Italy pulled off the rare feat of repeating as world champions, with France taking silver, less than a bike length behind, and Germany overtaking Canada in the final 500 metres for bronze.Â All three medal-winning teams finished in the same positions as 2012.
Italy took an early lead with their Elite man Marco Fontana opening a 19 second gap on Austria's Alexander Gehbauer.Â The Italians continued to lead at the completion of their second lap with Junior man Gioele Bertolini, while Canada had jumped from seventh to second after a very fast lap by Elite man Derek Zandstra.
The Canadians moved into the lead after the third lap, with another strong performance from Under-23 rider Mitch Bailey put them over a minute ahead of Italy, with France just behind the Italians and Germany over two minutes in arrears.
However, Canada had saved their Elite woman, Sandra Walter, for the final lap, and she was gradually reeled in by the men chasing her, with Gerhard Kerschbaumer of Italy and then Maxime Marotte of France catching her in the first half lap.Â Third place was still up for grabs until the final technical Corkscrew section, when Manuel Fumic of Germany finally caught Walter, to take the bronze medal by 11 seconds.
Marco Fontana explained that the Italian team stayed with a tried and true plan, "Our team strategy was to start with the elite rider, which was me. This strategy has been working so far, so why change it? I think the start is pretty important. You have to lead the whole group and a lot of things can happen. It was a good lap for me, and the guys did a very good job to keep the advantage. It was a close finish.Â When I saw Kerschbaumer stop pedalling and nearly get passed at the end, I almost had a heart attack. I'm happy with how the team worked."
The individual cross-country action starts tomorrow with the Junior women and Junior men cross-country races.
Fans from around the world can follow the UCI MTB World Championships via live streaming at www.redbulltv.com/bike, starting with the Cross-country Elite Women on Saturday at 12:30 pm (local), 11:30 am (GMT).
Watch the video of the team relay