One title a surprise, the other a calculated effort: Michiel and Nino are the 2018 National Champions!
Landgraf, Netherlands- Montsevelier, Switzerland. If not in a World Champion Jersey, we will see Michiel and Nino wearing National Champion jerseys in the future. The fact that N1NO rode to his 6th consecutive National Champion title does not come as a surprise. Regardless of his form this season, it was a hard one. A much bigger battle to win nationals was Michiel van der Heijden’s task. With a strong finale he claimed back his red-white and blue champion jersey.
Michiel van der Heijden – image from Lenzerheide WC – is back on track winning the Dutch Nationals
Michiel van der Heijden is back on track! With a strong start to the season winning two stages at Cape Epic together with Andri Frischknecht, the talented Dutch rider was not able to maintain the high level at the first World Cup races. At the Andorra World Cup he showed that he had made the turn around, in Lenzerheide he proved with his best ever World Cup finish that he is on his way back to his best.
Moving in the right direction- Dutch Champion Michiel van der Heijden
With the absence of Mathieu van der Poel the chances for the title we’re higher than normal, but with Hans Becking, world Nr. 8, Michiel had a highly decorated competitor for the title. It almost looked like Becking would defend the title until Michiel came back with a strong finale to overcome his competitor by 5 seconds. This is now the fourth pro title for the 25 year old SCOTT-SRAM rider. Excited about the outcome Michiel stated, “So much is mental! After the strong race at the Lenzerheide World Cup I could not only feel that I’m physically in good shape but more importantly this race gave me great motivation and confidence traveling to nationals. This is what makes the whole difference between winning and losing.”
“So much is mental! After the strong race at the Lenzerheide World Cup I could not only feel that I’m physically in good shape but more importantly this race gave me great motivation and confidence traveling to nationals. This is what makes the whole difference between winning and losing.”
The champ Nino Schurter riding to his 6th consecutive National title
At the Swiss front the competition was deeper than ever. Battling for a rare spot to represent the national team for the European and World Championships, SCOTT-SRAM riders Matthias Stirnemann and Andri Frischknecht faced super strong competition to make the team. Not Nino Schurter, however, who went into the race as the sole favorite. Even being in terrific shape riding from victory to victory, N1NO always has to be at his best to keep his rivals behind him. The World Cup race in Lenzerheide was a good example. The Swiss nationals were no less than a piece of work. With Matthias Flückiger the World Champion faced competition that was riding eye to eye with him. It was than Matthias himself who took him out for the win by crashing towards the end of the race. With this mistake he served Nino the win on a silver platter.
Another one in the books- Nino is the 2017 Swiss National Champion
Matthias Flückiger overcame his troubles after the crash and almost closed the gap to Nino again. Florian Vogel also showed a strong finale. He overcame Lars Forster in the last lap to win bronze.
Winning trio Matthias Flückiger Silver (Radon)- Nino Schurter Gold (SCOTT-SRAM) – Florian Vogel Bronze (Focus)
Top: Andri Frischknecht: Fast start- slow finish
Left: Matthias Stirnemann: Battling the heat
Right: Marcel Wildhaber: Fighting for position
The rest of our Swiss riders did not have a successful race. Andri Frischknecht looked a bit over motivated taking a small solo lead on lap one, but faded in the laps to follow. Matthias Stirnemann was also not riding at his best. A flat tire dropped him out of the top 10. And even Marcel Wildhaber who used the MTB nationals as part of his training, was not happy with his result.
The good news for Andri Frischknecht came from Swiss Cycling. Besides Schurter, the Flückiger brothers, Vogel, Indergand and Guerini, he is selected for European Championships in Darfo Boario Terme in Italy on July 30th. This is quite an achievement for a first year elite rider. Established Swiss pro’s like Matthias Stirnemann, Last Forster, or Vize-European champion Fabian Gyger did not make the Swiss cut.
Besides Nino and Andri, Michiel van der Heijden will also compete for the Netherlands.