March 17th, 2012

Lukas Flueckiger Finishes 6th in World Cup Season Opener

In what most pundits acknowledged was a difficult race to predict due it being the opening round of the World Cup season, and one month earlier than usual, Trek World Racing’s Luk Flueckiger kept his Superfly in the top 10 of the race from start to finish here in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. On his last lap he closed down more than 20 seconds on reigning World Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, only to lose out in the final straight.

Brother Mathias Flueckiger had a start he’d rather forget. The first sharp climb off the start straight saw a massive traffic jam and Math found himself in 59th place after the dust had settled. He fought back tenaciously, lap after lap, to finish an impressive 18th place.

However back at the front Luk, who started from the front row as World Number 7, avoided the traffic jam and managed to get into the lead group. Three riders soon rode off the front, namely eventual race winner Nino Schurter (SUI), local hero Burry Stander (RSA) and an in form Manuel Fumic (GER). On lap 2 Luk thought he had a slow leak in his rear tire and was getting ready for a wheel change but it turned out to be a false alarm. Falling to 9th place during that time, Luk started working his way back to be riding with the 2011 World Champion and chasing down the top 5. His fastest lap was the 4th of 6 and even though the clouds were threatening rain, it actually held off until 10mins after the finish, when Luk had already secured 6th spot: (Swiss riders need a World Cup top 8 place to be considered for one of the 3 London Olympic spots open for Swiss Men). 2mins 30secs later Luk’s younger brother crossed the line.

Luk said: “I’m really happy today. I’m a bit disappointed that after closing the gap to Kulhavy I couldn’t beat him to the line and take the podium, but my legs felt really good and I could go with the main guys today. This makes me really happy to be again on the front row for Houffalize, Round 2.”

Math said: “When I realised I was 59th after the start, I thought I must have been going in the wrong direction! Normally after a big traffic jam and a low position it would be very depressing for me, but I decided to fight hard for each position and just keep fighting back. I’m happy I brought back 41 positions to finish in the top 20."

Meanwhile in the Women’s XC race which was held earlier in the day in hot and muggy conditions, Willow Rockwell was racing her first World Cup since 2010, and only 10 weeks after having her first baby. This early race was never going to be easy for Willow, especially starting from position 66 and not being fully race ready, but Willow rode steadily, fighting off severe back pain, to lap consistently and finish the full race distance of 5 laps, in position 54.

Tomorrow Anton Cooper will race his first World Cup for Trek World Racing when he lines up for the 4 lap Junior Men’s race.

There are 4 weeks before Round 2, in the classic venue of Houffalize (BEL). Follow the team on Twitter @trekworldracing.

Full results:

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