Last year’s silver medallist Nino Schurter — also second at the recent Fort William World Cup — has gone one better to take the coveted espoir’s rainbow jersey. In a two-horse race, the Swiss rider went from the gun with South Africa’s Burry Stander and together they buried the rest of the field.

For the first four of six laps the pair couldn’t be separated. Schurter appeared the more relaxed and tactically adept though, craftily letting his opponent nudge ahead each time they crossed the line and effectively allowing him to be paced up the stiff initial climb. It also gave him the chance to see if Stander really had the belly for a fight in such brutal, arid conditions.

He did until halfway through the fifth lap when Schurter made his decisive move. Passing under the Nissan arch this time he’d gained 23 seconds and it was simply a case of holding on. Stander’s silver was also assured though, with the third-placed rider Matthias Fluckiger, also from Switzerland, some 2mins 59secs further back.

Brandishing his nation’s flag flamboyantly down the closing straight, Schurter eventually triumphed by almost double the aforementioned margin. Stander also increased his final advantage over Fluckiger to more than 3mins. In a field of 120 riders, only 89 went the full 34.9km distance. Highest-placed Brit was Ian Bibby in 27th.

With the Swiss XC team’s strength in depth akin to the Brits in DH, they managed to place four riders in the top ten here. And it would be a brave punter who’d dismiss a similarly impressive showing in Sunday’s elite finals…

1 — Nino Schurter (Sui)
2 — Burry Stander (RSA)
3 — Matthias Fluckiger (Sui)
Best Brits: Ian Bibby (27th), Ross Creber (47th), David Fletcher (57th), Ian Field (DNF).

1 — Peter Sagan (Svk)
2 — Arnaud Jouffroy (Fra)
3 — Matthias Rupp (Sui)
Best Brits: Hamish Creber (39th), Alex Paton (47th), Sebastian Batchelor (50th).

1 — Tanja Zakelj (Slo)
2 — Nathalie Schneitter (Sui)
3 — Aleksandra Dawidowidz (Pol)

1 — Laura Abril (Col)
2 — Barbara Benko (Hun)
3 — Mona Eiberweiser (Ger)
Best Brit: Annie Last (9th)