2018 World Cup under way in South Africa
The race had been hotly anticipated with a real mix of riders talked about for the win with Southern hemisphere riders arriving in peak condition such as Gaze and Anton Cooper and Cyclo-Cross super star Mathieu van der Pool taking to the start for a much anticipated duel with the World Champion Nino Schurter.
A fascinating race ensued with Schurter and Gaze establishing a lead over the field and working hard to maintain it. 99 riders from 26 nations took the start in dry and dusty conditions that saw the race organisers damp down the course in a bid to minimize the dust. Fast and hard racing was the name of the game on this technical and challenging course.
Maxime Marotte just about bridged coming into the finishing straight to take third with Van der Poel suffering from his earlier effort finishing 4th. Titouan Garrod rounded out the podium finishing in fifth.
"Sam had not the best starting position and still made it to the front of the race in no time. Even I felt strong and tried several times to drop him, Sam was racing at a very high level and showed his teeth all race long. If it comes down to a sprint finish small things make a difference. Just when I thought I had him, I unclicked from my pedal and the win slipped away. I'm a bit disappointed to lose a World Cup this way but give all my respect to the winner for such a superb performance. He deserves the win." Nino Schurter.
Teammate Andri Frischknecht had a breakthrough ride to claim 10th spot. Starting from 39th, the youngest rider on the Scott-Sram squad fought his way through the field to his best World Cup finishing spot.
"I felt very strong today and paced myself well. Only after I saw I can make it into the top 10 I went at my limit. I'm stoked about this great start into the season. Just getting hungry for more!" Andri Frischknecht
The other members of the team had a hard day with Matthias Stirnemann finishing in 49th and Michiel van der Heijden in 54th.
If the opening round is anything to go by we are in for an extremely exciting World Cup this year with the addition of the Short Track at round 2 in Nove Mesto on the 19-20 May. In the meantime the team head to the Cape Epic where they will look to defend their win from 2017.
Photography: Greg Beadle & Jochen Haar