The Team Relay is a once a year event, with each country entering four riders from four categories – Elite Men, Elite Women, Under-23 Men and Junior Men. Each rider completes one lap of the cross-country course and then hands off to the next rider. Teams can send riders off in any order they wish, so the team leading early in the race with their strongest riders has no guarantee of being able to hold onto the lead later in the race.
Defending champions Italy had a strong start with Luca Braidot, until he flatted, putting that team out of contention. Sweden came through in first at the end of the first lap, but Australia moved into the lead after a strong second lap, before Spain took the lead for the start of the final lap, just ahead of Canada.
However, the top-3 finishers had all saved their Elite men riders until last, and France’s Maxime Marotte quickly jumped into the lead. Outgoing world champion Nino Schurter of Switzerland could not make up the gap to Marotte, although he did move the team from sixth to second in the final lap. Jaroslav Kulhavy, the current Olympic champion, had as strong a ride, moving from seventh to third by the finish.
“In the final lap it was very important not to flat,” commented Marotte. “It is so bumpy on the course, and in training I had a couple of flats, so I was thinking about that through the Relay. I tried to have good lines to be safe, because the other riders in the team had done a good job for me, so I wanted to make no mistakes. I had the chance to have this victory three years ago in Champery (Switzerland), but for the other riders it is the first time, so it’s a really good feeling and we are really happy.”
The world championships continue on Thursday with the Junior Cross-country and the Trials competition. On Saturday and Sunday, catch all the action on Redbull.tv