting racing conditions.
After only getting to Europe on Friday instead of Wednesday due to visa problems, Stander was able to get out on to the track later the same day for a test ride.
“I wanted to take my new 2011 Epic out for a burn but it was bucketing down. I rode on the rollers for a few minutes until it subsided and then fitted a storm mud tyre on the front and headed onto the most technical course that we race all year,” said the Beijing 2008 Olympics rider.
“I worked my way around slowly but managed to ride most of the course. The Specialized storm tire is incredible when the weather forces its use. The course didn’t dry much on Saturday and practice along with a few hundred other riders was pretty crazy. In the evening the organisers laid down some gravel as the course had become too unrideable.”
Thankfully the rain stayed away for Sunday’s race day and the riders were met with blue skies.
“The course was still mucky but not nearly as bad as it had been. We were onto intermediate tires and very excited to race. I had my best start of the year from the second row and along with Florian Vogel led the first start lap. On the second lap we were joined by Vogel’s Scott team-mate Nino Schurter and Julien Absalon (orbea).
“After the first full lap the group stayed the same with riders just gapping off when making mistakes in the difficult conditions. On the second lap Nino dropped off with before the start-finish. On the third lap I started losing some concentration and had my first crash on the last downhill section
“I got going pretty quick but the gap was a few seconds to the front. I chased back at the start of lap four but made some more mistakes shortly after and ended up crashing about four times! Somehow I got it together over the last two laps and held on to finish in 6th place, 1min 23 seconds down on winner Florian. It was a satisfying performance for me as the last two World Cups haven’t gone my way at all.”
Stander’s next race will be in Val di Sole, Italy this weekend. Going into his last race he was placed fourth on the UCI world rankings. Significantly, he’s also the youngest rider in the top 10 ranked riders which all augurs well for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.